Best mission trip fundraising ideas

Getting donations for a mission trip -- from Brigada

The long version

Click here to go to the "short" version.

Christ Community Church in Ruston, LA says they send out endorsement and support request letters on behalf of approved short-term participants. The short-termers also personally contact friends and relatives in other towns and churches.

Another church says: "Our missions committee has helped dozens of short-termers over the years. Some of them can raise the money almost overnight. Others take a long time.

"Here are some of the ways we help them:

Dennis Miller, Minister of Outreach at Mt. Scott Church of God, Portland, Oregon USA says: "We have taken teams to India, Kenya, and Mexico. Our strategy calls for every short-term team member to go through about 20 hours of training including support raising.

"We require each team member to put in one-third of the cost from their own funds, from working another job, or from savings. Another third comes from group fundraising and/or subsidies from the missions budget of our church. The final third comes from individual support raising. This is done through selecting 10 individuals to be partners in prayer. . . to pray for funds to come in among other things, and then by sending out prayer/support letters to friends, family, co-workers, and fellow students.

"We do restrict letters from going to the entire church body. We solicit the church by forms flyers in the bulletin that can be put in the offering plates to say which team member they want a letter from or that they will give a general gift for the whole team. We get support gifts that way ranging from $20 to $3000.

"We are sending a team to Mexico this June and another team to Kitale, Kenya next January. So far, these strategies are working. We do all we can to keep ,ossopm the team trips before the church and also to then report to all interested parties on their return. I also promote all of those that get involved in local ministry when they return or those who decide to go long-term as a result of going short-term.

Jeff Relth, Global Outreach Pastor, First Christian Church, Phoenix, AZ writes: "I lead about 4-5 groups a year on short-term mission trips. We take from 5-15 people each time. Costs run from $1800 to $2800.

"We have found that funding is not a problem. God has been very faithful. We have some different versions of a fundraising letter that we give people encouraging them to personalize the letter. I give them a flash drive with the letters on it so they can personalize them easily.

"Rarely do I have to assist people. In our experience, raising about $2500 takes 75 letters sent to family and friends. We do not want people to blanket the congregation, but rather send appeals to people they know. And we stress not limiting the letters to only Christian friends and family. We've discovered that non-Christians will also give freely.

"Some people will say they don't know 75 people. They do. They just need to be coached.

"We make copies of all the checks we receive. We also keep a spreadsheet of the amounts raised. We give that to the participants regularly so they know how they are doing and can send out thank you letters often."

Gail, Eagle River, Alaska suggested several practicalraisers:

Fundraising Car Wash Idea
Sell car wash coupons ahead of time. Some will buy just to support and not show up and others will show up along with any you happen to draw in from advertising. Doing it this way raised more money for us than just doing a car wash in the church parking lot.
Host an Easter brunch or Mother's Day brunch. Our local university let us use their chef training café for a more formal effect. They practiced with nice food. Our kids provided the set-up, serving, and clean-up after a half-hour lesson from the 'chefs.' We had two settings. A teen barbershop group came to entertain toward the end of the meal. Although the tickets may have been a bit pricey, we had a nice response. Diners had the choice of three entrées to choose from when they made their reservations.
Another food idea
Molded chocolate roses on a stem for sale (Mother's Day?)
Make salvation bracelets
Sell two for $10 (ours cost about 50¢ each to make); the person gets to keep one along with an explanation of beads and then "gives" one back for you to take overseas for mission use. We find these salvation bracelets very effective on mission trips. We wear two of them. When we are asked about them, we tell the person that if they can remember and repeat the explanation to us, we will let them have one of the bracelets. Some accept Christ; some just carry the message with them. [ web site with more info ]

Jennifer Lichty, Director of Special Teams for International Teams in Elmira, Ontario, Canada wrote, "As the director of short-term with International Teams I have seen just about everything done to raise money for teams: dinners (donations work best), chicken catching, actions, penny drives (one team raised $4000 worth), dinner theaters, and government quotes.

"People give to vision. Give people something to be a part of. Allow them to take some ownership."

"The most successful teams in raising funds -- no matter how much they have had to raise -- have been those that remembered a simple principle: People give to vision. So, give people something to be a part of. Allow them to take some ownership."

I had to ask what "chicken catching" and government quotes were. She responded: "People who raise chickens or turkeys often hire people to catch the birds for shipping. It is good money, but you need to be ready for some scratches and hard work. You won't need to go to the gym to pump the biceps for a few days after catching birds.

