17 Proven Church Fundraising Ideas: Online, Events, & Traditional With A Twist

Proven Church Fundraising Ideas: Online Edition

For many people, the idea of fundraising is about as appealing as chewing on thumbtacks. Unfortunately for most churches, however, fundraising is a necessity as much as it is a moving target. The same fundraiser done year after year might be a roaring success for a while—until the year it isn’t. Then it’s back to the drawing board once again.

If you’re still searching for the perfect fundraising idea for your church, or if you’d like to try something new, take a look at the ideas below. We’re betting there’s something you haven’t yet thought of or something you haven’t already tried. Good luck—and let us know how it works out!

1. Cast a wider net with crowdfunding.

If you have a specific plan for the funds, give crowdfunding a try. But beware—it’s more difficult than you’d expect. You might have heard stories about people raising incredible amounts of money on sites like Kickstarter, but in reality, only about 36% of all Kickstarter campaigns are actually successful (it also doesn’t accept most projects designed to raise money for a charity or a cause). That doesn’t mean the concept won’t work—it simply means you need to know what you’re doing. FaithLauncher is one example of a good crowdfunding site for churches; other good options are WeRaise.us and GoFundMe.

2. Tell your church’s story with YouTube.

Another church fundraising idea that will broaden your reach involves distributing content via YouTube’s Nonprofit Program. If you’re willing to put in the work required to make a video content strategy and a few videos (think youth volunteers here!), YouTube is a great way to get your message to a larger audience. Create a dynamic video that tells the story of your church and your mission, and ask for help. The program allows you to add interactive donation cards to any videos your church produces; you can also partner with other creators to have them add donation cards for you as well. Donations are distributed via Network For Good.

3. Create an online giving portal.

Physical attendance at weekly masses shouldn’t dictate your congregants’ ability to give, nor should fundraising be limited to people in your immediate area. (Plus, who carries cash anymore?) Encourage donations anytime, from anywhere, with online church fundraising tools that utilize text, email, and web pages. A PayPal donation page is easy to set up and accepts debit cards, credit cards and PayPal; other options, like easyTithe, allow donors to set up recurring payments and track their donations throughout the year.

4. Host a marathon special event and live stream it.

Host a weekend-long event related to the program you’re raising money for—for example:

  • A series of DIY presentations for a church renovation fundraiser.
  • Youth talent performances for a youth group trip.
  • A concert to raise money for the music group.

You could invite audiences to watch in person in addition to live streaming the entire event and request a small fee from viewers to tune in. If you can’t make a direct connection between the marathon event and the program in need, simply provide an interesting mix of speakers and performers who would be appreciated by a good portion of your congregation.

Interested in live streaming but have no idea how it’s done? Download this free guide on how to get started, even without a tech-savvy staff.

5. Harness the power of your congregation’s online activities.

Believe it or not, a great fundraising idea for churches comes from daily activities like internet searching and online shopping—all you have to do is sign up and then spread the word. On Welzoo, for instance, ask your congregants to designate your church as their favorite charity, and you’ll receive up to six cents daily each time they go online using Welzoo as their start page. Another website, Goodshop, optimizes online shopping. Again, congregants simply designate your church as their chosen cause on Goodshop, and your church will receive a donation whenever they make a purchase using the coupons offered on-site.

Events

1. Host a “Battle of the Bands.”

Most people enjoy a night out that involves music, which makes this church fundraising event an easy sell. There are multiple twists you can take with a “Battle of the Bands” theme, including a variety of local bands, worship bands, or even a joint event featuring bands from multiple religious organizations in the area. Capitalize on the event by selling merchandise (CDs, T-shirts, etc.) and food, the latter of which could be donated by community organizations in exchange for some free publicity. To extend your audience, live stream the event and ask viewers for a small fee to cast a vote for the winner.

2. Organize a carnival.

Everyone loves a carnival. Turn your church property into a fairground for a week and either charge an admission fee or ask for donations. Food, games, rides, live music, pony rides, photo booths—you name it, you can add it. For a more hometown flavor, ask congregants to create original games and provide entertainment. You could also join forces with other nonprofit organizations within the community and allow them to contribute (and profit) as well. It will increase turnout and bring the community together at the same time.

3. Stage a cook-off or tasting event.

A chili cook-off, a soup-off, a barbeque-off, a wing-off (hmmm, did we make those last two up?)—it doesn’t matter what you cook or what you call it, tasting events like these are evergreen. Open it to the entire community, publicize it in advance, and organize a panel of judges. Charge an admission fee for attendees to participate in the taste test, and, in addition to the official judges’ results, have tasters vote on their favorites as well.

4. Offer “how to” classes with experts.

Is someone in your congregation a professional chef? A carpenter? A computer programmer? No matter what talents your members have collectively, you can build a church fundraising activity around them. There’s no doubt you’ll have experts in areas that others would be interested in learning more about, especially if it means helping the church at the same time. DIY projects, cooking classes, computer instruction, party planning, video production—the possibilities are endless. Poll your congregation to find out about viable areas of expertise and learner levels of interest, then go from there.

5. Present an open-mic night.

Your members who are musicians, comedians, storytellers, and poets will appreciate the chance to share their talents with an audience during open-mic night. Even artists can get in on the fun by decorating the space with their artwork. Another option is to combine open-mic entries with a performance by a featured, established artist, which could potentially draw a bigger crowd. Ask for donations for entry, or charge for refreshments and snacks. An event like this is family-friendly—one that welcomes the entire community.

