The Best Student Led Fundraisers

By Frank Newburn January 22, 2018

Let’s be honest, the idea of fundraisers makes us cringe. Not only is it time away from ministry we need to be doing (and actually enjoy), but fundraisers typically mean a lot of work for very little payoff. Unfortunately, they aren’t going away; many of us still need fundraisers to support our ministry budgets and allow students to go on retreats and mission trips. You may have one coming up in the near future! So how can we make them enjoyable and helpful for us and those involved? Here are some ideas that have worked for us and helped our team see fundraisers in a new light:

Make fundraisers about service

Who else tries to avoid students selling candy bars, wreaths, or boxes of stuff-people-don’t-want-but-feel-obligated-to-buy? Yeah, most of us. While these are fine, many people only purchase these out of a sense of duty or even guilt. We used to do these types of fundraisers too, with some success, but over the years we have completely phased them out.

Now, the majority of our fundraisers are service oriented. We want to provide a helpful service to our donors so there is a visible benefit from their donation. Two of the most successful fundraisers we do are a fall leaf raking and a spring cleaning fundraiser.

Here’s how it works: People in the congregation sign up to have their lawns raked in the fall and help in the spring with chores like mulching, window cleaning, or gardening.

Here’s why it works: First, many in our church simply can’t do these tasks anymore, but now they now have youth, who they know, come and help. Second, these projects not only benefit the home owner, but they allow them to interact with our students and understand more about the youth program they’re donating towards. The body of Christ is built up, a needed service is done, and our students are taught good work ethic.

“Some of our best fundraisers have come through partnerships with local businesses who allow us to serve for an afternoon or evening.”

Partner with local organizations

Some of our best fundraisers have come through partnerships with local businesses who allow us to serve for an afternoon or evening. Many restaurants have something in place for this kind of thing— Jason’s Deli, Applebee’s…we use a chain called Pizza Ranch. For 3 hours, we serve in the restaurant by bussing tables, refilling drinks, and helping keep the place clean.

This works best when the whole congregation knows about the event. After advertising this to our church, many people will come and have dinner at the same time, allowing them to have a great dinner with friends while learning about our students and seeing how well they can serve. In our arrangement, we get all tips from the night and a percentage of the restaurant’s overall profit. No two restaurants are the same, but reach out to your local restaurants and businesses and see who might be good partners for your group.

Utilize the time to build into students

We see fundraisers not only as a way to serve others and raise money for important ministry purposes, but as opportunities to serve alongside our students and deepen our relationships with the them. Whether it’s raking leaves, moving mulch, or refilling someone’s drink, seize the chance to pour into your students and be intentional. Find teachable moments as you serve together to further a student’s understanding of God, faith, leadership, and service. Don’t see the fundraiser as simply a way to help fund your ministry, see it as part of your ministry. The success of fundraisers shouldn’t just be determined by the money you earn, but by the lives you get to minister and impact as well.

You don’t have to dread fundraisers. They can be life giving opportunities to serve and minister to your students, your church, and your community. I look forward to our fundraisers now knowing that I’m going to spend quality and purposeful time serving with my students and meeting others in our church and community through what we are doing. Think outside the box when it comes to fundraisers and maybe do less selling and more serving those around us.

Looking for more ideas? Check out this post, too.

About the Author

Frank Newburn

Frank Newburn is a husband and father of three. He has been the youth director for Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois since 2006. Before that Frank worked for LeaderTreks as a Leadership Specialist and Trip Leader. His ministry focuses include mentoring and discipleship, student leadership, and missions. He has over 25 years of youth…  Read More