Mission trip fundraising ideas for all ages and group sizes
A mission trip can be a powerful, life-changing experience for kids and adults alike, whether you travel halfway around the world or down the block. Once you’ve decided to lead or join a trip, you may be wondering how you’ll cover costs. A short-term mission trip could range anywhere from $100 to $3,000 per person between lodging, transportation, project materials, and food and drink.
The answer? Launch a fundraising campaign! In this article, we’ll cover five proven strategies you can use to raise money for your outreach trip and spread the word about your cause. Explore the list of mission trip fundraising ideas below.
1. Host a fundraising event
Fundraising events pull triple duty. Unlike campaigns that just request a donation, an event will:
- Attract more people and expand your network of potential givers
- Introduce supporters to one another and build camaraderie
- Increase engagement and create more opportunities to raise funds
In most cases, you can pull off a successful fundraising event with a free tool to sell tickets, a modest budget, and some simple social media promotion. You can create an experience that has wide appeal, like a community potluck or walk-a-thon. Or, you can host an event that directly reflects your mission. For instance, if you’re expanding higher education in Haiti, a TED Talk-style webinar would inform people and raise funds at the same time.
There are lots of options, but here are a few exciting and inexpensive fundraising ideas for your trip:
- Weekly bake sale: This is a classic mission trip fundraiser for a reason. Serve up cookies, brownies, donuts, and other sweet treats at your church and other community hotspots. Pair it with coffee or tea to entice more buyers. To save time, you can pick up premade goods. Krispy Kreme, for instance, will supply your treats at a discounted price. You could make as much as 50% in profits overall.
- Car wash: The car wash is a time-tested fundraising event, and you can jazz it up with a few simple tricks. First, pick a safe, high-traffic area. Make signs with your prices, fun slogans, and a text-to-donate phone number. Stand out from the everyday car wash by having your “workers” wear silly costumes, sell baked goods, or hold a lip-syncing concert.
- Babysitting or doggie daycare: Give your church members the night off by providing babysitting services throughout the week. Advertise your available hours around the community and online. Pet parents need help, too. A dog walking service could be another winner with your congregation.
- Walk-a-thon: Walk-a-thons are year-round fundraising favorites because anyone can participate and they’re fairly easy to organize. Typically, participants pay a fee to join, but you can also use peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising. P2P fundraisers create their own fundraising pages and solicit donations from their personal networks. For inspiration, see how the Association of Catholic Tech Students used P2P fundraising to prepare for their Guatemala mission trip.
- Cook-off: This event is a foodie’s dream come true. Cook-offs are great for drawing a crowd and raising money on a short timeline. All you need to do is set a theme (ribs, pie, fried chicken), round up judges, and secure a venue. Sell tickets for a certain number of dishes/tastes, and let the fun begin.
- Trivia contest: This is a great fundraising tool because it can be tailored to any age group and interest. Host a challenging trivia night at a local restaurant. Have people register as teams and charge a small competition fee. Whoever wins will have bragging rights — and a prize like a gift card or voucher to a local business doesn’t hurt either.
- Movie night: Host a movie screening or marathon at your church, a local park, a school, or an auditorium. Sell snacks to raise extra money, either by charging a set price or suggesting a donation amount. If you’re fundraising for a youth group, have them invite their friends, and frame the whole evening as a “parent’s night out.”
We’ve got tons of other event-centered mission trip fundraising ideas for you at the Butter Blog.
2. Launch a crowdfunding campaign
Crowdfunding is a powerful tool to fund any initiative, but it’s especially useful to make your mission trip a reality. This type of campaign takes advantage of your church group’s network of family members, friends, co-workers, supporters, and other peers to get the donations rolling in. Basically, you supersize your fundraising efforts by asking for a lot of small donations from a large group of people.
To get started, you simply create an engaging fundraising page. You can choose from a variety of convenient, low-cost crowdfunding websites, some of which are devoted to nonprofit fundraising. There, you’ll collect donations, share updates, and interact with your supporters.
It’s also common to incentivize donations with cool rewards (and it’s mandatory on some crowdfunding websites). For example, you might give out custom T-shirts for $30 donations or two tickets to a donor celebration party for $100+ donations.
Another benefit of a crowdfunding campaign is that it’s easy to promote online via your church website, email, and social media. And with every share, you’re one step closer to making a difference.
3. Partner with a restaurant
Almost everyone is willing to grab a bite for a good cause. Many restaurants are ready to partner with your group for a fundraising campaign, whether it’s for one night or one month. It’s a win-win: The restaurant gets a tidal wave of customers, and you get a portion of the food sales to cover your trip costs.
All you need to do is reach out to a national chain or local restaurant, choose a date (or date range), and ask your supporters to dine there. They may need to mention your campaign’s name, or simply show up and chow down. With most programs, you’ll receive 10-20% of every purchase.
Another helpful tip is to ask your target audience their top three favorite places to dine, or their go-to cuisines. You don’t want to partner with a burger joint for six weeks and then find out your supporters are actually taco-crazy or pizza-obsessed.
Turn a restaurant fundraiser into a can't-miss event by pairing it with a karaoke night or trivia night for your community.
4. Seek local business sponsors
Similar to restaurants and bars, many businesses already have funds for philanthropy built into their budget. If you’re hosting a fundraising event, a business sponsorship is invaluable.
In exchange for promoting their brand, your sponsors can take care of venue costs, food and drink, decoration, and much more for you. This allows you to focus on building up your guest list and earning the most profit possible.
Even if you aren’t hosting an event, you can still benefit from a business partnership. For example, they may set up your donation jar at their store, promote your campaign on their social media, launch a matching gift campaign, or donate goods for your raffle or silent auction.
In most cases, it’s easier to score a sponsorship with a local business than with a large national chain. See if any of your community members have an “in” with company owners or managers in your area.
5. Send out fundraising letters
The first rule of fundraising is to ask. It often surprises fundraisers how many people will give — and how much they’ll give — just because they were asked. So, our final mission trip fundraising idea is a simple fundraising letter campaign. You can execute this idea just using email, paper letters, or both.
The most important element of your letter is the appeal, or the words you use to connect with your audience, explain your request, and get an enthusiastic “yes” by the time they’re done reading. Here are three important guidelines to keep in mind as you start writing:
- Personalize the letter: Use your recipients’ names whenever possible and match your voice and tone to theirs. If you’re sending letters to businesses, you may want to strike a more formal tone. But if you’re contacting fellow church members, you can probably be more relaxed. This tip goes both ways. Put a face to your request by signing the letter with your name and photo.
- Be succinct and specific: The hard truth is that you have about eight seconds to capture your reader’s attention. Use concrete examples to quickly explain why your mission matters. For instance, you could say, “$100 pays for one person’s expenses and helps us bring clean water to 100 children.” Paint a picture with real stories and convey your group’s passion for this cause.
- Make it easy to donate: Clearly communicate your fundraising goal and give people a way to act right away. That means including links to your donation page and/or fundraising website with a prominent “Donate Now” button, providing a text-to-give number, or explaining how people can send in cash or check.
Find more tips on writing your donation request letter here.
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