6. Organize a dodgeball tournament.

This is a great church fundraising event, especially for youth groups. Both high-energy and high-interest, a dodgeball tournament (or any kind of sports tournament) invites friendly competition. Build excitement before the event with promotional teasers on social media, encouraging community members to mobilize their “dream team” and get involved. Reach out to local businesses for a donation or a discount on a product or service as a prize for top-scoring teams.

7. Host a gala.

Staged on your church campus, a gala extravaganza can be a huge moneymaker. Find out if a local restaurant will give you a discount for catering, invite a few members of the school youth orchestra to provide music for a small fee, gather items from local businesses and congregants for a silent and/or live auction, and ask young adult members of your congregation (along with an overseeing adult!) to handle valet parking. Give attendees the option to buy single tickets or, to encourage a full house, offer discounts for purchasing an entire table.

Traditional With A Twist

1. Make lunch on you.

The idea of picking up lunch after a Sunday service appeals to a lot of people, which is probably why a sub sandwich fundraiser was one of the most successful fundraising ideas for her church that Carrie Seibert can remember. At her church, volunteers gave members an order form for a customized sub a few weeks prior to the designated pick-up date, and collected the forms along with payment a week before the lunch. On the designated Sunday, youth group volunteers made the subs and packaged them in bags with napkins. After the service, those who placed orders had a ready-made, customized lunch to go.

2. Think outside the (collection) box.

Laura Buchanan of United Methodist Communications credits the pastor of a local church for an untraditional idea that could double the amount of funds you normally collect during a fundraiser. He gave each of his congregants $1 along with a challenge to multiply that dollar in any way they wished to support the cause at hand. This fundraising method works because it unites the congregation in a common goal, and relies on everything from creativity to individual talents to available resources. When the congregation from the aforementioned church came together with their dollars—raised through everything from garden vegetable sales to home repair services—they raised $6,621.60, twice the usual amount raised from their more traditional events.

3. Hold an annual bazaar, with extra toppings.

Another church fundraising idea that works well is an annual bazaar, and for good reason: it’s fun for both seller and buyer. The need for handmade items brings out the craftiness in many people, and the possibility of discovering something special appeals to everyone else. Heidi Hecht’s previous church had the usual bazaar—but with the unusual addition of a baked potato bar. Twenty-five topping choices and lots of baked potatoes turned into several hundred dollars, on top of what was earned from the bazaar. And the best thing she remembers about the event? Everyone had fun.

4. Try a new kind of collection envelope.

Annie Tiberg, Director of Christian Education at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church, spearheaded an easy church fundraising idea: She taped plain business envelopes to a rolling whiteboard and numbered them from one to 150, then placed the board in a strategic spot for people to see between Sunday services. Congregants were encouraged to take whatever numbered envelope they wanted and return it to the church with that amount of money inside. Tiberg found that after leaving the board in place for four weeks, many envelopes were returned with more than the allotted amount inside.

5. Appeal to friends and family.

When Tiberg planned her youth group’s mission trip to New Orleans, she asked each teen to write a sponsorship letter and send it to friends and family. For this to be effective, the writers must be able to articulate how and why the event will be impactful to them. They should also have a strong connection with the recipients. Fundraisers like this one extend your pool of donors beyond the church body, and have the added benefit of cultivating relationships between the teens and others in their social circle.

If you’ve tried any of these—or have other fundraising ideas for churches—tweet us! We’d love to hear from you.


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6 Surefire Marketing Strategies For Video Production Companies

6 Surefire Marketing Strategies For Video Production Companies

The success of every business—big or small, old or new, in every industry all around the world—relies on promoting and selling its products or services, making marketing one of the most important concepts to grasp as a businessperson. As the owner of a production company, chances are your expertise lies elsewhere and you’d always rather be holding a camera and working with clients than thinking about marketing strategies for your video production business.

The good news is, you don’t have to become an expert on how to market your video production business—you just need to find a few specific ideas that apply to your industry and use them. We’ll cover the idea part here. You bring the git ‘er done attitude and, well… get it done.

(We make a great team, don’t you think?)

6 Marketing Strategies For Your Video Production Business

1. Focus on your potential customers’ needs—not on you.  

It’s your natural inclination to talk about your business, but your marketing efforts will go further if you stop talking about you and talk to potential customers about what they need instead.

Find out more about the people who may be interested in a service like yours and send them newsletters, or add information to your website that directly addresses their common questions, interests, and concerns. (This is where a blog helps.) Much of the content you’re producing won’t be specifically about your business, but this long-term strategy helps you become a trusted source of information and makes people more likely to buy from you when they need video services.

2. Ease your marketing burden with the help of a partner.

Like dinner and a movie, some things just go together. (Coincidentally, one of the neatest marketing ideas I’ve seen lately was a joint promotion between a local restaurant and an independent movie theater.) Who might be a good partner for you in your community?

For instance, think of other local businesspeople who would benefit from having an instructional video and team up with them. They write a script and do the acting while you produce the video. Or, get your foot in the door with local wedding photographers and wedding venues to produce a video about their services. Then, if they don’t already have a video production partner, take it a step further and pitch your own services as a value-add to their business. Offer them a discount if they’re willing to include your services as part of their regular package. Partnerships like these spread out the marketing responsibilities and give you a chance to build your portfolio as well. Speaking of which…

3. Do whatever it takes to build an awesome portfolio.

No matter what other marketing tactics you try, having a great portfolio is an absolute necessity to get clients for your video production business. If you don’t have previous content you can use, volunteer your services at local events or for people you know. If you have to, stage an event yourself just to get the job done. A portfolio is your best sales tool, so give it the time and attention it deserves.

