Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Fundraisers: A Fresh Look at an Often-Dreaded Youth Ministry Topic

Fundraisers: A Fresh Look at an Often-Dreaded Youth Ministry Topic


Fundraisers for youth ministry. I loathe few things more. For youth ministry, I’ve sold junk from catalogs, washed cars in the snow, and raked more leaves than I want to remember. Once, I even operated a pumpkin farm for an entire month. All so I could charge kids a little less for a youth retreat? Subsidize 4% of the mission trip? Buy hoodies instead of T-shirts?

The Trouble With Most Fundraisers

Most youth ministry fundraisers require too much hassle and provide too little funding. What drove me away from traditional fundraisers? I once analyzed a year’s worth of fundraising data. Because I was a business major in college, I kept exhaustive records.

The result? For every hour we spent planning and delivering, we made about $4. Less than minimum wage. We weren’t raising enough money to impact our bottom line. But we were draining students and their parents with silly, nitpicking projects. What’s worse, if you’re engaging in direct sales to the community, what sort of reputation do you think your church gains from those fundraisers?

If our fundraisers are going to annoy everyone, they’d better generate a ton of money. They usually don’t.

That’s when I made the conscious and measured decision to never, ever do fundraisers again. I thought parents would be upset, but I was wrong. They were thrilled! Elated might be a better word. One guy said he’d happily part with a few hundred dollars to never have to engage with fundraisers again.

When I gave him the chance, he happily parted with a few hundred dollars. I wanted to punch myself for not thinking of this sooner. But that was before I stumbled onto my best fundraiser ever…

Fundraisers: My $1,500 Discovery

Our junior high overnighter had a long tradition of being a large community event. That was great. Trouble was, dealing with 180 junior high students for 12 caffeine-aided hours was more than our team could handle. We had to find some way to limit the number of attendees, at least until leadership could handle all those students.

Pre-registration had too many obstacles. Other strategies seemed unfair. But I had an economics background. So I knew the fastest way to limit an audience is to increase the price. In this case, it went from free to $10.