31 Unique Ideas for Small Church Fundraisers

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Small churches play a big role in their community. Here are 31 fun, unique fundraising ideas that will support your programs without exhausting your members.

Small churches do big things. They’re home base for all kinds of community gatherings and events! To support your community, you first need a strong financial foundation. From funding mission trips to furthering the education of your youth, raising money is vital to support your church’s mission and operations. 

Not only do fundraisers help you continue making a difference in people’s lives, but they can also be a great opportunity to build a stronger community within your church. Encouraging your members to work together to support your church’s goals will take your congregants’ bond beyond simple Sunday morning greetings. 

Raising money to support various projects, groups, and programs can be tough, especially with a small congregation. But putting on a small church fundraiser is different than most other kinds of fundraising! 

Having fundraisers that happen outside of Sunday morning services helps fund important church activities. First, here’s a few tips to help prevent over-burdening your members.

Limit Fundraising Appeals during Services 

Switch up how you tell your members about fundraisers. It helps prevent donor fatigue and wariness about how the money you raise is used. 

A short message about tithes and offerings is pretty standard before the Sunday morning collection is taken up. But talking extensively about church fundraising activities aside from the Sunday offering can overwhelm your members. Worse, it could make members skeptical about giving at all. 

Instead, consider including announcements about various fundraising activities in the announcements before or after the service begins. If your church uses bulletins, list upcoming fundraisers there! You can also make announcements in other places, like small groups, Wednesday-night church, Bible studies, and other gatherings. 

The Key to Small Church Fundraisers 

Your members give a lot of time, money, and talent to your church. Offering fundraisers that have value for the donors, as well as the church, will help prevent burnout. 

Your members put a lot of time, effort, and money into supporting your church. Many churches worry about over-burdening their members by asking for additional support. The secret to raising money for important programs without alienating members is to offer fundraisers that are valuable to the people who support them. 

So, how do you get people to participate in your fundraising efforts? You’ll need to plan engaging events and campaigns your members will be excited about. Here are a few fundraising ideas to take your fundraising beyond your offering plates.

Youth Group Fundraising Ideas

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1. Babysitting nights 

Parents and guardians often put off self-care or important errands because finding a reliable babysitter is time-consuming and expensive. Putting on a babysitting fundraiser helps you raise money for a good program and offers a valuable service to grownups who need it! 

Nursery workers, teenage babysitters, and members with childcare experience volunteer to watch kids for a few hours, and grownups make a donation in exchange for a few hours of childcare. The volunteers raise money for their groups, the grownups have some time to themselves, and kids have a chance to play with their friends. 

This idea can also be paired with a number of other fundraising event possibilities like movie nights, lock-ins (for older students), and other childcare activities. And with remote learning still in full swing, you can bet grownups would be willing to pay big bucks for a little extra help with school projects! 

2. Hold a work-a-thon 

Walk-a-thons are a staple of schools and nonprofits all over the country. But work-a-thons are a little different. Workers (they don’t have to be students!) collect pledges in return for participating in a big community service day. On the day of the event, crews of participants gather supplies and head out to do work around their neighborhoods; they could do yardwork for older church members, housework or painting for people with disabilities in your community, or even make repairs around the church itself. 

In the age of COVID-19, there are even more ways and reasons to host such a fundraiser. Do you have older members of your congregation who are concerned about doing their own shopping? Do you have members who need help familiarizing themselves with Zoom, Slack, and other now-must-have office tools? Or, with renewed interest in old school hobbies like gardening, breadmaking, and woodworking, do you have members who could donate their time to teach these skills? 

Work-a-thons make for a great way for your congregants to raise funds while sharing their gifts with others in your community! People who donate to this fundraiser know they’re supporting church programs and get a chance to give much-needed services to friends, family, and community members. It’s a wonderful fundraising tactic that raises money and gets church members involved in community outreach. 