4. Add live streaming to your offerings.

There’s increasing demand for professionally made live streaming content, particularly among businesses looking to promote their products and services. In fact, 88% of advertisers have said they “might” or “definitely will” invest in live stream video advertising in the near future. Make yourself more marketable by honing your skills in this area and adding it to your menu of offerings. The ability to pull off a high-quality, successful live stream production will set you apart from the competition.

Want to pull off live streaming production like a pro? This free checklist has you covered—including essential steps to take before, during, and after every event.   

5. Focus on one client at a time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day—your business won’t be either. Get your first client and focus on doing an excellent job. In return, you’ll get a great review (be sure to ask for one!), and the word-of-mouth will be enough to get you a second client. Then focus on that one. Over time, you’ll build up a good reputation and a small stable of clients—the foundation of any good business. But beware of undervaluing your services! Do your market research and charge a fair price. Trying to undercut the competition usually results in a destructive race to the bottom.

6. Get plugged into a niche.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Another effective marketing strategy for video production businesses is to fill a niche. Consider what your interests are, and study the marketplace to find gaps. If there are already several established wedding videographers in your area, your chances at succeeding there are slim. But are there corporate video services? Entertainment video production companies? Real estate marketing? One of our clients found a niche in pageants and has made a name for his business in that industry. By smartly combining your interests and the needs of the marketplace, you’ll find it easier to sell your services and build your expertise in that particular field.

Got other ideas on how to market a video production business? Tweet us @stretchinternet!


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The Impact Of Live Streaming Services On New Hope Chapel—An Interview

The Impact Of Live Streaming Services On New Hope Chapel—An Interview

We’re pumped that so many churches around the country are starting to live stream. We’ve already written about the benefits of live streaming your church services, but it’s always more powerful (and interesting!) to hear it from a personal perspective. Phil Grenier of New Hope Chapel in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was a driving force behind his church’s adoption of live streaming and continues to be amazed by its success. He let us pick his brain recently about how New Hope started streaming and how it’s impacted the church’s mission.

New Hope Chapel On Streaming Church Services

Phil, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little bit about New Hope and your role there?

Sure. New Hope Chapel has about 700-800 members; it’s a fairly large church for the New England area. I joined in 2011 and got involved with the audio/video (A/V) ministry in 2012. That includes everything related to the sound system, lighting, and the in-house projectors for all of our facilities, covering church services and special events.

How did New Hope get started live streaming its church services?

When I first started attending the church, there were accommodations for two services—a small one in the main building and a larger one in a rented auditorium next to the church for Sunday services. At that time, there were two A/V guys. One ran the sound, the other ran the video projector and the PowerPoint presentation. There was nothing happening yet with video. I felt I had a calling to bring that to the table, so I started videotaping and recording the services, which eventually led to live streaming.

What made you the right person for the job?

I have my own production company, so I do have a technical background. So I guess you could say I had more experience with video than anyone else there. But I didn’t know anything at all about live streaming!

Don’t know anything about live streaming either? Download this free guide to see what it’s all about—and how your church can get started.

Were there any hesitations from church members or leaders about live streaming?

When we first approached the idea, the normal concerns came up: cost, finding enough people to help out, and technical questions. But no one actually objected to doing it. The only caveat was that our pastor, Neil Eaton, wanted to make sure that if we were going to do live streaming, it should be done with excellence. It needed to look right and be appropriate.

How did live streaming play into the church’s overall goals?

Pastor Eaton is an amazing guy. He speaks to people. I felt in my heart that, if he was able to reach me, he could do the same for so many other people—just by the church expanding its reach through streaming. We hoped that live streaming would help us get the word of God out there and give us more opportunities to reach people. The more churches that are doing it, the better. Also, we wanted to create an archive so people could watch sermons at their leisure.

Can you tell if streaming your church services has been working?

There’s no doubt it’s impacting our church. Within the first couple years of live streaming, I started getting messages from people saying, “Hey, we discovered your stream, and it has had an amazing impact on our lives.” Sometimes the messages were from random people. One couple was in town on vacation from California, and they happened to walk by our church and took down the information about our live stream. When they got back to California they hooked into it and have been watching it ever since! They still send us messages occasionally about how it has changed their life. Also, Pastor Eaton forwards me emails from other people all the time saying, “Hey, check this out! They just stumbled across our live stream!” It’s amazing.

It’s also great for our members, who can still participate in services despite having injuries or illnesses, being bedridden, or away on vacation. One of our young members experienced a tough pregnancy and was bedridden for months. She was so grateful that she could stay connected to the church through the whole thing. There are too many of these kinds of stories to count—hundreds of them.

Did you notice a drop in attendance or membership as a result of live streaming?   

Not at all. In fact, since we started live streaming, we grew! Particularly among young adults. This age group loves the fact that we have such a high-tech background, and they want to be involved. When I started, it was only three guys; now, we have an entire crew of people on the tech side—probably 10-15 people serving every Sunday.

That led to an interest in creating videos—video announcements and other projects. We now have a whole ministry devoted to video creation, mostly made up of young people under 21. It’s incredible how it’s taken off—it’s blowing up! And it all started happening shortly after we started live streaming. Once we saw the ways that live streaming was impacting our church, we quickly wanted to develop it and run with it. I had bought all the original equipment myself; we later decided as a church to invest in better equipment. Now we’ve renovated the entire system and handed it off to the younger guys.

