According to Qgiv in 2021, 18% of Americans say supporting youth and family causes are most important to them when it comes to donating and giving. To offset or make the cost of these possible, you need to have effective fundraisers for church youth groups specifically.
From pizza to prizes to taking students out for coffee, there are plenty of expenses in youth ministry. With nearly a decade of youth ministry experience, I know what has made successful fundraising events possible and how to make them enjoyable.
In this article, I am going to talk about bake sales and mission trips and car washes, but, first, I’ll explain the basic types of fundraisers you might want to utilize and then dive into the best fundraising ideas for church youth groups.
What Are Examples Of Types Of Fundraisers?
Every fundraiser can be broken down into one of the below ten categories, spanning from walkathons and fun runs to crowdfunding via snail mail. The best fundraisers for church youth groups are going to be the ones that tie into the purpose behind the fundraiser.
If you are fundraising for teen camp, then you are going to want to host a fundraiser that focuses on the fun students will have and the ways they will grow spiritually. Putting on a Wiffle Ball Tournament as a competition type of fundraiser doesn’t match with the purpose of the event being fundraised for.
What you have to constantly ask yourself is, “Does this better communicate the purpose behind our fundraising goals?” If it doesn’t, then you may need to pivot to another type of fundraiser. If it does, then make the connection clear and consistent for an excellent fundraising campaign!
- A-thon Events: events such as fun runs, walkathons, and sport-a-thons.
- Competitions: can be both sports-related and non-sports-related events. Include an entry fee or ask that participants have their own donation page to pay their way into the tournament. Sporting events are an excellent way to bring in a large crowd of participants and interest from your local community.
- Showcases: includes events where you are displaying something for the experience and to inform. Talent shows, fashion shows, and pet shows are great examples of showcase fundraiser ideas.
- Auctions: one of the most popular youth group fundraising ideas. You can go for a silent auction, an online auction, or your classic in-person auction if you can hire or find an actual auctioneer to host.
- Exhibits: typically include things like the arts: writing, painting, sculpting, etc. Pieces can either be purchased as a donation or you can always raffle off certain pieces and allow individuals to purchase raffle tickets to increase their odds of winning certain works that they enjoyed.
- Galas: typically include dinner, shows, auctions, and competitions all in one. This creates plenty of fundraising opportunities if you can get creative and get students involved in making the gala an experience worth showing up for. Managing these events can be difficult, but we have a great church event management guide for you to walk you through how to manage it well!
- Concerts: much of the work in getting people to attend is done via peer fundraising by having students engage in both outreach and fundraising by inviting friends, family, and family friends to participate in the concert.
- Sales: if it involves students selling anything, then it falls under the “sales” type of fundraising. Candy bars, lollipops, and yard sales, are all fun ways to make some easy money, but they aren’t typically consistent. Plus, many youth group members tend to not want to sell cookie dough they know people can make at their house.
- Services: the classic car wash is a great example of the “services” type of fundraisers for church youth groups. This can also include spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, and even cook-offs, especially if you combine it with a “competition” type of fundraiser.
- Crowdfunding: sending letters, creating a donation board, having students speak on stage about what the opportunity means to them during the church service, and having students talk with church members directly are all examples of crowdfunding campaigns.
20 Fundraising Ideas For Church Youth Groups
Once you understand the different types of fundraisers, then you can better select a fundraising campaign that matches your event you are fundraising for. All non-profit organizations can benefit from choosing fundraising campaigns that align with their mission rather than doing whatever is most successful.
The next part is creating the best possible fundraiser for your group specifically. Select a type of fundraiser that aligns well with your fundraising goals and then get creative to make it one of the best church fundraisers any of your church members will ever remember.
To help you get the creative juices flowing, here is my list of 20 of the best fundraising ideas for church youth groups, whether you are building a new youth group or you’ve been around for a while!
1. The Dollar Car Wash
Set up in your church parking lot or find a local business that will let you use their parking lot and water hose to run your typical car wash. Simply charge $1 for each car wash, but the twist at the end is that you also give out $1 for the person to “pay-it-forward".
Most of the time, people will pay more than the $1, but making it a pay-it-forward campaign encourages giving beyond your one fundraiser event and, more than likely, people will tell others to come through your car wash.
2. Magic Show
Hire a local magician to put on a show! Better yet, orchestrate your own magic show with your students (most magic tricks can be done without any special props and using stuff probably already laying around your church).
Essentially, churchgoers can donate to the youth group to hire help from teenagers (and their parents) for household chores, moving help, or to just knock out some tasks on their to-do list. Another popular option for this fundraiser is for gift-wrapping the days leading up to Christmas.
4. Movie Night
Take advantage of your church’s space, projectors, and screens. Have students set up a concession stand and charge for tickets or just charge for concessions. This also makes for a great outreach opportunity as well as a way to encourage online giving to pre-purchase tickets and have the full “movie theater experience.”
5. Letter Party
Don’t just mail basic letters to friends, family, and church members. Buy some stickers, highlighters, markers, etc. and let students get creative and silly with their letters. Personalize every letter they send and the students will have more fun with it and people on the receiving end will enjoy it even more.
Make it a competition to see who can get those most letters sent out in a single evening and give the winner a prize or a scholarship for the event. Just make sure you have an easy-to-use fundraising page for online donations to mention in each letter.
6. Board Game Night
Host a board game night with a small fee to participate as part of the fundraiser. I once worked at a camp that did this as an event called POP3 because everyone “popped” a Sorry! dice roller before they came in, everyone got one free “pop” from the concessions, and all Pops (Dads) got free drinks.
