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This post was originally posted at YouthSpecialties.com; follow the discussion there or start a new one here.

I remember one of my professors at Bible college telling us that “fundraising is the necessary evil” that we would all eventually have to endure in student ministry. After all, it’s no fun constantly asking the same people over and over again for money — even if it is for a “good cause”. You start to feel like a used car salesman… and what’s up with the people who walk the other way when they see you coming?! (grin)

Well, if you are one of the many youth workers that has to do fundraising to supplement your budget or raise money for student trips, this post is for you.

Somehow my wife and I stumbled across some really great ideas for a couple of annual fundraising events that are actually fun and raise substantial amounts of coinage for our students. Yup, people actually look forward to attending these events! Here’s one that we just finished up last week; probably nothing ground-breaking, but worth sharing, I think…

We call it the ELEVATION TALENT SHOW — Elevate is the name of our student ministry.

elevation-talent-show-09

Lots of people enjoy variety shows, especially if you add some humorous elements to the program!

We start the whole event process by auditioning fifteen to twenty acts for the show. You generally wouldn’t want more than that for a two hour program. Everything from comedy, to music, to sketch, to poetry, creative art — you name it — the more variety the better. Make sure you have enough time in advance for people to prepare their acts before the auditions open up. We usually start talking about auditions a couple months out.

Piece the program together and tell everyone to come out for the big night and vote for their favorite acts with cash or check. It works great because it pulls in lots of family and friends that wouldn’t normally step foot inside of a church, but they are willing to come and support their buddy, grandchild, cousin, etc.

We make the show more interesting by selling concessions (popcorn, candy bars, soda) and splitting up the acts with “commercials” (funny videos or a humorous video-story / sketch theme that runs through the night). We also dim the house lights and keep just the stage lights on to give the sanctuary more of a movie-house feel.

As a bonus, this event gives a platform to a lot of very talented people in the church that we wouldn’t have necessarily discovered otherwise. Such a fun night!

If you are wondering about the voting process, we usually just set up a table with voting receptacles (can be cups, Chinese take-out boxes, piggy banks, etc.) that correspond with each act listed in the event’s program. We have an intermission and a time at the end of the night where people can get up and have the chance to “vote” for their favorite acts.

After everyone is done voting, we show a few more fun video clips or provide some other entertainment while the money is being tallied and then announce the top three winners of the evening (the ones with the highest amount of cash). The top three go home with prizes and the profits go into our student ministry budget. Win-win-win!

Here’s some video highlights from this year’s event…

I’ll share our other annual fundraising event closer to it’s corresponding holiday: Valentine’s Day.

Do any of you guys have great fundraiser events or ideas? We’d love to hear from you!


Shawn Michael

Husband, father, musician, pastor, Internet junkie, and Foursquare District NextGen Rep for the Gateway District

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