Fundraiser? Chicken BBQ? Rummage sale? Golf tournament? Church fundraisers can be confusing to navigate, which do you choose and why…?
One of the questions I get asked the most by clients is, “What events should we be doing to fundraise?” Or, more specifically, “how can we make our chicken BBQ more profitable?” or even sometimes “we want to do a golf tournament, what do you think ticket prices should be?”
And I try to get them to pump the brakes.
Because although those kinds of events will raise you temporary capital, they won’t give you any long-term change or momentum unless there are some other things taken into account.
Normally, a fundraising event happens like this:
- There’s a funding gap (for something)
- A committee or group decides to host an event
- Committee asks every local business and person to donate things
- Flyers are made (use Canva for this, friends, I beg you to stop using Word!)
- Everyone holds their breath and/or beg people to attend
- People transactionally participate (sometimes it’s not even congregation members – bonus points here!) and then leave.
- Money is collected
- The end
But there’s a better way. A way that can help you build community connections and capacity so each event or program builds on the last. A way that helps you think through and leverage your strengths. A way that looks on the horizon, and improves funding bases for the long haul.
So stop worrying about ticket prices, right now. Stop worrying about what specific event will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and think over these three fundraising ideas that actually work together to build something more impactful than you’ve imagined:
- Abundance Mindset
- Community Investment
- Intentional Connection
Refer back to #1 on the list of “normal fundraising event steps:”
- There’s a funding gap (for something)
What if, instead of thinking of fundraising as a way to go from funding gap to funding gap, you considered it your mode of community connection and growth?
What if, instead of begging folks to give or participate because you need the money, you encouraged them to come because it’s a great way to meet people and get involved in social causes?
What if, instead of keeping all the money raised for your church or organization, you actively gave a portion of it away?
These questions are all about mindset. When we fundraise, we’re often looking from a fixed mindset. That there’s not enough money and that we have to raise a certain amount to reach a goal.
But we serve a God of abundance. A God of hope and of promise. There will always be enough. You will always be enough. Not only will whatever God has called you to create be enough, but your cup will run over.
If you approach fundraising with this abundance mindset – with a faith in abundance – you won’t be afraid to do unconventional things like giving away parts of the proceeds.
Here’s the interesting thing about this practice, though… people actually give more when they believe that some of the money is being shared with outside charities or groups they believe in.
People like to belong to things larger than themselves, and also like it when organizations that ask for money (like churches) aren’t hypocritical – you ask us to give money, but you keep it all in-house… doesn’t preach quite the same as “we tithe too!”
If you approach fundraising with an abundance mindset, you won’t be as apt to throw together a hasty event because there’s a gap – you’re more likely to be continually planning events because they bring people together for a shared cause.
People can feel your desperation when it comes to fundraising, and if you only do events or ask for money when you’re desperate or afraid, that feeling will seep into your asks and what you do. People will begin to realize you only feel like you need to connect when you’re desperate, and that means any gains you make are going to be short-lived funding at best.
I talk about mindset quite a bit in my book From Scarcity to Strength – it’s available on Amazon if you need extra resources in this arena. Or you can contact me and we can set up a call!
Because we can do better in the name of fundraising than creating short-term band-aids. You deserve to feel better about what you’re asking and what you’re doing, and so does your team and participants.
So let’s shift to an abundance mindset, shall we? Find parts of this advice that work for your context, and apply them! Most importantly, remind yourself and your team Who you serve – a God of abundance.
First, I suggest counter-intuitive things like giving part of your funds away from an event. Say what?!
Next… I’m going to pick apart #3 on my “normal fundraising event planning” list:
- Committee asks every local business and person to donate things.
Please, please pay for goods from local businesses whenever you can. Get committee meetings catered by local vendors sometimes. Ask a local restaurant to make food for your event… but pay them for their work (and heck, invite them to stay and enjoy!).
