Five Fundraising Efforts that Are Worth Your Time

Charlie Sells
April 24th, 2019

Fundraising can certainly take some of the “fun” out of ministry. Personally, I hate asking people for money, even when they owe a balance from a retreat. But even after almost 10 years in ministry, I’ve realized something about fundraising: It’s worth it.

Often times in our church, I get asked about how someone can help out our students. My first response is usually to see if they’re interested in volunteering with our ministry. When that doesn’t work, I then say something like this: We have students who can’t afford to go on a retreat or mission trip, so if you have the means, you can always sponsor a student’s fee. That usually garners up some additional support and interest, and helps us gain even more partners in our ministry. 

Many may think of fundraising efforts just as students helping to raise money for the house you’re building in Honduras, or for helping pay for the van rental to go to camp. I want to challenge you to see fundraising as a greater effort. An effort to gain more partners in ministry and not just those who are already volunteers and parents. Here are a few ideas to help your fundraising efforts become more successful and create long term relationships with people outside of your ministry.


It might seem like the most obvious thing, but if you’re anything like me, asking might be the hardest part. Sometimes, people need to be asked to give to a cause before they’ll give. A stage announcement works for very few people, but a personal ask is much more effective. Don’t just ask in your church either. Call up local businesses and see if they have any money designated for nonprofits. Sam’s Club even has grants for some organizations. People can’t give if you don’t ask them. Get past the awkwardness and ask!

Use your church’s giving systems.

Online giving has been shown to be a much more effective way to get people to give, and then give again. Depending on what kind of system you use, you can designate gifts to a missions or scholarship fund so that money only goes to the things you’re raising it for. Cash and check are still effective, but quickly fading. Make it easy to give and track giving. Designated giving also allows givers to get the tax benefit at the end of the year. 

Show people where the money is going

Accountability will go a million miles with givers. Show them that their money is going straight towards camp scholarships. Keep them updated about the project or summer service trips. People want to know where things are going. The more information you can give them before, during, and after your fundraising efforts, the greater the impact of the gift and the deeper partnerships you’ll create. 

Do what works for your culture

You might have noticed that the first four aren’t very practical, and there’s a reason for that. Our church has a lot of young kids who are involved in a lot of things. That means that I get hit up for money all the time for cookies, cards, and car washes. These three things our ministry won’t ever touch because it would be white noise to our members. It’s hard to prescribe something when I don’t know your group. You can always do a Google search for great ideas. That being said, do what your group is good at. If you have a group of students that love sports, host a tournament of some kind. If you have a lot of techie kids, have your older members “hire” them out to help with computers and phones. Lots of girls? Babysitting for a parent’s night out. Lots of boys? Organize a rake-and-run yard cleanup day. No one knows your context better than you. Do what works for you and will be the most effective for both your church and your students.

Do an envelope/adopt-a-box campaign

This is my absolute favorite fundraising effort, and the only formal fundraising we do each year. We call it 144 Envelopes (The adopt-a-box grid works the same way too). We print out envelopes with the numbers 1-144 on them, and we ask that you contribute the dollar amount of whatever number you receive. We also let them get creative with it if they choose. One year, someone picked up the envelope number 8, and put in a check for $888. No kidding. If every envelope is returned with the dollar amount on it, you’ve raised almost $10,000 without picking up a bucket or rake. We also include a slip of paper that they can leave their email address and receive updates about our mission trips and camps throughout the summer, adding accountability and inspiring the giver to remember why they gave in the first place. I know this works better for larger churches, so if you adapt this idea, feel free to use 100 or fewer envelopes. At the end of the day, your church gives to a great cause, and you create better partnerships for your ministry.

Charlie Sells

Charlie is the Director of Student Ministries and High School Minister at the Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville, TN. He has been working with students since he was 19 and wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s married to the incomparable Hayley and they have two awesome boys. Twitter: @charliesells Instagram: @chucksells

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