If fun were a season, it would be summer.
The months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are filled with baseball games and vacations, carnivals and cookouts, amusement parks and pool parties.
So why should your church fundraisers be stuffy old bake sales and bingo games while everyone else is out having fun in the sun?
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) June 20, 2017
You need to raise money for your upcoming missions, ministries, and groups but you also want to enjoy the summer months.
I have good news: you can do both at the same time.
Studies show that giving charitable donations makes people more happy anyway, so just imagine how much fun everyone will be having when they’re donating and having a good time. Plus, if your fundraiser events give people a chance to get outside and have fun, they’re more likely to attend and contribute to the cause.
I reached out to some of my creative friends in church leadership, and came up with some ideas of our own to put the fun back in fund… nope, I won’t do it!
1. Have a church carnival
Everyone loves a carnival. Well, unless it’s one of those haunted carnivals from an old episode of “Scooby-Doo.”
Luckily, you don’t need a Tilt-a-Whirl or Zipper to have your own church carnival in your parking lot or other open space. You can make your own games and attractions for very little money and staff the carnival with volunteers. Organizing and communicating with your volunteers is even easier with church management software.
How to make it fun: Set up booths or tables with games and concessions. You can also set up attractions such as face painting, puppy petting, and—of course—the pastor dunk tank. Pinterest has a bunch of great church carnival ideas to get you started.
How to raise money: You can charge a small admission fee, sell tickets for games, and sell concessions such as cotton candy and hot dogs on the grill. Also, make sure to set up a booth for general donations with information on the specific programs and groups you are raising money for.
2. Sponsor a community yard sale
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” or so the old saying goes. Everyone accumulates stuff they no longer want, but the old He-Man action figures you’re finally getting rid of might be seen as a valuable collectible to someone else.
You provide the space, the tables, and the advertising, and your church members and neighbors provide the merchandise and manpower. Everybody wins.
How to make it fun: Have a volunteer serve as a DJ and master of ceremonies, playing music, boosting the mood, and highlighting different booths and items for sale. You can also decorate the space like a party with banners and streamers.
How to raise money: Each seller pays a fee to use your space and a table. If you have enough space, consider opening the yard sale to outside members of the community, too. They’ll be happy to piggy back off of your publicity, and shoppers will be happy to have a better selection of items to peruse. You can also ask each seller to donate a percentage of their profits. Set up a general donation table with information on your programs. You can also sell concessions such as pizza, hot dogs, and cold drinks.
3. Host an arts and craft fair
This is similar to the yard sale, except instead of selling old junk, you give the creative folks in your organization a chance to show off their artistic talents. Who knows, you might have the next Bob Ross just waiting to be discovered.
How to make it fun: “Summer fun” might not be the first phrase that comes to mind when you think of arts and crafts, but an arts and crafts fair doesn’t have to be like a museum. You can host the fair in the evening when the sun is low and have a band of volunteers entertain the crowd with lively music. You could also invite a local winery or wine store to provide tastings.
How to raise money: Charge artists a fee to sell their work, ask for a percentage of profits to be donated, set up a table (decorated artistically, of course) for general donations, and provide fancy cheese boards—for a suggested donation—to really class things up.
4. Partner with your local minor league baseball team
Summertime is all about baseball, and most minor league teams are very fan and family friendly.
There are more than 200 minor league baseball teams spread throughout the country, so chances are that there’s one not far from you, and minor league baseball provides lots of good fundraising opportunities such as ticket sales and concession stand takeovers.
How to make it fun: Minor league baseball teams have to try a little harder than their major league counterparts to sell tickets, so they already have lots of fun things in place, like mascots, amusements, and wacky promotions. But if you want to make it even more fun for your group, you could try stuff like wearing matching shirts or picking a particular unheralded player to cheer for as a group.
How to raise money: Check with your local organization, but most teams have fundraising programs in place that allow you to purchase packs of tickets at a discounted rate and then resell them for a profit. Many also allow concession stand takeovers where your volunteers staff the stand and then keep a portion of the profits at the end of the evening. You could also ask if the team would donate any memorabilia to be raffled off.
5. Hold a charity golf tournament
Golf can be expensive hobby, but a charity golf tournament gives golfers a chance to contribute to a good cause while doing something they already enjoy. For other members of your church, this could be considered a special occasion to splurge.
