Effective Fundraisers

By Glenn P. Ordell

Fundraisers–newspaper recycling, candy sales, magazine subscription drives, carnivals–have been successfully done for years by youth groups, women’s groups, high-school juniors, bands, and choirs. And every group or club in your church could probably benefit from having a few extra bucks in the coffer. Are fundraiser activities a good way to go? Yes, if you keep these essentials in mind:

Target a Tangible Goal Successful projects begin with goals that are specific, attainable, and manageable.

Specific. Distinct items, clearly presented, will generate more response than vague ideas. If you are raising funds for a South American missionary school, determine the school’s key needs and exactly how much money is required. People can visualize 200 Spanish textbooks, but they won’t respond as well to general pleas to help missionaries in South America.

Careful research can also help. After you’ve obtained bids on the organ repair, for example, you can report that the organ repair will cost $712.51. Detailed, down-to-the-last-penny information provides a sense of security to potential contributors– there won’t be any surprises.

Attainable. It’s not enough to have a specific fundraising goal; it should also be realistic. People respond to challenges they believe can be reached. If you set a goal of $50,000 for the weekend bake sale, you may eliminate people who would participate willingly if the goal were set at $500. But even enthused participants can become disappointed if goals aren’t met. And unrealized goals can deter participation in future fundraising events.

Manageable. You can make larger goals more attainable by breaking them down into manageable steps. Example: A small congregation needs $40,000 for a chapel roof. Solution: Divide the goal into smaller, more attainable steps–shingles for the first project, lumber for the second, steeple for the third, and labor for the final fundraiser.

Each successful fundraiser moves the congregation closer to its goal, generating more enthusiasm. A parking lot piled high with shingles spurs people on and helps turn dreams into reality.

Choose Your Method Well How do you know whether to raise funds by selling a product or a service’ Sometimes the answer can be found with simple mathematics. If you need $2,119.76 for your project (plus $50 for soap, brushes, and sponges), at $5 per car, you would need to wash 425 cars to be successful. If you’re planning an eight-hour car wash, you would need the traffic (not to mention the space and work crews) to yield 54 customers per hour.

If you decide to sell a product, be careful to select one that will satisfy your customers. Example: A candy company prints your group’s name a high-quality, eight-ounce chocolate candy bar to be sold by your group for $3. If similar gourmet chocolate sells for $8 per pound, the $3 sound like a bargain. But most people don’ purchase gourmet candy and see a 50cent candy bar as a better value for their money.

Selecting a product for a fundraiser may be as simple as going to your area yellow pages. You can find national vendors by consulting the Thomas Register in your local library.

Build a Solid Team Once you’ve defined your goals and your method of fundraising, you’ll want to recruit volunteer workers to build a team effort. A good team that works well together will improve the outcome of your fundraiser. Several basics are worth remembering:

Committed. Let people know precisely what they’re being asked to do. Don’t just ask for volunteers to join the car-wash committee. Ask for volunteers who will wash 10 cars. Tip: Try using pledge cards: “I agree to give three hours each Saturday during the month of June.” When volunteers sign a specific commitment, they know what’s being asked of them and will be more likely to follow through.

Skilled. The best teams respect the talents of the individual members. Don’t attempt a bake sale if you’ve got no cooks.

Instead of using generic pledge cards to build your team’s commitment, consider using cards tailored to each individual’s skills and abilities. Individualized pledge cards require more administrative time, but the extra effort can generate impressive payoffs.

Most fundraising projects require four to six basic functions. You’ll need volunteers skilled in each area.

1. Leader. Someone who can inspire and motivate others to act.

2. Scorekeeper. Someone who can keep track of money and keep the team informed about the fundraising progress.

3. Promoter. Someone who can recruit volunteers and market the project.

4. Salespeople. People who can sell the fundraising item or service to others.

5. Coordinator. Someone who can integrate the jobs of all the other volunteers.

6. Producer. The resource for the product or service.

It’s best to limit a volunteer’s participation to one area. A person will accomplish more when his or her job is clearly defined within a specific assignment. Recommended: Recruit potential team members by affirming each individual’s abilities. A job sounds more appealing when you can honestly say, for instance, “We need you because you bake better rhubarb pie than anyone we know.”

Caution: Don’t push people to serve when they’re not willing. Some agree to help because they believe in the cause o because they’d feel guilty if they didn’t. But if they’re already overcommitted in other areas or if they’re assigned to a task for which they have no talent, you can expect low performance–perhaps even burned-out volunteers.

Keep Everyone Informed Kick off your fundraiser with a full range of publicity. Depending on the nature of your project, you can make announcements to the congregation, post signs, or even print informative brochures. Display a large drawing or photograph of your project. Alternative: Sponsor a drawing contest for children that involves children and their parents. Encourage greater productivity from your volunteers by keeping them informed of individual accomplishments.

Equip each participant with a “Volunteer Packet.” Product manufacturers will provide brochures, photos, and posters of the products you choose. Suggestion: Use the telephone to establish a communications network that can avoid taking more time than necessary out of busy schedules for meetings.

Don’t hesitate to let people know about the progress of your project. Display results in highly visible locations. Graphic images work well, even for those who don’t care for numbers. Be creative–don’t limit yourself to the traditional thermometer display. Also, recognize each volunteer’s individual participation. Reward outstanding performance with special awards.

Glenn P. Ordell is president of Hawaii Systems, Ltd., in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, which manufactures wooden crosses for church fundraisers.


Spirit of America Fundraisers
Profit Potentials 800/543-5480

Cookbooks by Morris Press
G & R Publishing 800/383-1679
Jumbo Jacks Cookbook Co.
Keepsake Cookhooks/Fundco Pr
Project Cuisine 800/843-8616
The Cookbook Company
Walters Cookbooks 800/447-3274

Coupons for Christ 800/767-7718

Arrow Publicity 800/395-2200
Badge-a-Minit 800/223-4103
Classic American Fundraisers
800/821 -5745
Crest Fruit Co. 800/234-2737
Dominion Telecom’s General
Ministry Fund 800/708-4284
Fundraising Suppers 800/216-3493
The Grace Line Company
(MN: 800/328-6029)
Hawaii Systems, Ltd. 808/328-9988
Holyland Greetings 212/741-7227
House of Ideas 800/228-4539
Kohnke Corporation 708/279-6291
Lite America 800/87
Rada Manufacturing
Seneca Publishing 8001642-3927
Spirit Card, Inc. 800/637-9616
Treasure Chest 800/438-3202
Wheaton Religious Gifts

B & D Contributor Recognition.
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Newman Brothers, Inc.