Maintaining a church can be expensive so it’s always nice to have some good fundraiser ideas up your sleeve. Many church buildings are old, and this means that they need a lot of care and attention. Maintaining them may require special skills, and even keeping them heated and damp-free could be harder than it is for newer buildings. Running any building is expensive, and churches located in newer properties will still face a lot of challenges.
While many states offer tax benefits for churches, which could go a long way towards reducing the overall overheads, the church will still need to have some income to cover its costs. If the minister, priest, pastor or other leader is someone who serves the church full-time, then they will need their living expenses paid for. Many members of the congregation will offer their time to help the church and perform day to day jobs; however, some things can only be obtained through money. Such is the nature of modern life. So here are 15 fundraising ideas to help churches cover their essential bills.
Depending on the type of legal entity that your church is set up as you may be able to apply for government funding for certain expenses. For example, you could cut your energy bills with solar panels or insulation, or request government subsidies to help with certain repairs. Funding of this type is highly competitive, and it is not guaranteed, but you may be eligible for some, so it is well worth trying. Government funding must usually be spent with approved contractors, and the monitoring and evaluation requirements can be strict. Green energy and energy efficiency are two areas that are seeing a lot of interest from the government at the moment.
If you want to take advantage of such grants, however, you may need to be able to demonstrate that you have freehold or leasehold on the building that you want to maintain. You are unlikely to be able to raise government funds to do short-term projects or to support ‘core costs’ such as paying a groundskeeper or paying for cleaners, accountants or other personnel type overheads. Here a resource that might be helpful.
Many charitable trusts and foundations want to support faith-based groups specifically. If you can find a trust in your area that is interested in helping churches of your denomination, then you could be eligible for a significant amount of financial support. There are usually restrictions on what the funding can be spent on since the charitable trust will have its own goals – such as furthering youth work, missions, or helping disadvantaged people in a specific area. Where your church’s goals and the goals of the trust overlap, however, there can be some mutually beneficial opportunities. Donations from charitable trusts can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Some charitable trusts will support specific projects, such as paying for young people to go on a mission. Some may be willing to support the organization as a broader thing. It is hard to predict without talking to each individual organization.
If you are a small church in a rural area, you may be able to go to a larger church of your denomination and ask for help if you are struggling with a crisis such as a storm-damaged roof or a sudden large bill. Often we've seen many larger churches help, smaller ones with their church website design. Many bigger churches keep some funds to one side specifically to hand out to the smaller organizations. Because some churches are facing difficult times these days, it can sometimes be hard to get funding of this type. You will most likely need to be of the same denomination, although sometimes merely being “Catholic” rather than a specific branch could be sufficient for them to consider offering support.
Churches should work together. If you are ever in a position where you have spare funds and you hear that another church is struggling, be sure to pay it forward. Consider helping them even if their own beliefs or scripture interpretations are different from yours. There is room for all kinds of God’s people, and most churches do excellent work within the communities that they serve.
If you are looking to raise a moderate amount of money, then running a community fun day and charging stall owners could be a good option. The beauty of this is that you are self-sufficient, and do not have to report back to a grant funding organization. For some churches, the time saving that this offers is a huge boon. Community days can help to raise awareness and interest within the local area and may help to bring more people to the congregation long-term.
Churches often struggle to remain relevant to young people these days. Community days can help to make young people think more positively about the church and will introduce the whole family to the environment. Let’s take the example of some parents who joined the church when they moved to the area ten years ago. Their children may be enrolled in Sunday school. Their parents may have moved over to the area to live closer to their grandparents, but be set in their ways and be unsure which church to join. When the whole family goes out for a fun day, it presents an opportunity to share the values of the church with everyone and raise its profile, while also raising funds without “begging”.
