Fundraising that dirty little word

Fundraising, that dirty little word. Over the years, I have heard from many new youth workers the statement: my church told me “oh don’t worry you will never need to fundraise, we fully fund our ministries.” What they mean is “You won’t need to fundraise; unless you actually decide to do your job… because this stuff is too expensive”. It is a startling reality every rookie faces when they come to realize the mission trip they want to take their kids on costs about $10,000 or $20,000 and the church only allocates $4,000 for the entire youth ministry budget. It has become the default that the students need to fundraise.
I have been a Youth Director for nine years, the last seven years, the ministry has needed to annually fundraise between $15,000-$20,000. I will admit we have taken our students to some really incredible places, Mexico, Vermont, Montana, Belize, Pittsburgh, and Suburban Philadelphia. Through all of these experiences I have come to realize at least two things about the church. First, congregations support good youth ministry. Over the last several years we have always received the money needed to go where we have been called to go. Even during the latest recession, people supported the youth ministry. Second, for some reason there is a disconnect between budgeting and fundraising, and it is an unfortunate part of our culture. In most school districts; students have to fundraise. People won’t think twice about paying for a car wash or dropping money into a football helmet but if the school district increased school taxes $5 or $10 a year, people would go nuts. It is the same with most churches; if everyone (who was able) increased their pledge $5 or $8 a month most youth ministries would not need to fundraise. At this point in my career, I have come to accept fundraising as an unfortunate part of my job. Here are some things I have found helpful over the years.
1. Annually ask the church budget committee to increase the youth budget. The budget should reflect the actual cost of the ministry. Churches should be spending between a $1000 and $1500 per active student directly on the youth ministry,this figure obviously includes the salary of YD (Devires, Mark. Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why most youth ministry doesn’t last and what you can do about it. (Downers Grove, IVP, 2008), 36).
2. Publicize the actual cost of the event and the cost parents are paying for it. This helps parents to understand that even though the retreat their kid just went on was $100 that did not cover the cost of leaders or the transportation. I have had several parents over the years who chose to pay the actual cost of the event, they did only because we advertised it.
3. Form your own fundraising committee, but do not chair it. I only attend one or two meetings a year for the youth fundraising committee. You will need to be in contact with them, but having a separate committee goes a long way in removing the stress of fundraising.
4. Go for the Big Events! I don’t think a fundraising event is worth the committee’s time unless it is going to raise at least $4,000.
5. Use the gifts and talents of your congregation because often people are willing to donate. One of our youth leaders is a chef and every year she puts on a world class dinner, donating her time and energy.
6. Finally, ask your Senior Pastor to organize a youth ministry fundraising event. He or she may not be able to change the funding situation but they will at least know the pain that you go through (I have met only a few willing to do this but when they do, it often changes the dynamic between the Youth Ministry and the church).
So, until churches begin funding their youth ministries at the appropriate level, realize you need to allocate the time to fundraising. Don’t hesitate to politely ask people to help meet needs, and go for the big events. As Jesus said in Luke 25:1 “Go forth and sell frozen pizza in my name (Ha Ha).”


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