Want something donated? Write a donation request letter to Walmart or whatever big box store is in your area. Definitely, go for it – you’ll probably get a few gift cards or some other help that way.
But local, small businesses are different, in my opinion – they depend on every dollar that comes in to keep them open and supporting jobs locally. By spending money at local businesses, you’re actively supporting your local area’s economy, and that’s a good thing.
Churches are notoriously known, along with other non-profits, for always asking local businesses to donate in exchange for “free advertising” or because “it’s the right thing to do.” Go against the grain – when you go into a business talking about a community event, and actually tell them you aren’t asking for a donation… they might just fall over. Your reputation will be positively affected as a community agency. Plus, active patronage opens the door for you to get to know the owners in a new way. As a patron, and as a community partner.
You never know if people will eventually turn around and offer to donate things, but that’s not why you’re paying for things. You’re paying for things to shatter stereotypes, support the local economy, and because it’s the right thing to do.
It will affect your bottom line, yes. But it will increase your influence and reputation in the long-term.
This fundraising idea is broader than just one of the items on the “normal church event” checklist. Intentional connection can broaden and strengthen any number of the items on the list, like when people transactionally participate or the idea that there’s an “end” to an event and everyone is done.
In the Abundance Mindset section, I suggest giving away some of the funds you raise from any donations. Whether it’s an event or regular giving (from the offering plate or online giving), sharing donations with an organization your team believes in gives team members a sense of agency.
But let’s take it a step further with intentional connection:
- Be intentional about which organization you choose to connect with.
- Be intentional about who participates in making the decision about in which contributory organization is chosen. Of course, be sure to vet their values and annual reports to make sure they’re in alignment with your church’s values.
- Ask the organization you choose to meet with them and take a tour of the building, if they’re up for that. Start to build a relationship. You might eventually choose to do volunteer work with them, for example. The donation is just the front door.
- Plus, as a bonus, you get to invite the contributory organization in to honor them – that’s a win if they’re willing to be a part of a gathering. You get to share their information on social media, and they might share some things in return.
Another option is to co-host an event with another church, another organization or ministry, and share the proceeds equally. Make sure it’s a group that you are confident about their network reach, or that they will do equal work – this is about relationship building, but also about not wearing out your volunteers.
This would work in my ministry setting if we had an event that connected the youth of the church with the Girl Scout troop that meets there – we’d be building a relationship between the youth but also opening a front door through offering donations (a motivation for them to come and participate). Plus, we’d be leveraging the networks of both groups, expanding the reach for everyone.
Finally, be intentional about connecting with folks before, during and after giving opportunities. Notice I didn’t say “fundraising events”? Because there are giving opportunities everywhere, and they’re built on relationships. How do you build relationships with people you don’t know?
Is there a way you’re gathering community organization information into an asset map? Or a list of local caterers or small businesses? How do you know who’s around you if you’re not keeping track?
Do you gather emails or addresses of volunteers so you can send them letters, thank-you notes and invite them to worship sometime? What other information do you collect?
Part of intentional connection is building this resource list and connecting to people and places on it regularly. Be a face that people recognize, whether it’s at community events (yes, your church should consider buying seats or tables at certain community events to support others) or meetings.
Before, I mentioned that churches have a reputation for wanting something for nothing. Well… churches are also known for being insular – always expecting people to come to them, inside the building. Flip the script with intentional connections that involve going out into the community.
Fundraising ideas don’t have to be cookie cutter options that your team can throw together in a few hours to raise a few hundred dollars. With these three fundraising ideas – an abundance mindset, community investment, and intentional connection – we’re in it for the fundraising long-haul, not the fundraising band-aid.
I call these “ideas,” but you and I both know they’re bigger than that. These are paradigm-shifters.
Your programming, the vision that God put on your heart, deserves nothing less.
Let’s talk more about how to implement these three things into your fundraising and capacity building journey, shall we? Reach out and we can schedule a free consultation call.