Do you have any advice for churches that are considering live streaming?

Sure, here goes:

  1. Pray about it. We did that at first—we prayed for months to make sure it was the right thing to do. God will tell you if it’s not. But if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.
  2. Find young people who are hungry for this kind of ministry. It can be very time-consuming, and you will need help.
  3. Just do it! Try it. You can always stop doing it if people have a problem with it. The more your message gets out there… I see that as just such a good thing.

Ready to see how live streaming your services might impact your church? We’d like to help. At Stretch, we stream more than 65,000 events every year, including church services. Give us a call with any questions you have about live streaming for churches, and we’ll give you honest advice based on the needs of your particular church. 

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Starting An Event Video Production Company? Here Are Some Founders’ Tips

Starting An Event Video Production Company? Here Are Some Founders’ Tips

I wish I’d known that….

This sentiment is familiar to just about everyone who has, at one point or another, tried something new. We always hope we know everything going in, but that rarely turns out to be the case.

Starting a business—the grandaddy of new things—is no exception, but the prospect of being underprepared doesn’t seem to have lessened our resolve! In 2015, 330 out of every 100,000 adults in the U.S. started a business in any given month—an upward trend since 2013. Clearly there’s something about busting out on our own that agrees with us.

Starting your own event video production company doesn’t have to be a journey filled with surprises. Plenty of people have done it before you, so why not use their “I wish I’d known” moments to your advantage? You won’t be able to avoid mistakes completely (where’s the fun in that, anyway?), but you can at least head into it with a little more confidence. Below are some of the best tips we’ve seen from people who’ve been there, done that.

Tips From The Pros On Starting An Event Video Production Company

Tips On Equipment

Consider renting equipment at the start.

Although renting equipment won’t make financial sense for long, it may be worth doing briefly in the very early stages of your business. You may want to test-run a variety of gear to see what you like the best and what performs well. It’s also a good way to handle equipment that you’ll only use occasionally (see the next tip). If you’ve already tried it out, you’ll know you’re making the right decision when it comes time to buy.  

Don’t buy what you don’t need.

Investing in good quality gear is important, but so is buying the right gear in terms of what you actually need. Video equipment is expensive, and there’s always something else to buy—but avoid the temptation! Take stock of the gear you’ll actually need to create the kind of videos you intend to produce. For example, you don’t need complex lighting equipment if most of your shooting will be outdoors. Ask yourself: What are my video production needs? What can I afford to spend? Then go from there.

When you buy, invest in good quality gear.

If you’re going to make an investment anywhere, do it here. To ensure you’re buying the best quality gear, combine a healthy amount of independent research with a sprinkling of advice from a pro (or pros). Travis Johansen at Provid Films suggests contacting a company that is producing videos you admire and asking for some insight. Ideally, your contact should be from a different geographic area than you so they don’t feel threatened sharing information. He says it will save you “literally thousands of dollars,” because buying cheap equipment first and upgrading later will actually cost more. Enjoying and mastering the right gear from the start will pay off in the long run.

Consider buying equipment that supports live streaming.

These days, live streaming should be on every videographer’s radar due to its growing popularity. Even if you don’t do live streaming right out of the gate, make sure that the equipment you buy supports live streaming for eventual use down the road. For instance, every production company needs a video switcher, but some switchers natively support live streaming while others would require a separate encoding solution.. Give yourself options for future growth by buying high-quality equipment that does more.   

Interested in adding live streaming to your company’s product offerings? Become a live streaming expert with this extensive checklist.

Tips On Marketing The Business

Spend time building a top-notch portfolio.

A beautiful portfolio is your best salesman, according to Maksym Podsolonko, founder of Magic Day Luxury Experiences. To build an expert portfolio, make sure you can deliver great footage before you start any marketing, then reach out to local event planners and offer to shoot a wedding or any other celebration for free, showing them your first videos as part of your pitch. At the same time, launch a website and start creating content to gain organic traffic from search engines. With three great videos in your portfolio, launch a Facebook campaign targeting newly engaged couples in your area. You can also offer a 10% referral fee to photographers, event planners, and venues in your target area.

Be smart about advertising.

Advertising can be an invaluable source of new clientele if you handle it right. Robert Barrows at R. M. Barrows Advertising & Public Relations suggests establishing an advertising budget and marketing goals that make sense for your company, and then discussing them with 3-5 ad agencies. Choose the one you think will do the best job for you, but don’t sign a long-term contract—make sure any agreement you sign can be canceled by either party with 30 days’ notice.   

Competitive research is boring—but do it anyway.

In the ancient military treatise The Art of War, Chinese General Sun Zi (and Michael Corleone of the Godfather—whichever you prefer) advised to keep your enemies close. Substitute the word “competitors” for “enemies,” and you have one of the first rules of conducting business. Once you get past the tediousness of performing market research (it’s below zero on a scale of 1-10), there’s serious value in knowing more about your competitors. Johnathan Paul of 2920 Studios says that knowing his competition helped him define his own company’s strengths and weaknesses, which led to a stronger marketing strategy that clearly set his business apart. He also advises not to undercut the competition. It’s a strategy that never seems to pay off and may even backfire.

Market your niche.

It’s helpful when you’re just starting out to focus on one type of video business, and market yourself as such. Corporate videos, special interest videos, and consumer video services (like weddings and other similar events) are all possible paths; choose one that plays to your strengths (and your competitors’ weaknesses, if possible) and start there. You can always expand gradually as your business starts to take off. But starting small gives you a chance to fine-tune your brand and stand out in a particular area.

