From Fundraising to Investment
“Let’s put the FUN in FUNDRAISING, right folks?” I don’t know how many times I had to say something like that as I rallied youth and adults together for the various fundraisers that we used to offset event costs and build up our program budget. The big fundraiser for the year was selling pumpkins in the pumpkin patch, but we also had several event specific fundraisers like a fall festival, car washes, money walls, and more.
Fundraisers are often seen as a reality of youth ministry, a ‘necessary evil’ done to either generate a program budget or to reduce the cost of participation in opportunities like retreats, missions, confirmation, etc. Sure, great things can come out of fundraising too; better understanding of stewardship, connections between people involved in the fundraiser, finding out which youth and helpers are dedicated to certain projects…but often fundraising saps time and energy from leaders that they could use for other ministry pursuits. Frequent fundraising, especially among the same groups of attendees at church can become less effective over time, and develop a mentality of scarcity and need, instead of abundance and value.
In the past, we’ve covered 25+ different ways to raise funds but the point of this post is to reframe the conversation of fundraising into a conversation about investment. Michelle Moore, who is currently on Arkansas Annual Conference staff, worked to develop an investment plan for youth ministry during her time on staff at Conway First UMC. It was (and still is) called the “1610 Investment Plan” and you can read more about it here.
In a nut shell, Michelle created a system where church members could donate (either in-person or via electronic giving like a recurring EFT) $16.10 a month to the youth ministry. This amount was set by the church’s address (1610 Prince Street) and in a church Conway’s size they recruited 250 investors who would each pledge that monthly amount. This provided Conway FUMC enough money so any youth in the youth group or visiting friends, could attend an annual conference event and one mission trip per year, for free! Creating this program did take a lot of groundwork to inspire buy-in from investors and tons of effort from Michelle and her team of adult and youth leaders to shift the thinking of their congregation to support youth ministry in a new way. Along the way, they hit on several important points that led to the successful transition in the giving mindset of her congregation. Keep these in mind if you have interest in developing your own investment plan:
- Investing is a way of responding to the community’s promises at baptisms and confirmations. Read those pieces in the UM Hymnal, you’ll see that they call on the community to support young people in their faith development.
- People give to specific needs. Outline how what is given will be used, and why it is a need.
- It’s a regular, consistent way to support youth ministry. We are called to give generously to the needs of others, and making it easy for people to give helps them give generously. If folks use Electronic Funds Transfers, they often let those regularly continue, even beyond a planned pledge period.
- It actually saves parents with kids in the youth ministry money. At $16.10 a month, a person would end up giving $193.20 per year. That amount is probably less than a parent would spend on their youth attending an annual conference event and a mission trip, and definitely less if a parent has multiple children in the ministry.
- It frees up time and energy for other ministry. It takes a lot of work to launch an investment program, but once started it is easy to maintain. You save time by not having to organize supplies, calendars, etc. for several fundraisers a year. It could also allow other existing fundraisers to now wholly benefit groups outside the church instead. How cool would it be to have carwashes that benefit a local homeless teen shelter?
- It creates an air of welcoming and connection opportunities for newcomers. How incredible is the statement that a new youth or visitor could attend a potentially life changing annual conference event or mission experience for free? It is a generous outreach and action of purpose from your congregation that all are welcome, and we want you to experience life with us.
- It bothers the congregation less. Repeated fundraisers can drain attention and enthusiasm from your givers. An investment program allows you to ask one time a year for support, and let the rest of the year focus on other needs in the church.