Putting the “Fun” in Fundraising

When I was young I was a Girl Scout who excelled in selling cookies. I wish I could say it was because of my excellent sales abilities and charisma, but in actuality, I was a preacher’s daughter, and everyone at my church felt obligated to buy from me.

Fundraising. The word brings with it a variety of responses – from “no, not another person asking me for money” to “let’s see how much we can raise for this cause.” When done well, fundraisers can be a great way to help supplement costs of camps and retreats, by either offsetting attendee’s costs (thus providing the opportunity for more to attend) or helping to balance actual event costs. Whatever the reason for your fundraising efforts, here are some things to keep in mind as you try to put the “fun” in fundraising:

  • Know your audience. Most people will not be able to afford a $100 plated benefit dinner. Others who can may not want to come to a chili cook-off. Cater your fundraising effort to the people from which you are trying to receive money.
  • The goal is to raise money. Planning and executing a fundraiser typically costs money. Make sure you balance the costs incurred with the goal of raising money. See what you can get donated rather than purchase.
  • You don’t have to plan a meal. There are plenty of other ideas you can use rather than having a fundraising dinner. Sell coupon books, auction off donated items, or sell a service.
  • Make sure you have support for your cause. Do those you are asking to give money support your cause? This is key. If you have buy-in from others, there will be a greater willingness to donate money. During your fundraiser, highlight your cause. Use stories as much as possible. You want people to give because they believe in what you are doing, not out of a sense of obligation.
  • Follow through with what you say you will do. If you plan a car wash, make sure you actually wash the cars. If you plan for people to do lawn care or other chores around a location, make sure these things are done … and done well. If you advertise a three-course dinner with entertainment, serve a three-course dinner with entertainment.
  • Realize some people want to donate with nothing in return. Take these donations and say a hearty thank-you!
  • Utilize those who will benefit from your fundraiser if possible. If you are raising money to help send teenagers to summer camp, use them in your fundraiser. If you have a meal, use teenagers as your wait staff. If you are planning a women’s retreat fundraiser, ask women who will attend to be a part of the fundraiser. This will increase buy-in from those who are attending.

Fundraising is often a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be! Seek fun, outside-of-the-box ways to raise money for your camp or retreat. Stay tuned for our next post on fundraising ideas from event planners, children’s ministers, youth staff, and others just like you!


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