3. Online or in-person craft sale 

If you have some talented artists, knitters, jewelry designers, and candle-makers in your youth group, consider hosting a craft sale at your church. Gather all of your artisans and ask them if they’d be willing to participate in a craft sale and donate part of the profits as a fundraiser. Then, set up booths in your lobby or a common gathering area so your members can peruse goods for sale before or after a Sunday service.  

4. Adopt-a-mile fundraiser for mission trips 

Heading out on a youth group mission trip? An adopt-a-mile fundraiser is a perfect way to fund your travel. Ask your congregants to help sponsor the trip you’re taking by donating pre-determined amounts associated with the number of miles you’ll be traveling. Set up a website dedicated to your fundraiser and add a fundraising thermometer so your congregation can easily track how close you are to funding your mission trip miles. 

5. Lock-in 

Give grownups a night off and get your kids excited for fundraising with a church lock-in. Charge a small fee for admission and plan a night full of engaging games and delicious snacks. Encourage kids to bring a friend along to join in on the fun, all while raising money for your youth group. 

Small Church Fundraising Ideas

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6. Team up with local businesses 

The best kind of fundraiser is the kind of fundraiser that requires minimal planning, minimal work, and lets church members support you by buying something they already spend money on. Teaming up with local businesses and franchises is a fantastic way to do that. 

Chains like Chipotle, Target, and other major retailers regularly sponsor “spirit nights” for schools, wherein a percentage of their sales is donated to the featured school. Similar fundraisers are popular with nonprofits, too. Reach out to local businesses and see if you can arrange a similar fundraiser, then make sure your congregants know where to eat or shop! 

7. Craft nights or classes 

Painting classes are a popular activity for small groups of people. They can be fundraisers, too! See if you have vendors in your town that can throw a painting party; those vendors often charge a flat rate that includes their services and supplies for the attendees. You can fold that flat rate into the cost of the event. 

You don’t have to limit lessons to painting, either. Check with your local colleges, art or craft supply stores, artisans, and local companies to learn about other crafting possibilities. And—in the age of Zoom and COVID-19—these classes don’t even have to be live. 

You could have congregants create videos on topics ranging from crocheting to canning, and then the private link to watch (and keep) the video on YouTube is sent out in the thank-you email. Customizing your thank-you emails based on donor selections is a breeze on the Qgiv platform! 

Because these fundraising events tend to have a higher direct cost than, say, a rummage sale, this might not be the best fundraising format for a large project. But they’re a great option for smaller groups that don’t need to work with large budgets, and it’s a fantastic way to have fun with other people in your community that have similar interests. 

8. A cook-off 

Everyone loves a cook-off. There are a thousand different ways to theme a cook-off, too. Chili cook-offs are a classic. But what about a BBQ cook-off? Or a baking contest? What about a themed cook-off that emphasizes local agriculture? If your town is famous for its strawberries, for example, you could consider having a contest where cooks’ recipes must feature that ingredient. 

Contestants in the cook-off can make a donation as an “entry fee,” and people who want to sample the entries can buy tasters’ tickets. It’s even more fun when winners get prizes – you could even recognize the best cooks at an award show like the one we referenced earlier! 

9. Awards shows 

So many people offer their time and talents to a church and its ministries, even if they’re not paid staff. The people who are paid staff often go above and beyond their job roles to keep the church running. Putting on an awards program that recognizes the hard work those people offer is a way to raise some money while thanking the people who support you. 

Go all out! Have some serious awards, like most valuable volunteer or most loyal program head, and some sillier ones, like goofiest VBS volunteer or youth group class clown. You can make it as formal or informal as you want! Go for a gala feel, complete with a “red carpet” and photos, or throw a more low-key event. 

Members can be encouraged to buy tickets to the event (which is where the fundraising aspect of this comes into play) but be careful not to ask them to make large donations at the event itself. Thanking volunteers and immediately asking them to donate to you can make your appreciation seem less sincere! 

