We just wrapped up our fundraiser for this year and it was one of the best ones yet! Not because of the money we raised–we won’t even total that up until later this week–but because of what the fundraiser accomplished and did for our students and our church.
It’s moments like these where I swell with pride as I watch my students serve, give, and live missionally. They were given a challenge and they rose to meet it! Don’t get me wrong, I was exhausted after the fundraiser and I napped hard when I got home, but this fundraiser was a true success for us.
I often ponder why the metrics we use to weigh the success of a fundraiser typically center on finances or on how many people show up. For our group, success isn’t focused on the money raised or the numbers but on how our students are able to serve and love others, and by how the fundraiser helps our church live out our mission. Looking at what occurred at our fundraiser, that’s why I believe we succeeded and will see huge benefits because of what happened.
Today, I want to highlight seven keys to a successful fundraiser and why these are important not just to your ministry but to your church overall.
This is something we need to do for our leaders, students, families, and our church community. Over-communicate what you’re doing, when you’re training, what roles students will have. The clearer and more concise the directions the better but remember that over-communication isn’t about inundating people’s inboxes with information. It’s about finding a balance: clearly sharing the information that’s needed and in the right methods.
Send emails or letters no more than once a week. Communicate all necessary information at training sessions and give handouts. Make sure you have leader meetings to be clear on what they need to know. When it comes to sharing with the church, think about the different ways you have to share information: mailers, emails, newsletters, bulletins, slides, announcements on stage, yard signs, knocking on doors, or whatever other ways there are to dispurse information. The ability to leverage multiple opportunities will help ensure that your message is heard and received.
2. Set clear expectations.
Working with students has taught me a lot but something I learned very quickly is the importance of clear expectations and rules. I was running a game one time and I thought I had all the rules figured out, when halfway through one of the junior guys let me and the whole group know I was wrong because he googled the answer. Well I very quickly instituted a no phones rule for our games to make sure that didn’t happen again. What I learned is that expectations are highly important and even when we think students aren’t listening, they actually are. Setting clear expectations and guidelines will help not only your fundraiser succeed but your students as well. You are setting them up for success and giving them the parameters in order to do so.
3. Focus on creating community and fostering relationships.
One of the things I love to do with student fundraisers is find ways for them to engage in inter-generational moments with the larger church body. Whether it’s having them serve together, finding ways to engage in conversations, or having older generations pray over students, these are opportunities that will help relationships and community flourish in your church. The more intentional we are at helping to develop relationships and community, the more we will see buy-in to the mission and vision of the church as well as student ministry. When people are able to grow together as a community it fosters unity and a desire to see the Gospel go forth.
4. Tell stories.
This is something I love to do. Most people know that I love to tell stories and incorporate them into teaching opportunities. I think there is an inherent beauty and strength to sharing stories because they bring people in, showcase the needs of others, and highlight the work of God in people’s lives. I think that’s partly why Jesus used stories throughout His ministry.
When we tell stories of lives that have been changed (think about your students’ lives and the lives of those you served) it allows you to show people the power of the Gospel and the necessity of student mission trips. Telling stories also provides a creative way to ask for support. Rather than simply asking people to give, you are painting a picture about why they should give because you’re showing what their giving has accomplished.
5. Utilize training sessions.
Before any fundraiser it is imperative that you take your team through training. These trainings aren’t meant to just be informational, but should also focus on team building and unity. When you can approach training with a desire to see your students succeed and to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus, it helps to shift the focus of the time. Sessions aren’t simply focused on telling students what to do or not to do. Instead, they’re focused on helping your students to mature in their relationship with Jesus as they care about and serve others.
6. Foster discipleship opportunities.
I love watching leaders pour into the lives of students, especially when the relationships are inter-generational. But even more encouraging has been watching our church community love, support, and intentionally invest in the lives of students. I’ve witnessed older adults engage with our students and build ongoing relationships where they continue to pour into their lives and support them even beyond high school. These are moments that are pivotal for students and will help them grow in their relationship with Jesus. Thinking about how you can foster these relationships will help to strengthen your group as a whole.
7. Incorporate prayer.
One of the things we highlight in our fundraising efforts is that the fundraiser isn’t just about financial support. Prayer support is vital to our mission succeeding and because of that we must be intentional in garnering the prayer support necessary for our trips. You can incorporate prayer in other ways as well. Ask students to pray at meetings and training sessions, hand out prayer cards at fundraisers, have leaders or staff or elders pray over your students at fundraisers, or even have your students pray for the church. These moments will help your students not only grow in their faith journey but will also help them to see the power and necessity of prayer in each of our lives.