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.
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.
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.