It is the youth ministry season for mission trip fundraisers. Though I think that churches should always support youth mission efforts as part of their annual budgets, it is usually still necessary to raise additional funds in order to make certain that all youth can participate. If done well, fundraisers not only raise money but help to draw the mission group together and build a sense of community prior to going on the trip. They can also be a great opportunity for youth to take ownership of and offer leadership to the project.
Below you will find a few of the ideas I've used over the years. Please feel free to share your own!
Dessert Auction & Potato Bar - Food is often the best way to people's hearts and wallets. For this event, you simply bake a ton of potatoes (the large, restaurant size) and offer plenty of toppings, plus salad. You charge for the meal but just enough to cover expenses. The main event is the dessert auction that comes during the meal. Invite church members, family, and friends to donate home baked desserts (no store-bought cookies!). Get a gregarious person to act as auctioneer and generate some friendly competition over who will pay the most for a peach pie or a pan of brownies made by the pastor. Since all the desserts are donated, the proceeds all go directly to the mission project.
Selling Stock - This idea has benefits that go beyond the fundraising because it helps to give others ownership in the mission trip. Make up a "stock certificate" for your mission project. Decide what to charge for each share of stock ($5, $10, $20, etc). Let folks know that by buying stock they become an investor in the mission work you will do on your trip. In return, besides supporting your ministry, each will receive a postcard from one of the mission participants while you are on the trip (describing the work you are doing and thanking them for their support) and they will be invited to a free stockholders' meeting upon your return. At the stockholders' gathering, offer up donated desserts and coffee while showing pictures or videos of your mission trip and sharing personal stories of your adventures.
Silent Auction - The best fundraisers are the ones with no cost and plenty of profit. If well-organized, this fundraiser will cost you nothing and can be a fun fellowship event. Solicit whatever donated items people might want to offer: furniture, toys, tickets to events/performances, gift certificates to local establishments, artwork, sporting equipment, etc. Often for this event I encourage youth to offer a service for auction, such as babysitting hours or lawn-mowing. Set all the items out on tables with bid sheets and note a minimum starting bid and bid increase amount for each item. I find it helps to couple this event with a church dinner that is already on the schedule so that people will hang around longer and keep bidding.
Pledge-a-Mile - Divide the total cost of your trip by the total miles you will travel. This will give you the cost per mile (ex. $3000/600 miles = $5 per mile). Invite people to pay for one or miles of the trip. On a poster or map, color in each mile as it is pledged. This idea works well because the congregation can see just how far along you are in your fundraising and exactly how much you still need to make it to your mission site.
We Are His Feet/We are His Hands - This is another great way to visualize your fundraising needs. Create a display of work shoes or work gloves, one pair for each member of your mission team. Divide the total cost of the trip by the number of participants. As you raise enough funds to cover one person's cost, remove a pair of shoes or gloves from the display. When all the items are gone, your fundraising is done!
See more of our fundraising ideas here. --Brian