Tips On Running The Business

Always do your absolute best.

Regardless of your level of experience, Johansen advises to strive to be the best videographer you can be and consciously try to improve your work to match the quality level of other great video production companies in your area. Too often, videographers starting a new production company produce lesser quality work because they aren’t getting paid much, but that’s a mistake. Instead, always go the extra mile. You will be rewarded with referrals, repeat business, and great reviews that will bring in new clients who had no connection to your old work other than seeing it online.

Join local professional event organizations to make connections.

Industry relationships are vital to cultivating a successful business. Jeff Kear of Planning Pod says that meeting other local events professionals helped his event management software business get the traction it needed in its early days. Through organizations like Meeting Professionals International, International Live Events Association, Professional Convention Management Association, and National Association for Catering and Events, you can develop relationships with event planners, venues, caterers, and other local event professionals who can be valuable referral sources as well as resources for learning more about the industry. He also recommends contacting the local chapter president of each of the above associations and asking them how being a member can benefit your new production company.

Keep your overhead as light as possible.

Do you really need an office? Do you really need additional staff? While it might be nice to have these things, they will be a huge drain on your business at a time when you simply don’t have the resources to cover them. Determine what you actually need to get the job done—what’s the minimum you’ll need to survive? It’s entirely possible to run a successful business from your home, says NextShoot’s Dominic Sutherland.

Hone your business instincts.

Let’s face it, not everyone is naturally suited for running a business. A passion for video production isn’t enough to guarantee the success of a media production company; you also need to be smart about managing and completing tasks, understanding finances, and tracking down business opportunities. On top of that, there’s a good deal of stress involved. Long hours and financial insecurities top the list of small business owner stressors. Use this checklist to find out if you have what it takes to run a business and identify areas you may need to work on. Once you’ve started your company, keep the juices flowing in the right direction by hooking up with other small business owners. Join a local Chamber of Commerce chapter, or consider getting a business mentor through SCORE, a community of entrepreneurs who volunteer to help and advise other business owners.  

Build a solid business model now.

It’s essential to define the ways in which your company will deliver products and services, and how you’ll generate revenue. Also, consider whether live streaming could become an additional revenue source for your business, and how it might work. Will you charge for your live stream content? If not, who will pay for it? Local sponsorships of tournaments or events give valuable coverage to small organizations and a boost to your production company at the same time.

Do you have any of your own tips for starting a media production company? If so, tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!

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6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

Our clients—from churches to community organizations to businesses—count on us to help them share important events through live video streaming, which helps to expand their reach. But we know there are a lot of elements that contribute to an organization’s success. Churches, in particular, often look to good, old-fashioned fundraising to keep the doors wide open every Sunday.

While fundraising is usually seen as a way of making money, a well-executed fundraising event has plenty of other benefits. For example, participants feel more engaged in their church communities. Also, the best fundraising events bring people together—and may even attract new members.

Below is a list of fundraising ideas for churches of any size, but they have the potential to be especially effective for small churches. Why? Because they focus on community, and that’s where small churches have a leg up.

6 Small Church Fundraising Ideas That Work

1. Host an auction.

With the help of church volunteers and their connections, reach out to community organizations like farms, vineyards, restaurants, or attractions and see if they’d be willing to partner with your church in donating items for auction. Or, to keep it small, have church members sign up to contribute a signature dish or teach a special skill. You could even have church members donate items to put up for auction, and have a town-wide tag sale.

2. Highlight the talents of your congregation.

In every group of people there’s always a few who have an unusual hobby, a unique talent, or an oddball interest. Take advantage of that by coordinating an event that features one or more of them. Get creative—charge admission, charge for dinner, drinks, or snacks, or ask for a donation for attendance. One church held two very unique and successful events to fund their building maintenance: a snake show organized by a local snake breeder, and a psychic medium!

3. Use live streaming to host a marathon special event.

Ideally, try to host a presentation related to the program that needs support—like a motivational guest speaker, a choir presentation, youth talent performances, or a weekend-long sermon—and request a small fee from viewers to tune in. If you can’t make a direct connection between the marathon event and the program in need, simply provide an interesting mix of speakers and performers who would be appreciated by a good portion of your congregation.

Not live streaming yet at your church? Download this guide for advice on how to get started.

4. Create a “Help Squad” made up of young church members.

Ask these younger church members to be part of a volunteer group that helps out as-needed around the neighborhood for a small fee. Have students work in pairs, and sign up for jobs they’re interested in. Place a community sign-up sheet online, in the church, and elsewhere around town to attract more interest.

5. Design events that involve the surrounding (non-member) community.

A fun event that embraces the entire community has the potential to raise more money and stir up lots of goodwill, especially when the resulting funds are donated to another organization besides the church. Christianity Today says one small church raised thousands of dollars for local volunteer emergency medical services by sponsoring a “pumpkin hurling” around Halloween. The event was so unusual that it not only drew a huge crowd, it also caught the attention of a major TV network!

6. Use social media and the Internet to drum up support.

Facebook and Twitter reach broad audiences, and can help you stay top-of-mind for a greater number of people. Use these tools to spread the word about your church’s activities in town or show support for a local cause. Millennials, in particular, are more likely to donate if competition is involved, and seem to respond to the philanthropy of people close to them. That’s why social media campaigns are such an effective fundraising tool among this group.

All of these fundraising ideas will work for your small church—in the right context. Before choosing one for your next fundraiser, consider your audience and the cause you’re trying to promote, and tailor your fundraiser accordingly.

