Fundraising advice, tips, and ideas for youth groups [INTERVIEW]

Fundraising advice, tips and ideas for youth groupsDisclaimer: is a paid sponsor of LISM. I interviewed them because they have many years of experience in fundraising for youth group mission trips, camps, retreats, and projects. They know what they’re talking about. Scroll to the bottom of this interview to listen to a 20 minute recording of me and Russ Underwood, of Samaritan Fundraising, talk about more about fundraising than what’s in this post.


INTRODUCTION: This is my interview with Russ Underwood of Samaritan Fundraising. We both hope it helps you be as effective as possible this season in raising funds for all the life-changing events and trips your ministry has planned for this summer.

TIM: A lot of youth groups will start gearing up to do fundraisers for camps and missions trips this summer. How can youth groups form and build community with each other through fundraisers during the time that leads up to the trip?

RUSS: A great way to do this is for the fundraiser to be larger than life, not just about raising money. It can take many forms but really having a cause stand out of why they are fundraising. If it’s a youth group having a gauge in front of them is huge, daily, weekly, monthly goals. Prizes when goals are hit.

TIM: What are some of the most effective fundraisers you’ve seen youth groups do that help create community among the people who are financially supporting them?

RUSS: Some of the best ones can be where the church or community is involved, ie a church or community yard sale held at a local school. People bring in possessions as donations and the group sells them. A lot of times the people come out to the sale because they have donated and want to see if their stuff sold, and most of the time they feel apart of it because of their donation. Giving people who financially support you something tangible is huge in helping create community.

TIM: How can fundraising help build momentum for the trip?

RUSS: Raising funds should be secondary when approaching fundraising, the key is making the purpose known and building on that. If its to raise money for an orphanage in mexico, you spend 3-4 weeks at youth group talking about Gods heart for orphans, specifics of how these funds will change orphans lives, etc. You can either feed someone a fish, or teach someone how to fish. Fundraising can help cultivate passion and unity because of the end goal.

TIM: Teenagers are already asked to do so many other fundraisers for school events and activities, how can churches help teens not loose sight of the spiritual impact that their youth group fundraising can potentially have?

RUSS: As I talked about before, it can’t be about the money, it needs to be about the need. The need and the impact it has, sometimes there is apathy when people don’t realize their worth and how they can contribute. When teens feel a sense of worth and that they are bringing something of importance to the table they will naturally want to participate. Asking the Lord to give them a passion to reach this goal is important, not a passion for raising money, but a heart that breaks for what breaks Gods Heart.

TIM: What are the pros and cons of doing a youth group fundraising event (i.e. car wash) as opposed to sending the kids off to sell something (i.e. cookie dough)?

RUSS: The pros of a car wash is that the youth group can bond together and all feel like they are part of raising money. Most teens like to be outside and get wet. The cons to doing a car wash is that it can really be dependent on several things, weather, people’s donations, etc. You could have 25 youth doing a car wash and at the end of the day only $250 was donated by people who came through. If you split that up, that will just be more of drop in the bucket.

The pros of a cookie dough sale, etc would be putting something tangible in the buyers hands. This is a way of saying thank you for a donation. There is an added value to something tangible. The cons can be that cookie dough, bake sales, etc are starting to feel overdone both by youth pastors and church communities. Sometimes the con here is that there just isn’t much movement in sales, and can bring discouragement rather than encouragement to the teens.

TIM: For the groups that are selling something, what is the best way to approach someone with your product without sounding pushy or embarrassed if they turn you down?

RUSS: The best way to approach someone is the why, not will you? Meaning that approaching someone they will want to know why you are coming up to them. Saying things like, “Have you heard about whats going on in Africa?” Or, “Have you ever gone out of the country?” Or ask them how they are doing and their name. Creating a bridge to someone is key, it must become a personal thing to them in order for them to want to get involved.

If they are turned down, a response of, “Ok thank you for your time” or “Have a great day” is a good way to end it. No need to try to convince people, usually they will give within the first few minutes if they are interested, but don’t force it.

TIM: Any advice you have for youth groups who will be doing fundraisers over the next several months for their summer trips?

RUSS: As I was saying earlier, study why you are fundraising, what is the goal, the mission, the purpose. Make it a reality as you plan to fundraise, if is for an event put testimonies out at church or videos of people who have attended this type of event before, if its for camp or missions the same thing can be applied, people are relational, they need to have a connection with a cause. Be creative and have fun with it. Excitement is contagious.

Questions YOU submitted about fundraising

A while back I mentioned on Twitter and the blog’s Facebook page that I’d be interviewing someone about fundraising for summer camps and missions trips. Here are the questions you all asked and responded.

YOU: How do you get those who don’t have someone going to camp (maybe older folks) enthusiastic about giving?

RUSS: First its huge to understand your audience, you cant talk to an elderly person like you would a 25 year old. Highlight things that would appeal to them, such as God healing hearts, or creating great memories with friends that you can have your whole life. Find the connect points with each person.

YOU: How can churches in poor neighborhoods do successful fundraisers?

RUSS: Churches in poor neighborhoods can be successful, they may have to spread out their fundraising goals a bit more. Spreading out goals will help people achieve things quicker and help build confidence and excitement. Also think of the needs of the neighborhood, how can you help meet those needs? You want the community to feel apart of what you are doing, how can you give back to them?

YOU: We are a small youth group raising money for a mission trip in June. We are always looking for a new fundraising ideas. Do you have any suggestion for a sucessful fundraiser to try?

RUSS: I have seen a few things work pretty well, car washes to which each youth gets a certain amount of money donated per car beforehand. This can be a good one if the teens are proactive. Another way is by doing Samaritan Card. this has low investment but I high return and about a 90-95% selling rate.

YOU: We do a Golf Tournament each year for our major fundraiser but would love to know how to make that better or what other good options are available. Also, how do you go about raising funds for missions in an economy which consists of struggling families just trying to meet needs?

RUSS: To answer the Golf Tournament question first, I would ask what are the donors receiving in return? To answer the question about fundraising when people are struggling, you want to make sure that what ever you do is going to give back to the donor in someway. During the times we are right now, people are looking for tangible things, that they can benefit from, savings, etc.

YOU: How far out we should plan to start raising funds? (seems like we can never stop).

RUSS: Its never too early to raise funds, but I would say that you need to do things in phases, maybe incorporate a few things together, instead raising money for an event, raise money for the “Fall forecast” or something like that. Give it a more general name then you can spread your fundraising out to cover several events instead of one.

Listen to me and Russ take this discussion to the next level

I had the privilege of talking with Russ on the phone about youth group fundraising. We discussed many other ideas, tips and gave plenty of advice.

You can listen to the whole conversation below or grab it in iTunes.

1. Play our conversation     

Samaritan provides a wallet-sized discount card that’s valid at over 100,000 merchants. It’s like the old coupon books, but easier to use because you always have it with you. It’s a great way to raise funds for your next youth group trip because it actually saves people money and it’s good nation-wide, so you can sell it to friends and relatives all over the country. If you’ve used it before or sold them, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Posted on March 23, 2010

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