One of the best things about this type of event is that it’s easy to make it an in-person or virtual event! To change it to a virtual format, you would announce the winners during a live stream, and then arrange for the winners to get their prizes later. 

10. “When We Were Young” guessing game 

A “When We Were Young” guessing game is a great way to raise money for your ministry while also helping your congregants get to know each other better.  

Ask everyone to submit a fun story or tidbit about something from their childhood. Once you’ve collected every submission, there are many ways you can host the game. Print every story or fun fact out on sheets of paper and display them gallery-style in your church lobby for a set period of time. Your congregants can walk through to read every entry and pay to submit their guesses for who each submission belongs to. 

As a virtual alternative, have each of your congregants set up a personal fundraising webpage. Post submissions one-by-one on your social media sites and ask people to donate to personal fundraising pages to indicate who they think the story or fact is about. 

This is a great fundraiser for small churches where everyone knows each other well and your whole church community can make submissions and guesses. To adapt this game to a larger church, consider having church leadership and staff make submissions, and then the congregation makes their guesses. 

11. 40 Days of Lent challenge 

The 40 days leading up to Easter are dedicated to reflection, fasting, and generosity, so why not give your members an opportunity to practice giving with a “40 Days of Lent” fundraising challenge? 

One way to run a “40 Days of Lent” challenge is by providing all of your congregants with jars. If they choose to give up something like coffee or some sort of daily expense, ask them to take that money they would’ve spent and put it in the jar. When Lent is over, they should bring the jars back to church as a donation. 

Easy Church Fundraising Event Ideas

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12. A 50/50 raffle 

50/50 raffles are usually done in conjunction with other fundraising activities, like silent auctions or other contests. The concept is simple – members buy a raffle ticket, and all the money goes into one big bucket. At the end of the event, someone draws a ticket, and the owner of that ticket gets half the money while the church gets the other half. 

These can be especially fun if you have a competitive group of people; everyone wants to have the winning ticket! They’re also an effective way of keeping people engaged throughout an event; if you sell raffle tickets at a cook-off and do the drawing at the end, your attendees are more likely to stay until the last moments of the dinner. It’s a fun way to encourage people to stick around! 

13. Sporting event parties 

People already pay to watch major sporting events, and they often make a night out of it. Try throwing a party for a major sporting event and selling tickets. You can keep direct costs down by keeping ticket prices to a few dollars and asking attendees to bring a snack or a drink to share. In return for buying their ticket, they get to watch the Superbowl, World Series, or another major sporting event on a large-screen television and get to share tons of snacks. 

This is another opportunity to offer childcare, especially for younger kids who don’t watch sports! This is another example of a fundraiser that raises money and offers a good service and an opportunity for fellowship with other members… all at the same time! 

14. Host a shoe drive fundraiser 

Everyone has shoes that they no longer wear. Rather than letting them wind up in a landfill, encourage churchgoers to repurpose them by donating them to your church’s shoe drive fundraiser. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to declutter their homes and support your mission. Plus, this is a great way to instill a philanthropic spirit throughout your congregation. 

All you need to do is partner with a shoe drive fundraiser facilitator. They’ll provide you with all the materials you need. Place the collection materials around your church and the community. Then, encourage churchgoers and community members to donate their gently worn, used, and new shoes that they no longer wear. Watch as the shoes pile up and your church’s funds skyrocket. 

15. Food or toy drives 

Over the holiday season, many families can count on having a turkey on the table and gifts under the tree, but not everyone is as fortunate. Help your congregants get into the giving spirit while also raising funds for your church by hosting a toy or food drive at your church to provide support to those who might be in need of some extra festive cheer. 

Partner with a food bank or toy drive facilitator to collect the supplies you’ll need to run your drive. Place collection boxes around your community, or host a drive-thru event where people can swing by and drop off any goods during a specified time. Once your collection boxes are full, send your goods off to your drive facilitator and celebrate the funds you’ve raised! 