What are your favorite small church fundraising ideas? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know! 

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How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

There’s an event coming up that you’re itching to live stream. You also happen to have a video camera stashed in your electronics drawer (or in the backseat of your car, under your couch, in the attic…).

The only problem is—you’ve never live streamed before!

Wondering if you can use that camera to broadcast your event? Chances are good. Read on to find out how to set up a live stream camera using the equipment you already own!

How To Set Up A Live Stream Camera

You need at least these three things to live stream: a video source (usually a video camera but it can sometimes be a mobile phone or tablet—check!), an encoder, and a high-speed internet connection.

We already know you have a camera. Follow these three steps to transform your camera from a recording device (or dust collector) into a live streaming machine:

1. Determine what kind of video output your camera has.

If you have the camera manual, you’ll find this information there. If not, look up the camera make and model online to determine the output. Most consumer-level cameras made within the last several years output an HDMI signal; professional-level cameras might also include HD-SDI connectivity.

There’s lots more to live streaming than a camera. Find out everything you need to know about pulling off a successful broadcast with this extensive live streaming checklist.

2. Purchase a video encoder.

Your camera records the action, but not in a format that works well for transmitting over the internet. (Most cameras are simply built to record.) The encoder essentially optimizes the video for online transmission.

There are different types of encoders. Software encoders run on your laptop or desktop computer; hardware encoders are separate, dedicated devices made for video streaming. Do your research before buying an encoder, as there are a number of options available.

If you decide to go with a software encoder, make note of whether you have a Mac or a PC; this will be important for the next step.

3. Purchase a capture device.

By now you have a good handle on the components you’re working with—the camera output, the encoder, and, if you’re using a software encoder, the type of computer you’ll be using. The last component you’ll need is a capture device—usually only required if you go the software encoder route. This piece of hardware captures the live video feed from your camera and delivers it to the encoding device.

Magewell’s USB Capture HDMI and the UltraStudio Mini Recorder from Blackmagic are two commonly used capture devices for HDMI outputs that connect to either the USB 3 port in your computer (for PCs) or the Thunderbolt port (for Macs).

To Complete the Process…

Hurray! With the completion of the steps above, your video camera is ready to roll! But now that you’ve mastered the process of how to set up a live stream camera, there’s still one ingredient missing. What’s a live stream without a live stream platform where people can watch?

For small audiences, budget-minded broadcasters, and those just starting out, there are several good options that are either free or very inexpensive. But as your audience grows you may want to find a live streaming partner that not only guarantees a high-quality broadcast, but also offers production advice and streaming support. At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events every year with an emphasis on providing outstanding live support and memorable experiences.

Until then, grab that camera and get live streaming! 


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Before You Set Up A Live Stream On Your Website, Read This

Before You Set Up A Live Stream On Your Website, Read This

It’s five minutes to go time and you’re all set up to start live streaming on your website—your cameras are strategically placed, your encoder is ready to go, and your internet connection is clocking in at warp speed. You’ve directed all your viewers to your organization’s site, where any minute now the live feed will begin streaming into hundreds of computers (you hope). You’re feeling pretty confident that your level of preparedness is about to pay off nicely and that your viewers will be impressed.

This scenario sounds great, but is the resulting live stream getting the attention it deserves? The user experience is just as important as the production, and unless you’re paying it equal attention, you may be shortchanging your audience. Even a well-produced live stream is only as good as its viewing platform.

Before You Set Up A Live Stream On Your Website…

It’s tempting to want to embed your live streaming video on your own website—we know! Directing viewers to a familiar place and keeping everything under one roof, so to speak, definitely has some advantages. There’s no confusion about where to watch, and you have complete control over the stream and where it appears.

Want to streamline your production process? This live streaming checklist includes every step needed to produce a top-notch broadcast.

There are also some caveats, however. If you plan on using your website as the viewing “portal,” here’s what you should know before you commit:

  • A live stream on your website can get “lost” among the site’s other content, living alongside the rest of the information on the site like a sidebar. In other words, the live stream is clearly not the star of the show.
  • It’s challenging to make sure every viewer can watch given the multitude of devices your audience will undoubtedly be using. If your site isn’t equipped to deliver the video in a variety of device-appropriate formats, you may leave some viewers out in the cold.
  • Unless you have analytics tracking already configured on your website, you’ll have no way of knowing how many users came to watch your stream. Some video players may provide some level of viewer data, but many will not.  
  • If you want to have people pay to watch an event, it’s difficult to put the content behind a paywall.

Advantages Of A Custom Live Stream Portal

Rather than streaming that live video on your own website, distribute your feed through a special domain-branded web address. A live streaming provider can create a portal specifically for your organization’s live feed, with an appearance that matches your existing website. There are several advantages to a portal, including:

1. Built-in analytics. Your live streaming provider can build in analytics so you’ll know how many people are watching and what devices they’re watching from.

2. Cross-platform compatibility. No matter what device a viewer is using, the portal delivers the proper stream, every time.

3. Paywall options. If you want the option of people paying to watch an event, a portal makes it easy to construct a paywall.

4. An all-in-one experience. You won’t lose out on your organization’s branding surrounding the live stream because the portal is designed especially for you. You can also supply the viewers with ancillary data such as live statistics (for sporting events) and slides or notes for sermons and other types of presentations.

Live-Stream-Portal

5. Social media integration. Viewers can easily interact via Twitter, which may not be possible if you stream on your own website.

