Most ministries rely on member donations to fund their missions. Although the essence of their work is quite different, this makes ministries akin to other nonprofit organizations.
Ministries serve plenty of functions within a church, each working together in balance and each necessary for each other to function properly.
For most ministries, the weekly tithes and offerings are not enough to cover all the expenses, especially when there’s a need to fund specific projects. At those times when your ministry needs an extra influx of money for its trips, community outreach, or another special project, additional fundraising efforts may be in order.
Given their nature, ministries will likely see the most success with fundraising ideas that actively involve the community, giving its members something ‘in exchange’ for their donations.
However, we know that your ministry has unique needs and fundraising challenges.
That’s why this article presents only ideas and tips that can be adapted to fit the distinctive character of your ministry.
Here are our 7 best ministry fundraising ideas!
1. Carrot Cake Bake Off
Food-related fundraisers are always a win! Who doesn’t love food after all? Especially delicious desserts…
In the spirit of spring, organize a carrot cake bake-off. If you’re organizing this at a different time of the year, you could do an apple pie bake-off or Christmas cookies bake-off.
And there are plenty of ways to go about organizing this friendly competition.
You can have participants (who all apply in advance), bring the homemade baked goods that are then ‘graded’ and sold to other supporters or the general public.
Another option, albeit more logistically demanding, is to have the participants bake ‘live’. This is all the more exciting for the audience, but a bit harder to pull off. It might work better for cook-offs that don’t involve baking (e.g. chili cook-offs) as, in that case, you can rent electric hobs. Otherwise, you could organize a grill-off!
Ask the attendees to judge the top baking skills. Create various categories—best presentation, best taste, best frosting, and more. Raise funds by charging an entry fee.
Bake-offs are fun for the whole family, allow for low-level participation, and can be adjusted to suit any ministry and its needs.
Pro tip: Bake-offs are great, but entry fees aren’t the only way to raise funds. Set up season-appropriate cold or hot drinks stands (e.g. coffee, tea, lemonade, hot chocolate). Have the contestants sell their recipes or bring additional cakes for sale (by piece). Hire a bouncy castle for the children and charge per minute of bouncing. The opportunities to collect donations are plenty!
2. Recycling Drive
Raise funds AND do so in a “green” and environmentally conscious way? What’s not to love?
Organize a recycling drive for members of your community. A single ministry can raise hundreds of dollars in a mere week just from recycling!
Recycling drives can be run by ministries consisting of members of any age. Recycling drives are also simple, but you should be prepared for a whole lot of leg work.
Families, colleges, restaurants, and other businesses produce tons of recyclable material every day that can be turned from waste into valuable funds.
Recyclable materials that can be turned into cash include:
- Plastic bottles
- Aluminum cans
- Ink cartridges
- Cell phones
Collect recycling and turn it over to recycling centers that will pay you for them.
Rally volunteers, pick a collection place, and then decide on the sorting areas to separate recyclables and make transferring easier. Think about the weather when you’re choosing the location for your recycling drive. If you are running your fundraising event in the winter, best to host it inside a church space. This is less than ideal, so this could be a fundraiser better left for those warmer days.
If you’re running your fundraising event during the warmer months, a parking lot or a yard is a perfect option.
To make the most out of this ministry fundraiser, promote your fundraiser a few weeks in advance specifying the bins where supporters can drop off items if they can’t make your fundraising event day.
Pro tip: Make sure to check your city’s guidelines to find out what their policy is. Ask your local recycling center what the requirements are for dropping off items. The last thing you want is to be stranded with items that your local center won’t accept.
3. Youth Photography Workshop
Or… anything else young people are doing these days!
Engaging and working with young people is a critical step to make if you’re looking to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of your ministry and not just a quick collection of donations.
If you’re currently struggling to engage the adults in your community— that is because they are the youth you have not engaged with throughout the past decade, so they have simply never heard of you.
Get a youth expert consultant (and that might be your daughter or nephew) and seek to understand what kind of activity would be interesting to young people in your community. And most of all – what would go viral?
Photography classes, video games, paintball, laser tag, movie nights, sports, and the like.
When you pick the activity, be very particular about how you promote it. Regular old flyering likely won’t cut it. Go where you’ll find young people. Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook…
Create great content inviting young people to join your event – with great high-quality and interesting images and videos. A dedicated hashtag is a must, and you’ll do best with a few ambassadors starting the ball rolling and tagging their friends.
While this ministry fundraising idea might not be ideal if you’re looking for a fast turnaround and a quick inflow of cash, it’s great to have at least one youth fundraising idea in your fundraising strategy.
Pro tip: If possible, have a youth pastor plan and implement the youth fundraising idea, or help you do the same.
4. The Step Counter
It wouldn’t be a good fundraising ideas list if there wasn’t for at least one peer-to-peer fundraising idea.
Get people to pledge to walk a certain amount per day in exchange for donations (or have people pledge a certain amount for every 1000 steps).
To keep track of people’s steps, you could encourage them to use or download a free pedometer app, such as Apple Health and Google Fit, that count steps.
This ministry fundraising idea is fun, accessible, active, and appealing to a large audience.
Although you can go all out and organize a run-a-thon or a walk-a-thon, to make this more achievable for an average ministry – simply ask your donors to pledge a dollar amount per mile or kilometer that they walk anywhere on a given day or in a given week.
Then, the donor will give based on how far the participant was able to walk. For example, a donor may pledge $10 per mile, which would result in a total of $50 if the participant runs or walks 5 miles.
