When you're planning a mission trip, getting everyone together, coordinating with the community at your destination, and making sure you have all the supplies for your charity work is only the beginning. After all, as important as good works are, they don't pay for themselves, and neither does room and board for your team of missionaries. This means another round of fundraisers. Whether you do this every year or this is your very first big fundraiser for a mission trip, it helps to mix things up a bit. Everyone will be expecting you to do a garage sale or a car wash and while these can be a fantastic idea, communities usually go through several of these a year. Why not mix it up with something creative and refreshing? For your next fundraising project, consider one of these five unusual techniques.
1) Host a Parents-Night-Out Babysitting Event
Parents in every community struggle to get a little personal time to spend alone together. From going on a date night to just getting some time for a bath a and a long nap, you can turn your fundraiser into public service by hosting an evening babysitting event on a Saturday night. If you can, use the church Sunday school rooms for access to the props and toys and keep the children in a familiar environment and make sure they bring pillows and blankets for the little ones who go to sleep before their parents come back. This is an especially fun event if your mission trip is for a youth group, giving the teenagers a chance to put together activities and entertain the children while they all enjoy staying up or napping in an unusual place.
2) Put Out Change Jars
Most people use electronic payments these days and the small amount of change we do gather, almost nobody cares about. There are many different ways to partner with restaurants and if you want to five your fundraiser a unique flavor, surprise your restaurant partners by asking to put out change jars in their waiting areas along with a flyer or two explaining your group and the mission trip that customers could be funding. You can put out clear jars marked with goal lines to motivate people to give or spend some time decorating the jars with construction paper or paint pens. With enough change jars around town, you can build up a surprising amount of money from this literally small-change method.
3) Open a Sunday Afternoon Coffee Shop
Sometimes a mission group will open a small restaurant night and take catering payment for plates or sell doughnuts on Sunday morning. A fun twist on the usual idea is to open a little coffee shop project on Sunday afternoon instead. Invite people who are still feeling chatty after church to enjoy some hot mochas, cappuccinos, and a few pastries.
You can boost your appeal by making your cafe much more kid-friendly than most trendy coffee places and be prepared to make a lot of mild drinks like hot chocolate and cider for the little ones. If you want to play up the ambiance and encourage your neighbors to really enjoy the fundraiser, wear a uniform item of some sort that's easy to throw on over your church clothes.
4) Wrap Christmas Gifts for the Community
How many people do you know for whom the wrapping is by far the hardest part of the holiday season? Some people try hard, but you can always tell the presents that they wrapped under the tree, others are willing to take hours to wrap each present meticulously. Some are stealth non-wrappers and somehow find ways every year simply to get other people to wrap their gifts, and we've known them all.
Another way you can help out your community is by offering a gift wrapping service with a designated price per gift of each size and perhaps a large order discount for people with big families. This is not only a fun way to spend a collection of afternoons, but also a way to give all the people who have trouble wrapping presents a good cause for hiring an expert.
5) Sell Mystery Gift Bags
Fundraisers are often about selling something like cookies with the girl scouts and the holiday knickknacks that schools tend to sell. As you well know from flipping through your own fair share of fundraiser catalogs, it's hard to keep the cause in mind. The number of choices may seem like a good idea, but too many options can sap away enthusiasm and goodwill with decision making. Instead of worrying about a catalog or even fulfilling orders, sell mystery gift bags instead and minimize the selection to ribbon colors.
What you put in them is your choice and should depend on what you think your audience would be delighted to find for the price. It could be anything from a handmade scarf, hat, and glove sets to bible versus burned into wood plaques to goodie bags full of random treats. We suggest you decorate your bags or boxes decorated with several different colors so that there's no guessing.
Whether you're leading a youth group of teenagers or a mixed group of missionaries, big or small, the fundraising is a very important step. Most of all, you want to put together enough for the trip in a way that is fun for your team and makes your donors proud to be a part of.