At Stretch, we take pride in building every client a custom branded, all-in-oneportal, because we feel that the user experience is paramount. We create a custom landing page with a unique URL that houses all your content. That URL becomes your organization’s digital content destination going forward. Users can easily find links to each event and you can link to your portal from your website and other distribution channels. In fact, it becomes the familiar place you want it to be without some of the things that take away from the overall experience, like ads and surrounding “noise.”

What A Live Streaming Provider Can Do For You

Not all portals are created equal—every live streaming provider handles the viewing experience differently. Make sure you ask prospective providers about the user experience they offer; you’ll be able to tell how much they value it based on their answers.

Beyond that, a live streaming provider should be working hard on your behalf throughout the streaming process. All you have to do is capture the video live. The best providers offer support and assistance with setup, help connecting to the internet, constant monitoring of the feed, and troubleshooting during the entire event. Most importantly—fans should be able to contact the provider directly if they’re having trouble viewing.

We specialize in providing memorable experiences for your fans—and for you. If you have a custom portal in mind and would like to talk more about how to live stream your video over the internet, drop us a line.


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The Complete List Of Ways To Increase Church Attendance

The Complete List Of Ways To Increase Church Attendance

“Full attenders”—people who attend church every week religiously (pardon the pun; it’s an old joke, but we can’t resist)—are becoming a rare breed. According to a Pew Research Center study, attending church once or twice a month is becoming more typical, and a good portion of people report that they seldom or rarely attend services throughout the course of a year.

But these numbers are nothing new. Over the past few years, there’s been no shortage of ideas about how to reverse this trend and an equally large number of ideas about why it’s happening. (The good news is that there seem to be a variety of reasons for the drop, at least some of which can be addressed.)

To cut through the clutter, we’ve rounded up what we think are some of the best thoughts about ways to increase church attendance and put them together in one nice, neat blog post.

5 Actionable Ways To Increase Church Attendance

1. Focus on the big picture, not the numbers.  

This pastor from Open Network brings up a good point: The focus on numbers—for example, increasing attendance by 24% year over year or growing the organization by 10%—may be getting in the way of achieving the real goal, which is to invite more people to benefit from your message. To get into this mindset, he encourages church leaders like you to switch places with your congregants occasionally (literally sitting in the seats of your church) and reflecting on why people attend in the first place—and on what brought you there as well. What actions can you take that will help others feel the same? As Pastor Charlie LaTurno says, “We don’t have seats, we have opportunities.”

2. When you’re happy and you know it, tweet.

Okay, we admit it—this one appeals to us because we’re techies. But so are many of the folks you’re trying to reach, which is why it has the potential to be so effective. As Southeastern Seminary’s Chuck Lawless notes, genuine excitement can be infectious. Strategically use social media (that includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others) by finding out what platforms your target audience are already using and focus your efforts there. Ideas for building anticipation about upcoming services include posting pictures of sermon notes, screenshots of videos in progress, or snippets of the band rehearsing. Look to Josh Blankenship for tips on how to avoid social media blunders.

3. Mobilize your volunteers.

Carey Nieuwhof of Connexus Church says that engagement is the key to growth. In his view, having a church filled with members who sit in the back row and come to “get fed” once weekly is what leads to disengagement. He advises leaders to “stop trying to attract people and start trying to engage people,” which is a natural way to increase church attendance. Passionate volunteers are also likely to inspire and motivate others, effectively inviting them to join the cause. To make the mission more tangible, consider connecting your sermons directly with volunteer opportunities, giving people a chance to put into practice what they’ve just learned rather than simply walk away. The experience could be so impactful that people will look forward to coming back.

4. Add value to the community.

Echurch rightly points out that the more your church is viewed as an integral part of the community, the more inclined people will be to associate themselves with it. Know what makes your community unique and find ways to reflect that in your mission. Get involved in community events, even if it’s just opening the church doors to give people a place to take a break or use the restroom or offering the parking lot for public use. Here’s another way to make it less about you and more about the community: Mark Alves of Churchmojo.com suggests transforming your ministries fair into a community expo and inviting outside groups to participate. Highlight a wide variety of community organizations (like tutors, food assistance centers, and homeless shelters) in addition to those your church is associated with, and you may be surprised how many community-minded people will be interested in the church as a result.

5. Expand your reach with live streaming.

As we mentioned in this post, it may be time to reconsider your definition of “attendance.” Live streaming makes it possible for people to attend your services without showing up physically, increasing the chances that more people will participate. In turn, live streaming offers a whole host of benefits that are likely to lead to greater physical attendance in the long run—including an increase in engagement levels, an enhanced sense of community, and a sense of gratitude for the flexibility that your church provides.

It’s natural for participation to have ups and downs based on what’s happening in people’s lives at any given time. So think bigger than that. When it comes to increasing your church’s attendance numbers, be focused on your mission. Be relevant. Be reflective of your community. Attendance will follow. 


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Will People Stop Coming To Church If You Offer Live Streaming?

Will People Stop Coming To Church If You Offer Live Streaming?

You’ve been a pastor (or otherwise engaged with a church body) for several years now, and you know your congregation inside and out. Things are going well, but you understand that in order for the church to continue to be successful, you need to keep moving forward. You’ve thought about the idea of live streaming your church services, but not everyone is on board. You’re all wondering:

Will people stop coming to church if you offer live streaming?

You’re right to reflect on this. It’s certainly a valid question, and you’re not the only one thinking about it. We currently work with a number of churches that live stream their services, and most went through a similar thought process before taking the leap.  