Pro tip: Make it easy. If you want people to help you fundraise, you have to provide them with the tools that are pretty much plug-and-play. Provide fully written out social media posts, emails, and emails that they can just share with others. And of course, make sure the donation process is easy.
5. A Rummage Sale!
Minimalism, as a lifestyle, has been on the rise in the past few years.
Decluttering videos on YouTube, where people go through their closets and houses and decide what they’re keeping, gather millions of views. Netflix has featured the popular tidying expert Marie Kondo in her own Netflix show.
Not to mention that a spirit of simple living and generosity is one that’s preached in the Bible.
Additionally, the true cost of the level of consumption we’ve been indulging in for decades and its toll on the environment is becoming more evident than ever. Many environmental activists and experts are urging us to consume less and purchase second hand as much as possible.
This is where a rummage sale comes in. Organize a large drive where you invite your community to donate unwanted clothes, furniture, and household items.
It’s a win on all fronts! One, participants get to minimize and do something good with the items they no longer want. Two, those that will be purchasing some of the items are buying them second-hand. Three, it is an environmentally friendly and responsible effort. And four, your ministry can raise money.
Rummage sales are also a great ministry fundraising idea because the cost of organizing them is quite low, and they can also be a great way to introduce others to your work.
Begin organizing your rummage sale two months in advance. Form a small committee of three or four people with one leader who will designate tasks and oversee the details of the sale. Secure additional volunteers to help the day before and day of your sale.
Rummage sales are typically organized on Saturdays. They can start as early as 7 a.m. and run through the afternoon.
Determine when and where you will receive the donated items and where they will be stored until the sale.
Make sure to promote the sale in your community, spread the word about the day of sale, you can consider putting up a local ad or flyer handouts. You can send email invitations to make sure you have effectively spread the word.
Pro tip: Organize all of the items the day before. Tag items and set up tables. It’ll save you a lot of stress and energy on the day of the event! Decide in advance what will be done with rummage sale items that do not sell. If you choose to donate them to another charity, call that organization ahead of time and you may be able to arrange for a pick up at your site.
6. Retro Board Game Night
Movie nights are a classic. So are Bingo nights.
Why not try something different?
One of the best ways to quickly and effortlessly level-up community connections (and therefore donations) is to create a shared experience.
Ask community members to donate board games to keep the costs of this fundraiser low. Make sure you’ve arranged for judges to determine the winners at each station.
You can either organize a tournament or just have a casual board game night where community members can drop in to play whatever they want.
It can be hard to play games in a big group, so be strategic about the number of participants and the number of players per group.
Most games require a circular seating pattern or big table and chairs. Make sure to cover the basics if you want people to have fun!
Solid food and drink are essential—almost as much as good seating and good lighting. Put out tons of bowls of jelly beans, pretzels, Hershey’s kisses, cookies, and grapes.
Have some drinks and food first to get people warmed up and then diving into games about 45 minutes in. If you wait too much longer people will regret showing up on time or get antsy.
Get a variety of games and systems together and start playing! Make sure you have a good variety of games.
If your community members are more into video games, organize a night of retro video games instead of retro board games. In that case, ask community members to donate video games and loan you some controllers to keep costs low. You’ll also need to make sure you have enough gaming systems.
Pro tip: Have a back-up game. Sometimes games just don’t work for some groups. Maybe it’s the game, maybe it’s the group, maybe it’s the timing – so be prepared!
7. Discussion Night
If someone in your community or your network is an expert on a topic, leverage their knowledge to host a discussion, conference, or workgroup.
Even if you don’t know of an ‘expert’ who’s willing to donate their time and expertise, every community has someone who has a great story and a high profile. This could be a person who has extensive experience and success in their particular line of work. Find that person and host a discussion with them.
Make sure to have the discussion moderated by another notable figure in the community.
This is a great ministry fundraising idea because it’s relatively simple to organize and can be organized at any time of the year and you can make it as big or as small as you want.
A local bookstore might be a good location for hosting.
If you’re looking to ramp up the profile, complexity, and fundraising potential of this fundraiser – you can also combine it with dinner. You could potentially sell two types of tickets: one for lecture/discussion only and one for discussion/lecture with a dinner. During the dinner, the attendees could have the opportunity to informally chat with the speaker and other attendees.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for something more low-profile to organize, try hosting a ‘coffee shop’ gathering. Book a coffee shop for a few hours (or get the coffee shop to kindly donate a few hours of their space). Invite the community to come in, enjoy warm drinks and snacks with other community members, and discuss a predetermined topic. Or you could have the participants showcase their talents (singing, dancing, poetry, etc) and turn into a low-key mini talent night! Of course, to raise funds, charge appropriate entry fees.
Don’t forget about online fundraising!
While in-person fundraisers are an excellent choice for ministries, a sound fundraising strategy for a modern ministry should always include online fundraising.
You can accept both one-off and recurring donations, and donors can pay via cards, Apple Pay, low-fee ACH & SEPA bank transfers, Google Pay, and PayPal.
Pro tip: Don’t underestimate the power of text-to-give either! Simply decide on a memorable word or phrase for people to donate, and then encourage them to start texting in. Each text they send will trigger a donation, so it’s an easy way to give that doesn’t involve filling out forms.
Taking It Forward
Ministry fundraising can really bring the community together and provide much-needed funds for ministry projects and activities.
A little bit of imagination, a sprinkle of planning, and a positive mindset are all you need to get started.
We hope these ministry fundraising ideas stir your imagination for what your ministry can do.
For more fundraising tips and wisdom, visit our blog that’s regularly updated with helpful resources for nonprofits.
If you’re ready to get started with a fundraising platform, you can start collecting donations today!