Jumble sales and bake sales are long-standing elements of any church or community group fundraising strategy. These are some of the simplest and easiest church fundraising ideas. They may not raise a lot of money, but if all you are looking for is funds to replace tattered bibles or to buy new coloring pens for the children at Sunday School then this could be a good option. They generate goodwill as well as funds. Parents and grandparents often enjoy clearing out their cupboards or baking for the sale, and people like walking away with a purchase while knowing that their money has gone to a good cause.
You can run bake sales fairly regularly, which makes them good for smaller expenses. Tie them with public holidays to create a theme, and you will find that people are far more likely to be interested in buying the goods.
Online giving and crowdfunding is something that is becoming quite popular and is one of the latest church fundraising ideas to really take off. With crowdfunding, you can set up a profile on a site such as Just Giving or GoFundMe and ask people to donate. Sometimes you can look for companies or organizations that will match the amount you get from your local area. Crowdfunding works well because it allows you to reach not just local congregation members but also their friends and family as well as people who have moved away from the area. This means you can tap bigger fundraising sources. That teenager you counseled when he was having trouble with the “wrong crowd” at school may now be a lawyer in another state and may want to give back to the church that helped him get on the right track. You never know who is in your extended network.
The idea of affiliate programs may seem odd, but there is more to the idea of affiliate marketing than reselling dodgy ebooks online. If you have a dedicated congregation that wants to help the church, then joining affiliate programs for popular stores and asking people to shop via your links could help to bring in a steady amount of income. It won’t be enough to pay all your bills, but every penny helps and the best thing is that it doesn’t cost your congregation any money. They buy via Amazon or Best Buy as normal, and you get a small percentage of the amount that they spend.
You don’t need to be a computer genius to set up affiliate programs of this type. There are some dedicated services that will help churches, charities, and nonprofits to run affiliate programs that span a large number of stores. You may also be able to strike up relationships with individual retailers in your local area.
If you have the skills to do so, then consider offering extra services such as basic literacy or computing skills courses out of your church hall. You may be able to work with third-party groups who can help to deliver these services at a low cost. This is a good way to bring in a small amount of money while offering services that some people in your congregation may need. If your local area does not have a meals on wheels service for the elderly, then see if you can get people together to launch one. Look at other services such as swap shops for furniture and appliances as well. If you run these on a donation basis you will likely find that while a lot of people take advantage of the services for free there will be others who will make a donation to support them.
The same goes for after school or youth-services. If you run these and accept children of all faiths, keeping the activities moral but avoiding specific religious practices, then you may find that you attract a lot of children from the local area. Parents who cannot afford babysitting services may send their children to you. Again, accept donations for this and they can be a good source of funds.
Like many church fundraising ideas, this requires building up a relationship with members of your community in the long term. There is a good chance that you have a lot of older congregation members who have built up some wealth and who would like to know that their wealth will do some good after their death. Sensitively raising the issue of the importance of writing a will is a useful thing. You may be able to find some people who are willing to include the church in their will. Be responsible with that money and make sure that it is used for the good of the community, and you will likely attract more donors in the coming years.
It takes tact and sensitivity to broach the issue of wills. One option is to bring in someone who can help the elderly write their will, as a no-obligation service. Ask them to donate some pro-bono time to members of the congregation, and then leave the door open for the donation to be made, but don’t pressure the people who come to use the service. Some may donate, some may not. Some may not even have the resources to do so. Either way, they have benefited from the service and even if just one person decides to leave a sum of money to the church, it will make a huge difference to your long term ability to do the work of God.
Working with businesses is one of the more controversial church fundraising ideas. It is something that must be approached carefully. There may be businesses in your area that are willing to sponsor celebrations, events or parts of the church (such as helping you repair the organ or a spire, or the church bells). Before you do this, be sure to talk to the elders, reach an agreement on what sponsorship means, and be sure that the ethos of the company is one that fits with the church as a whole. If you can find a sponsor that fits the church well, then this kind of relationship is a powerful one, especially in smaller communities.
Sponsorships could be as simple as supporting the running of the minibus for trips to bible study meetings and ‘exams’ for your young people, or it could be providing replacement windows after storm damage. It all adds up, and it allows the businesses in your local area to do their bit, knowing that their donations are definitely going to a good place.