16. Envelope fundraiser 

An envelope fundraiser is an easy and engaging fundraiser any church can run, and the best part is that it’s accessible to all of your church members. All you need is a stack of envelopes, some tape, and an empty wall in a highly trafficked area like your church lobby area.  

Simply number your envelopes from one dollar to $100 to indicate specific donation amounts and then tape them up to your wall. Your congregants can stop by your fundraising wall before or after your church service and donate the amount written on the envelope of their choice. If you’re looking to raise more money, add more envelopes to your wall. 

This is a great fundraiser in part because it provides your congregants with a visual gauge of how close you are to meeting your goal. Studies show that people are more likely to donate as you get closer to your goal, so when there are only a few more empty envelopes left on your wall, you’re sure to find dedicated congregants who will fill those final empty spots. 

17. Used book sale 

Do you need to make some space on your church library’s bookshelves for the latest in Christian literature? Consider holding a used book sale to clear out books you no longer need and give your members the opportunity to take home a few new reads for their own book collections. 

If your congregants are looking to clean out their own bookshelves at home, turn your used book sale into a community effort by asking members to bring their own books from home. Advertise your sale around your community to draw more people in, and you can even turn your book sale into a larger event with food and entertainment. 

Fundraising Ideas for the Church Choir

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18. Put on a ticketed dinner event 

Ticketed dinner events are a good way to raise money for your church while offering a service to your members. Spaghetti dinners, fish fries, potlucks, pancake dinners, and low-country boils are all popular versions of this concept, but the possibilities are endless! 

Draw congregants in by advertising your dinner as a meal and a show where the choir provides some entertainment. You can also turn your dinner into a full night out by setting up a dance floor and planning a fun setlist to get your diners on their feet dancing once they’ve cleaned their plates. 

Encourage your diners to buy their tickets in advance to help you keep costs to a minimum. It also gives families a chance to plan ahead for their night off from cooking and doing dishes. Consider allowing people to eat at the church or take their food to go so even those who can’t stay for socializing can get a tasty meal. 

19. Singing telegrams for birthdays or Christmas 

Give your congregants the opportunity to send each other a fun musical gift by holding a singing telegram fundraiser. Set up a table and ask people to pay a small fee to send their friends and family a fun singing telegram. To provide more personalization for the telegrams, offer a selection of songs your choir members can sing that your congregants can choose from when sending a telegram. 

This is a great idea around the holidays when your choir can pull out some classic Christmas carols and go door-to-door in festive gear. For a more long-term, ongoing fundraiser, you can set up a box where people can submit telegrams they’d like to send at any time for birthdays or any other occasion. 

20. Benefit gala with a concert 

Roll out the red carpet for a fun, one-night-only benefit gala and church choir concert. To add some spice to your event, set a fun theme you can plan your concert setlist around and your guests can dress up for. You can also add a silent auction to your gala to raise some extra money and give people the opportunity to return home with a fun gift. 

21. Karaoke night 

Give your musical church members something to sing about with a fun karaoke night. Charge a small fee to participate in the fun, and turn karaoke into a full night out by providing small bites and refreshments while everyone’s singing and dancing. 

Fundraising Ideas for Your Church Building Fund

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22. Church-wide rummage sales 

How many items in your house could you stand to get rid of? How many items do you think your members have in their homes that they could stand to get rid of? Instead of throwing away their clothes, furniture, and household items, members can donate them to the church. One person might not have enough to hold their own garage sale, but a whole congregation probably does! 

This accomplishes a few goals. One, members get a chance to do something good with the items they no longer want. Two, the overhead cost of the event is kept relatively low because all the goods that will be sold at the rummage sale are donated. And three, the church can raise money and open the rummage sale to the community, which is great for meeting new people and introducing them to your church. 

Consider having a low-key gathering the night before the rummage sale to tag items and set up tables. It’ll save you a lot of stress and energy the day of the event! 