Ask your local courses if they would be willing to work with you on such an event. If your church is small, and wouldn’t be able to support a full-size golf tournament, consider a disc golf or mini golf tournament instead.
How to make it fun: Give out prizes for closest to the pin and longest drive, and also silly stuff like ugliest outfit or oldest clubs. Really though, it already has fun built in, assuming you enjoy golf.
How to raise money: In addition to the entry fee, you can also raffle off golf equipment donated by local sponsors, sell barbecue and cold drinks, and set up a general donation table with information on your programs.
6. Organize a chili cook-off
Ah, the chili cook-off. Just hearing the words conjures up a potpourri of aromas and flavors.
The nice thing about chili is that is can be adapted to fit many different needs: spicy, vegetarian, dairy-free, beans or no beans, etc. You can have different categories so that all different tastes are satisfied, and have a judging panel made up of church leaders.
How to make it fun: People will be happy enough while they’re eating delicious chili, but you can also make it a BYOB event and have a band made up of volunteers playing live music. If you really want to get serious, you can even request for the International Chili Society to sanction your event.
How to raise money: Come up with prizes, preferably donated by local businesses, then ask each chili master to pay a small fee to enter the contest. You can also charge visitors a “taster’s fee” to go around and sample all the delicious recipes. Make sure to set up a cold drinks table. People will be dying for something to cool their tongue after a taste of five-alarm chili.
7. Put on a talent show
There’s no doubt that you already have people with hidden talents at your church just waiting to show them off.
Plant the seed weeks ahead of time by asking your church members to think of a hidden talent they’d be willing to share on stage, then host the event at your church on a Friday or Saturday night. You already have the space, the seats, and the stage, so all that’s left is to put on the show.
How to make it fun: Everyone should have a great time watching their neighbors dance and sing and juggle, but if you want to make it even more entertaining, call your event “[Your Church Name Here]’s Got Talent” and have a volunteer record the performances for YouTube. That way the performers will really feel like superstars and you’ll be promoting your church at the same time.
How to raise money: Surely you’ll have some big time talent on display, so charge admission, of course. You can also set up a concession stand with snacks and drinks for the audience to enjoy while they take in the show. Make sure to have the master of ceremonies remind people what you’re raising money for, and have a table set up in the lobby for additional donations.
8. Have an outdoor movie night
Outdoor movies are a classic summertime tradition. If you have a projector and a screen, all you need to do is have one of the tech guys at your church fire it up and hit play.
To maximize your audience, it’s best to stick to kid and family friendly choices. Animated movies like “The Incredibles” or “Finding Dory” are great choices because they appeal to children and adults alike. “Hellraiser III,” on the other hand, is probably best left for another time.
How to make it fun: Encourage viewers to dress up as their favorite characters. Play lively music before the feature begins. Set up a concession stand and have a volunteer face painter.
How to raise money: Print up fun admission tickets and sell them ahead of time. Sell hot dogs, pizza, and classic movie snacks like ice cream, popsicles, popcorn, candy, and cold drinks. Have a church leader give a speech before the show explaining what you’re raising money for and encourage the audience to make additional donations.
9. Rubber duck race
Ernie would love this one.
The basic idea is that you have hundreds of rubber ducks numbered in permanent ink on the bottom. Then you sell them for say, $5 or $10 each.
On the day of the race, you set all of the ducks free in a river. Duck owners win prizes based on when their duck crosses the finish line. Obviously, make sure that you get approval from the local government before putting on a rubber duck race, and make sure that you have lots of volunteers to clean up all the ducks afterward. Chicago has one of these every year to benefit Special Olympics, and that race has had more than 50,000 ducks!
How to make it fun: Hundreds of rubber ducks floating down a river—what could be more fun than that? If you want to make it even more fun, though, have a volunteer DJ play exciting music and give a play-by-play commentary of the race. You can also set off fireworks when the winner crosses the finish line and have an award ceremony.
How to raise money: The duck “adoption fee” is where most of the money will come from in this fundraiser, but you can also sell concessions along the race route and ask local businesses to sponsor the race with money and prizes in exchange for advertising at the event.
What are your church fundraiser ideas?
As you can see, the most fun church fundraiser ideas come from creativity and imagination. At some point, someone took a long look at a bake sale and said, “We can do better.”
So what are some of the fun things that your church has done to raise money? Let us know in the comments, and please share this piece with your friends if you think they’d like to try out some of these ideas.