Travel and tourism can be very useful for older churches. Put out a donation box, and ask visitors if they are willing to offer ongoing support to the church as well. You may be surprised at what sort of response you get. IF you can have a cafe in your church, then this could help you to make some money from visitors who are passing through, while providing them with a useful service.
Not all churches are well positioned to benefit from tourism. If you’re in a new building and don’t have anything historic or unusual nearby then you may be somewhat overlooked. If you are able to somehow make yourself of interest to visitors to your city, however, then you will find that many holidaymakers are eager to give funds to a good cause.
Selling merchandise such as gift bibles, decorated books of hymns or psalms, religious magazines, seasonal decorations and tokens, and religious jewelry (if your denomination allows it) or figurines for the festive nativity can be a way to bring in some income for the church. This is an ongoing thing and it is something that will take time to pay off, but it can be something that can help the church to remain sustainable in the long term. The store can be staffed by young volunteers, giving them valuable job experience.
When you are sourcing merchandise, try to have ethics in mind. Look for garments that are made in the USA or Europe, so that you can be confident that the labor used to make them was not exploitative. Look for printed goods that are high quality (screen printed rather than sublimation, for example), or buy from bible-specialist suppliers (or others as your faith dictates) so that you know that what you are getting is ethical and will be suitable for your audience. Price appropriately. Don’t be tempted to offer massive discounts; have faith in the products. You need to make enough money to keep the doors open and the lights on. This is something that a lot of churches forget, and low prices can be their undoing.
Most churches have a small hall that could be let out during the week at times when there is no service on. This can be a good source of revenue. Martial arts classes, drama groups, kid’s playgroups, and pilates classes are always looking for a space to hire. This can be another part of getting the church to be more involved with your local community and growing the congregation. Children’s parties can be another option. You may feel pressure to be cheaper than the local community hall. Think about your prices carefully. You want to attract as many bookings as you can so that you can keep a stream of funds coming in, but you also want to make sure that you are using the space in a way that generates enough income.
Find out what other halls and spaces in your city charge. Consider your location and amenities (kitchen, toilets, parking, public transport, etc) and make sure that you are competitive. Yes, try to be fair to your congregation, but remember that when you do group bookings it raises new questions about insurance and fire safety.
The church could run many online services. One thing that some churches are getting into is credit unions. There are many people who cannot access traditional banks or who prefer not to use them. If those people are members of the congregation then allowing them to save with the church, and supporting them when they are in need, can offer mutual benefit. The congregation gets some financial independence and sustainability and the church gets to make a small amount of money in the long term. Credit unions are usually run for very small profit because their goal is to be more affordable and fairer than banks, but they are still expected to cover their costs and sustain themselves.
There is a lot of advice out there about how to run credit unions, and you will find that it is something that a lot of people are eager to be involved in. It can help to breathe new financial life into your community.
Another interesting option is to write your own magazines or to print books and sell those to the congregation and to tourists. There are many online services that will allow you to print books ‘on demand’, and set your own prices. Tourists, in particular, are often interested in books that tell the history of a given church or a local area. There could be the option for the church to become a publisher for local authors, although if you do this then be aware that full publishing requires due diligence and extra work. If you choose to take this on then you would need to be aware of copyright law and libel issues, for example. Some churches do choose the ‘small press’ route, however, for the local pride that it can support as well as for the income that it can bring.
This could tie in well with having a visitor’s center in the church, and it could allow you to bring in some additional income for a modest (in the long term) overhead. Be selective about the books that you publish.
Churches have the opportunity to be true community hubs, and this is something that few establishments take advantage of. Remember that you have a diverse congregation with their own skillsets and their own interests. If you listen to them and engage them then you could learn a lot about what they have to offer, and find new ways to support your community while generating income to keep the church going so that you can deliver God’s work for decades to come.