The fact is, some people might stop coming to church. But churches that use live streaming successfully have found that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different, and, in many ways, very good! As the change leader for your church, isn’t that what you’re looking for—positive changes to sustain your church community well into the future?

If you do start live streaming, it’s realistic to expect changes in physical attendance. But pastors who are currently live streaming their church services tell us they’ve seen other kinds of changes as well. Take a look at the list below and see what resonates with you. The effects of live streaming might not be exactly what you expect.

Looking for a progressive way to reach more people with your message? Find out everything you need to know about church live streaming.

The Surprising Effects Of Church Live Streaming

Attendance may potentially increase.

Wait, we just said that people might stop coming to church, right? Right. But in today’s world, we need to reframe our concept of “attendance.” Live streaming makes it possible for people to attend church services either physically or virtually, lessening the impact of the physical limitations of your building and increasing the potential audience size overall. Let’s be real: Not everyone will leave their homes to attend church every Sunday morning, but they might be inclined to watch the service from the comfort of their living room. In addition, live streaming leaves a wide-open door for potential new members who may be initially reluctant or anxious to attend in-person.

Engagement levels increase.

Sunday service lasts for an hour, but live streaming provides content that’s available 24/7. An archived history of your broadcasts or sermons is a wonderful resource for parishioners who, for example, feel a connection with a particular pastor and want to see more of his or her services any day of the week. Other parishioners may be looking for guidance or inspiration and can search the archives for sermons on particular topics whenever they choose.

More participation options are welcomed.

Mothers with young children, individuals who are traveling, people who are ill, and those who prefer to worship privately are just a few of the congregants who will appreciate having the opportunity to participate in the service without having to go to a church building. Making things easier for them makes your church more attractive.

Volunteer opportunities expand.

Live streaming your church service comes with a new set of responsibilities, many of which will be eagerly snapped up by tech-savvy youth. Boosting your tech profile also makes you more attractive to this group, who will see the church as forward-thinking and not stuck in the past.

Sense of community is enhanced.

No more is it just about who lives nearby; church attendees may live anywhere! Depending on how you set it up, live streaming your church services may allow viewers to see where others are watching from, and in some cases, also be able to chat with one another. Such options strengthen human connections—and therefore the foundation of your church.

Connect More With Church Live Streaming

All this is to say that, while physical attendance may be impacted as a result of live streaming, the change might not be what you’d expect. In fact, in most situations, virtual attendance often fosters a desire to participate in person, leading to a better physical turnout at Sunday services!

And remember, being willing to adapt to change is key to survival. Your message doesn’t need to be flexible, but the way you deliver it does. Stick with it, and you’ll ultimately see the change you’ve been hoping for. 


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9 Places To Watch Church Online

9 Places To Watch Church Online

Illness.

Vacation.

Work.

Physical inability.

Moving.

Football. (Hey, Matthew 7:1… we’re not judging!)

These are just a few of the million reasons why you may not be able to physically go to church. But with the live streaming technology out there today, you can watch or listen to a sermon that’s happening anywhere in the world—all from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you’re at)!

There are so many great places to watch church online, but we can’t feature them all. So we’ve selected 9 live streaming churches (organized alphabetically below) you may want to check out next time you’re just not able to attend.

9 Places To Watch Church Online

1. Christ Place Church 


With both Saturday and Sunday services, a countdown clock (to the next service), and an online prayer request submission form right on the live stream page, Christ Place Church offers a great user experience.

2. Elevation Church


Elevation Church just wrapped up a special event called “Code Orange Revival 2016”—but don’t worry, they’re still streaming rebroadcasts. And aside from their special events, they also stream regular worship services on Saturday evening and Sunday. Check out their app if you want to watch on the go. (No live streaming while driving, of course!)

3. Lakewood Church


If you’re thinking, “I’ve heard of Lakewood before,” you’re probably right. The pastor at Lakewood Church is famed televangelist and author Joel Osteen. (And on top of that, Lakewood is the largest regularly used worship center in the United States.) If you want to tune into a Lakewood Church live stream, you’re in good company—over seven million Americans will be watching along with you.

4. Life.Church 


If you want to power through a thought-provoking series of church services, definitely check out Life.Church. With series titles like “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” and “The Christian Atheist,” you’re sure to find a topic that piques your interest.

5. North Point Online 


North Point Online exists “so you can connect with a local church–no matter where you are.” If you want to watch church online more regularly—but still feel like a member of a church community—North Point Online may be perfect for you! They also rebroadcast their main Sunday service seven additional times throughout the day, so you can go to church on your own schedule.

6. Olive Baptist Church 


Olive Baptist makes sure their worship guide is updated and available every Sunday to complement their live stream. You can also see rebroadcasted live streams from 2015-2016 if you wish.

7. One Church 


One Church isn’t afraid to tackle complex issues—their most recent sermon is titled, “LGBTQ Equality and Religious Liberty.” While you’re watching their church service online, you can check out One Church’s viewer map to see where in the world each person is watching from.

8. Saddleback Church 


Saddleback Church is another one on our list that may ring a bell. It is home to founder and senior pastor Rick Warren. (He’s written a number of best-selling books you may also know of, like The Purpose Driven Life.) In addition to live streaming Saddleback’s services or watching previous sermon series, you can also check out their webcasts, “stories,” and resources.

9. Sandals Church 


Sandals Church is all about being real—with themselves, God, and others. Be sure to look at some of their interesting sermon series like “Where is God when tragedy strikes?” and “Bad Christian.”

Where do you watch church online?

Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know where you’re viewing your live stream church service. You may find it on an updated version of this list! 


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