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The Worst Fundraiser Ever

Pennies pile

I was once in a room with several hundred youth pastors and someone asked “How many of you have lost money on a fundraiser.” About half of the hands went up. Failure in fundraising is like a badge of pride in youth ministry. However it does not get teens to camp or pay for their mission trip.

There are some significant challenges in youth ministry fundraising that must be addressed.

Nickel and Dime Approaches

Many carwashes make a few hundred dollars. If you get 10 cars an hour (6 minutes apiece) for 6 hours that is only 60 cars. You will need a team of 10 to 20 people (in 2-3 shifts), lots of water, hoses, signs and sunscreen. If each car gives $5, you only make $300 (minus expenses). This small amount requires 60-100 hours of labor and an individual can make about $15-30 for the Saturday of work. Your students would be far better off getting a job or cutting lawns. Even more depressing is selling things that take a significant portion of the profit as their cut (flowers, cards, lawn ornaments). I suggest dropping the nickel and dime approaches to fundraising and go with approaches that engage students yet don’t waste time or money.

The teens should earn it!

One of my personal hurdles in fundraising was that the church believed all student trips should be funded by the student working. We once had an elder insist I hold car washes to pay for a 3 week mission trip (18 participants X $1,800 = 108 car washes). I believe that the congregation can and should buy into the mission of the youth ministry. Those who support in money often support in prayer. My first Church was across the street from a housing project in Urban Portland, OR. Most of my teens could not pay $2 to go bowling let alone raise $200 for a summer camp. A new strategy based on a new philosophy had to be developed.

Special funds versus general fund

Don’t be oblivious to the fact that raising thousands of dollars will impact the general fund giving of the church. This is especially true if you are writing letters, in a medium sized church (200 or smaller), or a small community.

Doing too much

I know a youth pastor that does 18-25 fundraisers a year. Stop it. Your job is to make disciples. Cut your program and stop going to Six Flags.

Community support or community fleecing

Work through your philosophy of engaging the community. There is nothing wrong with selling items or asking support from the community. However, there is a hidden cost to using non-Christians while trying to serve non-Christians. Many Churches and ministries do ask for money, a lot. Just remember that your primary task is to give to the community. Make your outside efforts rare and effective.

I prefer to offer carwashes for free. Because they don’t make much money anyway, why not just serve and refuse the cash?

Next Week: The Best Fundraiser Ever!

If you can’t wait, check out this one.


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