Raising money for your temple can, at times, feel difficult and intimidating – especially if you’re a temple with a smaller community.
You might be asking yourself:
How do I increase giving for my temple?
What types of fundraisers should my temple conduct?
How can I raise money to build a new temple building?
How can I get my community involved?
Is it even possible to make fundraising fun and meaningful?
Fret not, we’re here to help!
In Hinduism, many scriptures lay great emphasis on the act of donating to help those in need. The Upanishads, texts containing the philosophical concepts of Hinduism, talks about dāna (giving to an individual, in distress or in need, as an act of virtue). The Upanishads state that the three characteristics of a good person are damah (self-restraint), daya (compassion or love for all life), and dāna (charity).
Dāna can also take the form of philanthropic public projects that empower and help many. Historical records indicate that dāna is an ancient practice in Indian traditions, tracing back to Vedic traditions.
Therefore, Hindu temples also serve as charitable institutions in their own right. They collect donations (dāna) from devotees which are used to fund public projects.
Starting off with a food fundraiser…
And when it comes to food, nothing starts off mornings better than a cup of coffee or tea and a delightful breakfast.
To run this temple fundraiser sell coffee/tea, donuts, bagels, and other breakfast items before your service starts. Think if you can serve a special Indian breakfast- idli, dosa, vada pav, poha, etc. Reach out to local vendors, food trucks, or Indian food restaurants for catering. If the caterers are already popular in your location, it is likely to attract more attendees. If you struggle to find a vendor or restaurant to partner with (i.e. your temple is abroad) – get members of your community to make traditional foods like ragi chakli, laddu, gulab jamun, and more.
You can customize this idea to your location/community and choose the warm beverages and baked goods that they’ll enjoy the most. For example, if your temple is in France, maybe a croissant might be much more successful than a donut!
Let your community know that they can arrive before the service/community gathering to enjoy breakfast for say, $20. Make sure to spread the message that all the money you raise will go towards your temple projects and activities.
The community members will jump at the chance to enjoy breakfast, mingle with others, and support their temple at the same time.
This fundraising idea is especially relevant if you’re raising money to build, renovate, or expand your temple.
Connect with someone who can engrave bricks. Promote the idea of honoring a loved one by purchasing an engraved brick that will be used in the actual building.
An engraved tile is another offering that can help raise funds while letting the donor honor and remember a loved one.
Donors love knowing that their loved one’s memory made a difference and will be forever etched in a house of worship.
Here is an example of the Temple Brick Donation Drive.
Ask for donations in exchange for hand-delivering gifts from community members. This would be perfect for any special religious occasion like Diwali, Yom Kippur, Holi, Ugadi, etc.
Maybe this means singing songs and hymns around festivals or handing out treats at sundown on days of religious significance. This is a great chance to get truly connected to your community.
Organize a festival featuring your traditional food, dancing, crafts, music, and lots more.
For example, as a Hindu temple, you could organize a Winter Mela, giving the supporters a chance to further explore the Hindu culture with many workshops including yoga, dance, music, sports, and henna.
If your temple is Jewish, you could have a stand set up where visitors could have their name written in Hebrew, discover the Torah, learn about Jewish holidays and festivals, and join in the singing and dancing. As a Buddhist temple, you could sell temple ritual items like prayer bells, Dorje, prayer beads, lamps, incense, candles, and other unique prayer objects.
Many families and community members will appreciate interactive educational opportunities to learn more about their heritage and culture. This is another fundraising idea that’s likely to be the most successful during major holidays, but can also be organized at any other time during the year.
Many Hindus seek to make a positive impact on their special days, especially birthdays. This is done in a few different ways.
An individual can donate a hefty amount to the temple, a part of which is used to distribute special sweets as prasad (an offering made to God), to all temple visitors on the day of their birthday, while the remaining donation goes into funding projects.
A worshiper can ask all those who wish him/her on a birthday, to donate to the temple, in place of buying personalized gifts.
A temple can offer to place special idols in the temple on birthdays- as a means of collecting donations, and blessings in celebration of a member’s birthday.
A temple can offer to lay a brick or stone in the structure of a new temple, engraved with the name of the donor and in their honor.
The practice of giving to make a positive impact on a birthday is an act of thanking the god for the gift of life, hence many Hindus may do this through their temple.
Your temple can offer this practice to the regular temple-goers first and ask them to spread the word about it, as your temple is open to birthday dedications.
Pro tip: Add information, pictures, and dedication posts of birthday fundraisers on your temples website, if your temple has one. You can consider creating a simple website for your temple and integrate it with a simple donation system that offers recurring donations. It is possible that the worshipers opt for annual recurring birthday-donations to the temple.
While not a novel idea, producing a temple cookbook is a relatively easy fundraiser to do and can be a good money-maker. The cookbook can be more general or follow a specific theme (e.g. A-Z of Kids’ Treats, Perfect Soups, Easy One-Pot Dinners, etc.)
For best results, make the cookbook fun! For example, you could feature recipes from the youngest in your community or create a cookbook that follows/matches various Hindu festivals. Imagine a Holi cookbook featuring dishes like Gujia, Malpua, Thandai, or a Navratri cookbook highlighting best satvik foods like Kuttu ki roti and Sabudana khichdi among others. Who wouldn’t want to get those? Getting creative like that will make your cookbook absolutely worth getting and will engage your community even better.
