Fundraisers are often seen as one of a few necessary evils in youth ministry, a conflict of interests, if you will. The conflict is simply this: funds are necessary to do the ministry we are called to do, but the raising of these funds feels uncomfortable at best, oppressive at worst. If you are like me, your soul shrivels up a little bit when it comes to asking for money, even for the holiest of purposes. However when I raise my eyes from my own self-pity I discover that people want to give!
There is a deep longing in each of us to be a part of something significant; part of something bigger than us; part of a story that matters. There are many ways people try to fill this longing to be a part of a meaningful story, one of which is giving. Wanting to contribute to a significant story inspires people to give gifts of all kinds: time, clothes, money, soccer cleats, manual labor. The cry underneath is “Let me be a part of something!”
It is our privilege then, (as opposed to our soul-shriveling obligation) to provide meaningful opportunities for this God-given desire. When we ask for money, we should be asking for participation: “God is moving among our students and we want to invite you to be a part! Here are some specific needs we have right now.”
Here are a few things I have found helpful along the way to a great fundraiser:
1. Pray. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, prayer is always the first step in everything. We don’t fundraise alone.
2. Invite others into a story. As youth ministers we are always telling stories: stories from the Bible, stories of God’s faithfulness in the families we serve, stories of how we almost died that one time on a youth trip. Fundraising is no exception. In fundraising we are inviting people into a meaningful story in specific ways.
3. The way you ask matters. An ask needs to be specific. What are you asking for? Money, time, drivers, all of the above? It needs to be meaningful. What is your goal and how will my contribution help you meet it? It needs to tell a story: e.g. Last year Suzie Smith was able to serve the students of Asbury Seminary in Wilmore Kentucky because of your generosity. This is how she saw God at work ___.
4. Keep good records. If someone asked who came to your spaghetti dinner last fall, could you answer? You need to be able to invite those people back next year, so keep track! Did a generous donor to your youth mission fundraiser have a heart attack? You will probably want to write them a note. How much is each fundraiser you throw costing you? (It should be 21% or lower of your total profit from that event.) Keeping good records is essential to knowing what is going on and is essential to the last step.
5. Thank your donors! This seems obvious, but is worth saying again and again. According to professional fundraiser, Toni McGee, major donors want to be thanked seven times between each ask. Even if a person is not a major donor, they want to know they are important and their gift mattered. Saying thank you is an acknowledgement that your donor entered into the story you invited them into. Ideally, fundraising will be a relationship with an invitation, a response, and an acknowledgement to the response. Thank and thank often!
Fundraising at its core is a celebration and a chance to make the world better, together. There is, after all, something worth raising funds for. Don’t miss the opportunity to invite people into the mission, the story and the celebration!