7. Uno Championship
Uno is an incredibly simple game that kids and adults can both play and it is mostly luck-based. Have people sign up ahead of time, make their own player nicknames (like “Sunglasses Sammy”), and let people create brackets for who they think will win. See if any local businesses will host a grand prize for the ultimate winner.
8. The Pink Toilet
Members of your congregation might hate this one, but it is a favorite alternative of “flamingoing” someone’s yard. Find an old toilet someone is getting rid of and deep clean it, paint it pink, and let all the youth group members sign it.
People who want to participate can sign up and they can pay to have the Pink Toilet placed in someone’s yard and/or moved out of their yard. If you can get a majority of your churchgoers to agree to participate, then it is a lot of fun and a super easy fundraising campaign that can go on throughout a predetermined period of time.
9. Pet Parade
People love their pets and they love to be able to show off their pets. When it comes to fundraising efforts, this one takes the cake as one of the simplest because people tend to run it on their own. All you need is a host for the day of the event, a panel of judges, and awards for things like “Best Dressed” or “Best Performance.” Charge a small fee to enter or let people vote with their dollars.
10. Youth Group Games Gala
This is a great opportunity to showcase all the games you play during youth group that students never talk about or explain to their parents. Host an evening dedicated to the best of the worst youth group games, have a performance by the best air guitarists in your youth group, and serve up the grossest youth group food games for table to participate in.
Encourage people to dress for a “formal” event but to also bring a change of clothes or dress clothes they don’t mind getting a little...dirty.
11. Dr. Dodgeball Tournament
Dr. Dodgeball is a variation of dodgeball where one person on each team can tag players back in. If the doctor gets out, though, then no one on the team can get tagged back in. It adds a level of strategy and sneakiness to the game that, let’s be honest, competitive parents and churchgoers alike will throw their money at to participate in.
12. BINGO Night
Bingo is a simple, relaxing game that everyone can play and it requires absolutely no skill. It is surprisingly fun and, if you have a great host, it can actually be incredibly entertaining to play and hang out with other people and have a good night. Winners can get a youth group t-shirt and you can charge $1 per game and let people play as long as they like.
13. Dad Joke Games
This is a tournament style competition and showcase fundraiser where people can sign up to try and be the Dad Joke Champion. Each round has two players go toe-to-toe telling their best (and worst) Dad Jokes and the loser of each round is whoever laughs first.
This is a perfect church fundraising event to stream online as well because people can tune in from wherever to enjoy the laughs, snorts, and groan-inducing Dad Jokes from anywhere. Plus, it makes for great online content and further online fundraising because these types of events and moments are easy to post online and build lots of attention.
14. Date Night Dinner
Whether you call it a spaghetti dinner or something else entirely, you provide childcare and dinner for a small fee for two people. Have students take care of the kids during the dinner and have other students serve drinks, food, and clean up afterward. They can earn “tips” for the fundraising event, too!
15. The Hungry Games
If you are familiar with the 40-Hour Famine, then this is a similar concept for your own fundraising events. Students will be going hungry and participating in a series of games, challenges, and spiritual preparations throughout the day or weekend. This helps raise awareness about their fundraising goals, to have fun, and to prepare spiritually for their event.
This is a perfect event for mission trip fundraising. When your church members see young people giving up their food and their time to raise money to go on a mission trip as well as preparing for the trip spiritually, then they will connect the value with the event and go above and beyond their tithe to provide for something your students are so passionate about.
16. Get Off My Lawn Concert
You can call this a number of different things, but the idea is to host an oldies concert. Have students practice and perform or find a local band who will play covers of songs through the decades. If you have or can afford equipment for silent disco gear, this event is even better because you can forgo the live bands altogether and create a unique experience.
17. Turkey Trot
A Thanksgiving-themed walkathon that is wildly popular. You can switch this up to match with your specific event or have it align with whatever series is going on in your regular Sunday morning worship services or Sunday school classes. Ultimately, it is no different than a fun run. You can find donors or local businesses who will donate based on each mile walked.
18. Holiday Baking Night
Baking cookies and treats before a big holiday is a special tradition for many people. For young families, they want to have their kids help but it can be a daunting task. Provide the supplies and the extra hands to help little ones prepare and bake their own holiday treats and parents will make sure the extra money they would have saved goes right back to the youth group.
You can charge per batch of baked goods made, per participant, or whatever makes the most sense. Selling it as a hands-on experience rather than a bake sale will encourage people to get to know your students and what they are fundraising for.
Easy things for kids to make or bake are:
- Hot chocolate mix
- Sugar cookies
- Cake pops
- Oreo balls
19. Storytellers Exhibition
This is a themed art exhibition centered around telling stories. Students can choose to paint a scene that has a special story to them, write a poem that shares a personal story, or draw up a piece of music that encompasses a special moment. The key to this event is to make sure students are around to share their story about their work.
People love stories. Getting a chance to hear the story behind a piece of art invites them into the personal lives of the students. Plus, you can either charge for entry or allow people to donate for a raffle to win a work of art or outright buy the artwork.
20. Desserts With Dad’s Auction
One of my all-time favorite events is the Desserts With Dad’s Auction. All submitted desserts must be made by kids and their Dads (or other Father-figures). Most of the desserts don’t look the best, but because they were made by kids people will typically get more out of them to support the kids and the cause.
Now Go Create Your Own Fundraising Ideas For Youth Groups!
Hopefully you feel better prepared on how to select the best fundraisers for church youth groups! You should also have a lot of ideas to get those creative juices flowing to make sure your fundraiser isn’t just effective, but also a ton of fun for all involved!
If you want to find more ideas on church fundraising or event management, then make sure to subscribe to The Lead Pastor so you get all the best content right to your inbox.