23. Refreshment sales 

Many churches offer coffee or other light refreshments, but you can turn it into an ongoing fundraiser by offering specialty items for purchase on Sunday mornings. Instead of stopping by a Starbucks, your congregants can simply grab their much-needed caffeine at church and support your ministry. 

24. Buy-a-brick 

Your congregants are the foundation of your church, so give them the opportunity to leave their mark with a buy-a-brick fundraiser. If you’re building a new addition or need to update an area of your church that has fallen into disrepair, offer your members the opportunity to buy an engraved brick to help fund your renovation. They can use the brick as an opportunity to permanently mark their contributions to your church or to honor a special someone. 

25. Peer-to-peer fundraising 

Turn popular youth group games like Sword Drill, Bible Jeopardy, or Reclaim the Cross (a fresh take on Capture the Flag) into a peer-to-peer fundraiser that the whole family can enjoy. Set up a fundraiser website where your participants can create their own personal fundraising pages. Make it easy for them to share their participation with social sharing buttons and ask them to reach out to their networks to help you raise money in the weeks leading up to your event. 

Fun Church Fundraising Ideas

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26. Singles Valentine’s Day dance 

Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday for those with significant others, but what about individuals who are still looking for someone to celebrate with? Turn Valentine’s Day into a holiday worth celebrating for everyone regardless of their relationship status with a Valentine’s Day Dance for singles at your church. Not only will people have the opportunity to meet and connect with someone new, but you’ll also raise money for your ministry in the process. 

27. Speed dating 

It’s not always easy to meet someone you connect with or with whom you share the same values when you’re in the dating scene. Make meeting new people easy, fun, and safe for the singles in your congregation by hosting a speed dating event. Plan your event and charge a small registration fee for people to participate.  

This can also be a great event for those who aren’t necessarily looking for a romantic partner but are just looking to meet new friends. Partner with other churches in your area so your members can meet people from outside their immediate church community who share similar values. 

28. Church cookbook 

Almost no one returns home after a church potluck without making a few promises to send recipes around once everyone’s stomach is full and all the serving plates are empty. Why not make things easier on your congregants by collecting those coveted family recipes for a church cookbook fundraiser? 

Send out a call to your congregation to submit their most popular potluck recipes or favorite family food traditions to compile into a community cookbook. You can even turn this cookbook into a yearly publication where people can submit new or updated recipes annually.  

Sell copies of the cookbook to your congregation and include any backstories or fond memories your contributors have about the recipes they’ve submitted. People will love the opportunity to try something new in their kitchens and in doing so, they’ll also get to know their community better. 

29. Family photo day 

Getting the family all dressed up and looking nice on any day can be a difficult task. Make family photos easy by offering a photo day at church when everyone’s already dressed up in their Sunday best. Advertise your photo day for a specific Sunday and set up a simple photo studio where families can stop by before or after a church service to pay to take home a few photos.  

Pro tip: Plan your family photo day before the holiday season starts so families can get their Christmas card photos done! 

30. Small group luncheons 

Give your church Bible study groups or interest groups the opportunity to connect and socialize by hosting intimate luncheons. Offer some delicious food and refreshments, and plan bonding activities or discussion questions so people have the opportunity to talk with one another and forge unique bonds with each other. 

31. “Festival of Lights” holiday carnival 

When the holidays roll around, spread some celebratory cheer with a Festival of Lights carnival. Reach out to local businesses and ask if they’d be willing to sponsor carnival game booths, and see if local restaurants would be interested in selling some carnival eats and refreshments. This is a great fundraiser event for the whole family, and your congregants will love the opportunity to celebrate the winter holidays with their church family.

Final Thoughts

There’s no end to the ways you can raise money to support your church community and your mission. Small churches are often caught between demand for programs and services and reluctance to ask members to give above and beyond their weekly offering. But by holding fundraisers that members want to participate in, you can help relieve donor fatigue and give members services they already want. That’s a win for everyone involved!

Need some extra help planning your next fundraiser? Check out these resources for more tips and ideas.

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