If you’re like the majority of children’s ministers, you know all too well the reality of a tight budget. Many leaders live in the tension between making the most of limited funds and trying to impact as many kids and families as possible. It’s rare for a children’s ministry to be worry-free when it comes to spending; between camps, vacation Bible school, picnics, family events, snacks, supplies, and other ministry needs, it’s enough to break the piggy bank.
If yours is like the countless ministries that occasionally look to fundraising to boost finances, look no more: We’ve got 10 quick and creative ways to raise money.
10 Quick and Creative Ways to Raise Money for Your Ministry
1. Power of Multiplication
The “Envelope Fundraiser” is a popular fundraiser that’s been used in churches and ministries for some time, and rightly so. It takes minimal effort, and it has the potential for big results. To prepare, hang envelopes along a clothesline in a highly trafficked area of your church that are numbered from $1 through $200. If your church is small, hang around 50 envelopes, and if you have a large church, consider 200 or more envelopes. Be sure you clearly communicate what you’re raising funds for, and invite people to choose an envelope, place the donation amount inside the envelope, and return it by a deadline.
This method raises funds quickly and allows people to choose their level of commitment. Plus, you can add a fun twist: Ask local businesses to donate prizes, such as gift cards or vouchers, and randomly place the prizes inside some of the envelopes. Promote the prizes to encourage people to choose higher-value envelopes—and maybe even take more than one.
2. Penny Pinchers
Loose change adds up! Inject fun and creativity by using containers that reflect what you’re raising funds for. For example, if you’re fundraising for your nursery, fill a giant baby bottle (available online or at discount stores). Or you can distribute bottled water with the slogan “If you fill up this bottle for our little ones, you will surely be rewarded” (based on Matthew 10:42). One 16-ounce water bottle can hold around $100 in dimes! You might also sell bottled Frappuccinos after services one Sunday and encourage people to fill the empty bottles with loose change during the month and then return them. Get kids involved by using plastic tubes of M&M’s minis. Once kids have eaten the candy, they can fill the tubes with quarters; a tube can hold about $14 in quarters.
3. Outside the Walls
Continually tapping into the same resources can dry up the well pretty quickly, so do at least one fundraiser each year that goes beyond the four walls of your church. Christ Community Church in Roseville, Michigan, has held a bowl-a-thon every year for more than 25 years, and every year over $40,000 is raised for the church’s Foreign Mission Outreach teams. Recently this amount reached an astounding $50,000. Church members can sign up as bowlers and then go outside the church to raise pledges. The majority of the money comes from corporate sponsors, as businesses can purchase ads to be featured in the bowl-a-thon program, and each business gets a verbal mention at the event. Businesses can also pay to be featured on banners over the bowling lanes, and some donate items such as food concessions or raffle prizes.
“When you present a worthwhile project, businesses are willing to give and share what they have with the church,” says Tim Tyler, the senior pastor of Christ Community Church. He cites Proverbs 13:22, which says “the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly,” meaning there’s a lot of money in the world just waiting to be used for a good purpose. The bowl- a-thon builds relationships between the church and the community, and after the event, each participating business receives a plaque celebrating what its donation has accomplished.
4. Meets a Need
Many families don’t want to spend extra money purchasing items they won’t use or don’t need like many fundraisers offer. Try a fundraiser that offers an item or service people already spend money on, like babysitting. Turn one of your children’s ministry events into a “Parents Night Out.” Babysitters can be costly, so many parents go without regular date nights. Build marriages (and your funds!) by offering an occasional night out for parents. Have families drop off their children at church for a flat rate, such as $25 per family. Entertain children with games and activities. Offer an inexpensive kid-friendly dinner, so parents don’t have to worry about feeding their kids beforehand. Host a movie night with popcorn and snacks, or choose an event you already offer, but promote it as a Parents Night Out and use it as an opportunity to raise funds.
5. Items of Value
Nick Amad is a fundraising coach with Adrenaline Fundraising. Every year, thousands of groups depend on Adrenaline Fundraising for guidance in reaching financial goals. Nick advises that you avoid pleas to your congregation to purchase goods unless you truly have items of value to sell. If a product has value, such as worthwhile discount cards or refreshments at a ballgame, then he advises selling to everyone available—in and outside your church. Coupon books or discounted items may interest families who are on a budget.
Nick says your best fundraising results will come from flooding the community. “Our process proves that time and time again,” Nick says. And, he adds, summer is the prime time to get out into the community because everyone’s already outside. If your church is selling something of value, such as discount cards or food items, set up a booth at a local park or during community events such as parades or festivals. Have kids distribute flyers in the neighborhood for an upcoming car wash or goods drive. Broadcast what you’re raising funds for, along with your church contact information and service times. This is a great way to get your church name into the community and garner financial support from a broader base of people.
6. Reallocate Funds
Mary Sims is an Ambassador for Group Publishing and volunteers at Richardson Church of the Nazarene in Richardson, Texas. When the cleaning service her church employed closed, they took the opportunity to raise funds instead of hiring a new company. Families could sign up for a weekly slot and were responsible for cleaning the church. The money that would have gone to a cleaning service instead went into an account for families to use for their children’s camps or events. In their church, one cleaning session could earn a family between $300 and $500.
“There was not a set number of hours or dollars that a family could earn,” Mary explains. “Everyone had a chance to sign up for as many slots as their schedule would allow.” This may look different for churches of different sizes, but no matter the amount, it’s a win-win for church and families.
7. Working at the Car Wash
A car wash is a time-tested fundraiser that can bring in a lot of funds if executed well. One of the challenges is finding a location frequented by enough traffic. And here’s a twist for this classic fundraiser: Offer a car wash where you know there’ll be a lot of cars—the church parking lot on a Sunday morning. Section off a portion of the church parking lot for washing cars. As people arrive for church, ask if they’d like to have their cars washed during the service for a donation. Mark cars with index cards on the windshields, and have drivers leave their keys in the car. Designate responsible adults to drive the marked cars to and from the designated washing zone; you could offer to vacuum the inside of the cars, too. People will leave with clean cars without having to take any extra time out of their day.
8. Ride Your Bike to Church Day
This fundraiser is a lot of fun for everyone involved, but it also promotes a healthy activity. Encourage families to decorate their bikes and ride them to church. Have kids raise pledges for how far they ride, such as $1 per city block or $10 per mile. Charge a donation to take part in a bike parade or decorating contest. Find sponsors from local sports stores or smoothie shops to donate vouchers for the winners.
9. Best Seat in the House
Borrow a love seat, or put out a request to your congregation for a donated love seat. Place the love seat in the front of your sanctuary, rope it off, and add a sign that says “VIP: Very Important Parishioner.” Sell raffle tickets for $1 per ticket, or give a discount to those purchasing a larger quantity. For one month, select a different winner each Sunday. The winners get to sit on the love seat for VIP treatment during a Sunday service. Provide winners with coffee and doughnuts before service.
10. Sponsor a Child
Sometimes we get so focused on the funds that we forget why we’re raising them. That’s why some ministries are moving away from fundraising and simply asking for donations. Fundraising can create camaraderie and build enthusiasm, but all frills aside, what’s really needed is a way for you to change lives. Asking people to sponsor a child for camp or vacation Bible school is a way to make it more personal, even if gifts remain anonymous. After the event, have children write thank-you cards, sharing their favorite part of what God did. Keep the donors anonymous, and send them the cards.
Whatever your church does to raise funds this summer, remember that raising money is tough. Be clear with your goals, and set realistic expectations. People respond to energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and meaning. These, coupled with a team of young, all-in fundraisers are your best chance for success.