Community is a beautiful thing. Whether it’s your extended family, your neighborhood, an online book club, or even a crew of fellow board game-loving geeks, having a group of people to belong to is part of the human experience.
A similar principle applies to churches. The natural physical limitations of a church building make its surrounding community an integral part of all that it does.
Not only is a church’s congregation likely to be predominantly made up of people from that same local community that surrounds them, but many of the various events and outreaches that the average ministry puts on are going to have their greatest impact right in their own home town, city, or region.
However, while it’s fairly easy to promote things like free community cookouts inviting your neighbors to attend your Sunday service, one thing that can be a bit trickier is asking your local community to support you financially.
When a church starts asking your community for money, it’s important that you go about it in the right way.
Here are three important things to keep in mind as you gear up to fundraise in your local neighborhood.
Creating a Central Hub
No matter what the group or the cause, when you’re asking someone to support you, a key element in preparing for fundraising is having your communication channels in order beforehand, with a single spot serving as a “central hub” for your efforts.
Let’s use the example of a community 5K fundraiser for your next missions trip.
As your team prepares to head out to promote the event, one of the first things you should do is create a dedicated page on your website. If you don’t have a good site for that kind of thing, start a Facebook group or event. (But you should really start with an amazing website!)
There are multiple benefits to having a hub like this.
It provides a natural place for everyone that’s interested in your fundraiser to find information and updates. If it’s an event like a 5K, you can also provide the address and route details for those who are considering participating.
A central hub is a great spot to provide an option for online donations for those who don’t want to physically attend the event but still want to support you financially.
A central hub also gives you a chance to host and propagate various images and visuals to help showcase your mission, goals, and progress. For example, one of my favorites is the classic visual thermostat that displays how much money you’ve raised compared to your total goal.
However you go about it try to find a social media platform or website to treat as your center for information and fundraising operations.
Providing Value for Your Community
If you want to increase the effectiveness of a community fundraiser, in particular, try to focus on fundraising ideas that also provide a genuine product or service for local neighbors that participate.
For example, if you ask local businesses to support you by contributing items for a raffle or auction, it gives you actual tangible goods to offer your local donors. That way, when your community member pledges $10 for a dozen cookies from the local bakery, they’re not only donating money, but they’re getting a desirable product (who doesn’t love fresh cookies?), often at a discounted rate!
Another example of a way to provide something with genuine value in exchange for donations is offering a service. This is the concept of organizing your church, missionaries, youth group, or whatever else you can come up with into teams that can offer things like:
- Snow Plowing. Grab your shovels and look for a local housing track the morning after a heavy snowfall. A half dozen workers per driveway can make for light and quick work!
- Raking. As the cold fall weather sets in, shoulder your rakes, grab a few boxes of leaf bags, and start door knocking.
- Mowing. While this one’s more for teams of one or two at a time, mowing lawns is a great way to offer value for a donation.
- Landscaping. Along the same lines as lawn mowing, if it’s spring or summer, offer to help neighbors with gardens, weeding, or watering, in exchange for a donation.
When it comes to services, the options are nearly endless. The fact that you're impacting your community for the better while simultaneously raising the funds for your next mission trip is an all-around win-win.
If your organization has some muscle to spare, set up a services-based fundraiser and start double dipping with your efforts!
Fundraising with Your Community
As a final piece of advice, whenever you can, take steps to make fundraising something that you’re doing with your community.
In other words, don’t simply throw out a sales pitch in order to get a community member’s donation and then leave them in the lurch.
Things like missions trips, outreaches, and ministry events tend to already have some of the most powerful justifications possible without the added need to doll it up with a dose of marketing melodrama.
Instead, take the time to craft your event with an eye towards inviting the local community to get in on the action, not as outsiders, but as brothers and sisters in arms. This can help create a sense of appreciation and interest from those around you.
After all, we live in a culture that prizes actions taken on behalf of those that are in need. With the Church called to care for the widows and the orphans, it should be easy to communicate the need for any fundraisers to your community with ease.
Ask them to stand by you as you fight for your cause. Invite them to keep up to date with a central hub where they can find updates and information. Offer them valuable, quality products and services in exchange for their support.
In other words, invite your community to participate and invest themselves in their local church’s efforts. I think you’ll be surprised at how warm the reception to such a call to action can be.