"Government quotes -- I have heard of numerous teams that have contacted their local governments or community offices and asked about the current tenders that are available. This has been anything from planting trees to stuffing envelopes, doing election enumeration, and delivering new phone books."

Southway Church had a two-day garage/rummage sale on the church property. The rummage was donated by various people in the church and community. We let the customers set their own prices for the most part, saying that the garage sale was on a donation basis and that we were trying to fund our mission trip to Kenya. A few people took advantage of the donation idea, but most people were generous with us. The Lord gave us $4000 in two days. About a thousand dollars of this amount came from selling barbecue sandwiches and brisket that were cooked by one of the men of the church.

We also auctioned off 6 hours of individual trip participants' time doing anything that is not illegal or immoral. We serve a dinner, then conduct the auction as folks are wrapping up the meal. If the auctioneer has a sense of humor, it can be lot of fun. We have usually raised about $1500 per trip this way.

A lady who went to Spain on one of Southway's trips offered an internet beginners' course to people in the church. She charged tuition and applied that money to the cost of her trip.

Rick Knox, Adviser for Europe for International Teams suggests the books they use for their short-termers:

Knox says, "The methods concentrate on personal rather than impersonal appeals. The approach aims to minister to potential donors instead of being just an attempt to get money from them.

The keys:

  1. Trust the Lord to provide
  2. Seek to be a blessing to potential partners
  3. Invite people to consider joining a team that will:

"The donors needs to feel that they are genuine partners (not just partners on paper) in the venture, with real ownership of the vision. That will more likely happen if the donor gets timely, enthusiastic reports on missionary activity in which her or she has invested.

"The key is thank-you letters for every gift, with follow-up investment reports. This follow-up will convert some short-term donors into long-term donors."

Regarding books on support raising, "Ask A Missionary" recommends two:

  1. Funding Your Ministry: Whether You're Gifted or Not! by Scott Morton, Vice President of Development for The Navigators. This 219-page book addresses obstacles encountered by those who raise personal support and by those who send them. Whether you're an experienced fund-raiser or just starting out, find answers to your questions and discover a biblical path for soliciting and maintaining donor support. Available from
  2. Marching to a Different Drummer: Rediscovering Missions in an Age of Affluence and Self-Interest by Jim Raymo, U.S. Director of WEC International. Chapter six covers raising financial support and the problem of missionary affluence. Other chapters discuss raising children overseas, "tent-making," non-western missionaries, and encouraging trends in missions today. (Available on Amazon).

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Elaine in OK, wrote: "The best money maker [for the youth] has been a church dinner/bake auction. They charge for the dinner, and people from the church bake yummy desserts. These are auctioned off after dinner. The really good cooks get high dollars for their cakes and pies. This is the third time we've done this. They usually make $2000-$5000. Of course, many folks in our church are generous. One man bids really high on his wife's cakes (best cook in the church!), wins, and then cuts it up and has people re-bid on each slice!

"This year (and this is very radical for us) people bid high on a couple of pies with the understanding that they could throw them in someone's face (with that person's permission of course).

"The youth are also having a garage sale in the gym. They have been having Wednesday night suppers (hamburgers, taco salad, subs). This has not been a great money maker, but it is good for fellowship and keeps people thinking about the missions trip.

One lady says: "We just got a postcard from our youth informing us of two of their fundraisers. One restaurant will donate to the church a portion of the cost of your meal on a particular day if you mention the name of our church/project when you order. On an upcoming Saturday, our youth will be car-hopping at a new Sonic drive-in. They get to keep the tips (probably a good deal for the restaurant too because I don't imagine that they're paying them salaries!)."

I just learned of a Long John Silvers (a fast-food restaurant) here in Houston that gives free meal tickets which church groups can sell to raise funds.

Fundraising policies

Southway has decided not to charge people directly to participate in the trip, because we don't want this to be a barrier to participation. However, we do expect serious work and preparation from them in discipleship and fundraising. We do find that most trip participants donate.

Christian Muntean shares from his experience: "I'm not a super fund-raiser, but I've done my share of it and advised some others. It is very good for people to work for their trip and be able to sacrifice a little. I've been on numerous trips and watched many others. People who never have to work for their place or sacrifice something are often very difficult to work with on a team. If they haven't had to give anything to get someplace, they may be likely not to give too much once they arrive. Encourage them to work, save up, cut costs and/or sell things. This activity alone may not raise all the money that is needed, but it is an important part of getting ready to go."

-- Howard Culbertson,

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