Small churches play a big role in their community. Here are 11 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! 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 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.
Here are 11 fundraising ideas for small churches that do exactly that:
Host a Shoe Drive Fundraiser
Shoe drive fundraisers are a fantastic and unique fundraising idea that your whole congregation can get involved in.
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.
- Hold a Work-a-Thon
Work-a-Thons are a great way to raise money while offering a valuable service to the people who need it most.
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 work day. On the day of the event, crews of participants gather supplies and head out to do work around the community; they could do yard work for older church members, housework or painting for disabled people 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 wood working, 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.
Put on a Ticketed Dinner Event
Wednesday night dinners are a staple for many churches. But what about offering a dinner on one of the other nights of the week? You can raise money and give families a night off from cooking and doing dishes.
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, and low-country boils are all popular versions of this concept, but the possibilities are endless!
Encouraging diners to buy their tickets in advance can help you keep costs to a minimum, and it gives families a chance to take a night off from cooking and doing dishes. Consider allowing people to eat at the church or take their food to go so people can plan their week accordingly.
Offer Babysitting Nights
Ask nursery workers to volunteer a few hours of their time for a babysitting night. Parents can pay to have a few hours of alone time without worrying about distracted babysitters.
Parents, especially young parents, often put off date nights 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 parents who need it!
Nursery workers, teenage babysitters, and members with childcare experience volunteer to watch kids for a few hours, and parents make a donation in exchange for a few hours of child-care. The volunteers raise money for their groups, the parents have some times to themselves, and kids have a chance to play with their friends.
There are tons of possibilities with this fundraising idea, too. Try movie nights, lock-ins (for older students), and other childcare activities. And with remote learning still in full swing, you bet parents would be willing to pay big bucks with a little extra help with school projects!
Sporting Event Parties
People love watching sports. Why not make a night out of it and raise some money for a good cause, too?
People already pay to watch major sporting events, and they often make a night out of it. Try making a night out of it by 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 other 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!
Throwing an awards party to recognize outstanding volunteers and staff is a fun way to raise money, build community, and recognize the people who work hard to keep your church going. This version of a small church fundraiser is a fantastic way to thank important members and have a fun party at the same time.
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.
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.
You can still ask your members to get dressed up for a formal event, or even ask them to dress in silly costumes for a smaller event (with a prize for the most creative costume at the end). This helps add excitement to your event and makes it more fun for the whole family!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!
Church-Wide Rummage Sales
One church member’s junk is another church member’s treasure. Instead of throwing out their unwanted clothes and household items or taking them to Goodwill, ask members to give them to your church and hold a rummage sale.
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!
A cook-off contest is a quintessential small church fundraiser. Put a unique spin on it! Raise money, eat well, build community, and give members a chance to show off their cooking skills with a cook-off fundraiser.
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!
Craft Nights or Classes
If you’ve got a crafty congregation, try throwing a craft night or art classes. Painting classes, knitting nights, or other craft projects are all possibilities. These classes are best suited to ladies’ groups, choirs, or other groups that could benefit from a small church fundraiser.
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!
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.
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.
Team Up with Local Businesses
Spirit nights, where local businesses donate a percentage of their sales to a charitable organization, are popular with schools and sports teams. Why not try it with your church?
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 Chick-Fil-A, 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!
A 50/50 Raffle
Ever heard of a 50/50 raffle? People buy raffle tickets and the money goes into a pot. At the end of the event, a raffle ticket is drawn; the owner of the raffle ticket gets half the pot and the church gets the other half!
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!
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!
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