Have someone coordinate the process and ask your community members to submit their most-loved family recipes. Depending on your book’s theme you may like to include the name of the person whose recipe it is along with their personal story about the dish. This will increase the sales of the cookbook!
Pro tip: Get quotes from several print firms to ensure you get the lowest price. Ask for discounts. This is for a charitable cause after all!
Text-to-give lets your community members make donations right from their cell phones, using their phones’ native texting application and/or web browser.
This way of fundraising allows your temple to raise money anytime, anywhere. It also meets donors where they’re at, which is often on their phones.
Choose a customized shortcode. This shortcode and the numbers the donors will text it to should both be short and easy to remember. Then, promote the campaign. Create momentum and get the word out.
Include both the keyword and shortcode on promotional materials, website content, and advertising. Ask your community to share your text-to-give keyword and designated number via their social media channels and send out a press release to relevant publications.
Donorbox’s text-to-give makes it extremely easy for nonprofits to start raising funds via text-giving, in a few simple steps you can sign up and link to your donation campaign. This method is ideal for temple fundraising events, learn how you can get started right away!
Because they generally reach those parts of the population that online fundraising doesn’t, fundraising letters can really supercharge your fundraising.
Write a fundraising letter in which you detail your temple’s needs and let the community members know how they can help. Make sure you tell your story, show the impact your temple is making, and rally support for your mission.
For optimal results, offer your donors the option to donate online and offline.
Let your donors give online by setting up a simple, customized donation page dedicated solely to collecting donations from this specific appeal. Otherwise, lead your donors to a general donation page that you use to collect donations from all fundraising appeals.
To raise funds for your temple, organize a dinner combined with a service auction. “Sell” your volunteers’ services to people in your community.
Each volunteer should choose what they want to “sell” themselves for (ex. gardening, dog walking, babysitting, cleaning, etc). Then, auction those services off to your dinner attendees.
Get the food for dinner at a discounted price. Of course, make sure your volunteers are reliable and follow through with their jobs following the event.
For example, you can organize a babysitting service during bigger temple-wide events or big holidays, so that parents can drop their kids off with your volunteers, enjoy themselves child-free at the event, and come back to get their kids afterward.
Volunteers donate their time, and parents who hire the babysitters donate their fees.
If you want to run this fundraiser more regularly and not just during major events, have your fundraiser scheduled at the same time over the course of the week, usually in the evenings. This way you and your volunteers know when you should be available and community members know when they can use the service.
And a list of fundraising ideas wouldn’t be complete without a fundraising idea for the youngest in your community.
A few weeks before you’d like to run the teddy tombola, put the word out asking for donations of clean soft toys. Many parents will happily take the opportunity to divest themselves of the overload of plush toys that seem to accumulate in kids’ bedrooms and playrooms.
Go through the donations and make sure all the toys are clean and safe. Name the teddies and write their names on two pieces of card (two per teddy). Pin one onto the toy (you can use stickers) and fold the other and place it in the tombola box.
Kids can then pay to pull a ticket from the box and win the corresponding teddy bear. If you have enough stock it is probably best to skip on blanks or otherwise have a small stock of consolation prizes for anyone who draws one of the blank tickets you’ve added to the box.
Encourage your members and the wider community to donate broken or unwanted bicycles, which could then be repaired to full working order and sold, with all proceeds going to your temple’s project/mission.
Have a few bike repairs donate a few hours of their time. You can also encourage people to volunteer and learn how to become bicycle repairers.
This fundraising idea was championed by Kairos Network Church in Harrogate whose idea generated a lot of press, and helped them raise a lot of funds!
You can also adapt this idea to the specific interests of your temple members and community.
If your temple doesn’t offer its community the option to give online, then it’s missing out on critical donor support. Online fundraising revenue is experiencing growth every year!
With online donations, your temple can raise funds in a way that’s convenient for the members of your community. Customize your online donation page to match the colors and brand of your temple, then include it on your temple website.
This is a fundraising idea that your temple can set up quickly and see rapid results.
Pro tip: Set up a monthly recurring donations program. For best results, set up a branded program with clearly defined donation levels and tiers. According to Network for Good’s donation data, the average recurring donor will give 42% more in one year than those who give one-time gifts. Monthly donors also have a greater lifetime revenue per donor. Finally, 52% of Millennials are more likely to give monthly vs. a large one-time donation. Monthly donors also have a higher retention rate than other types of donors. Finally, monthly giving programs are not only relatively simple to manage for temples, but they also make giving easy for donors.
See how the Shree Peetha Nilaya (SPN) temple has done it below:
We hope that these fundraising ideas will not only fortify your temple’s financial well-being but will also add fun and excitement to your community’s experience.
When choosing which fundraising idea you’d like to run, be realistic about your resources (time, volunteers, skills), but also consider which fundraising idea you can see your members getting the most excited about,
Select an idea that you’re excited to organize and promote and that excitement will ‘spillover’ to the rest of your community.
Good luck fundraising!