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26 Faith-Based Fundraising Ideas: Fundraisers for Churches, Communities, and Congregations

July 10, 2022
6 minutes

Whatever your beliefs, and whether you belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque (or worship at the altar of Mother Nature), we’re all united by our faith in the importance of doing good and giving back. Alas, good intentions alone won’t keep the lights on, and gone are the days when passing the collection plate once a week was enough to pay the bills. From funding mission trips to feeding the hungry, many faith organizations today further their cause through fundraising—which is why we’re gathered here today.

For faith communities, fundraising needs to balance fun and meaning. You want community members to get excited and get involved, but you also want your fundraising activities to resonate with your values. That’s a lot of pressure, but it can be done! So, sit back and put your faith in Funraise. It’s time for some miraculous faith-based fundraising—and here, everyone is welcome.

  1. Dedicate a seat. In the days of yore, churches used to sell pews to wealthy congregants to raise money. While giving your wealthier members the best seats in the house doesn’t come across as kosher these days, selling seat dedications is a great way to honor members of your community while raising funds for your congregation. You can add small engraved, personalized plaques to the bottom of each seat.
  2. Faith community bake sale. Celebrate the values that unite us all (quick reminder: those include advancing equity and serving the greater good) by partnering with nearby places of worship for One Bake Sale to Rule Them All. Encourage congregation members to make tasty treats that speak to their heritage; then, print out each baked good’s backstory and include a copy with purchase. At the end of the event, divide up the profits equally. We sure do love a good community-centric fundraiser!
  3. Babysitting. After services, offer your expert babysitting services for a few hours while your parent-members head out for Sunday brunch or Friday dinner. Trust us: guaranteed childcare will always pay off.
  4. Iftar dinner. After a day of fasting, everyone looks forward to iftar, the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. Hosting a celebratory iftar dinner is a great way to raise money and bring the community together. You can also invite visitors of other faiths to join you, using it as an opportunity to raise more funds, teach about Ramadan and Islam, and showcase your most delectable dishes. Pass the qatayef asafiri, please!
  5. Decorate a dreidel. Purchase enough plain wooden dreidels for a crowd and provide the supplies for the kids in your congregation (and the kids at heart!) to make ‘em shine! Encourage the artists in your congregation to make some, too. After, you can raffle the tiny masterpieces off to the highest bidders.
  6. Days of giving campaign. Whether it’s eight days of giving for Hanukkah, 30 for Ramadan, or a whopping 40 days for Lent, run a social media campaign that coincides with a holiday or season that’s meaningful to you. Also, be sure to provide non-monetary options for those that can't afford to donate daily. Acts of kindness or time spent volunteering are others ways to keep the giving train choo-chooing.
  7. Irish breakfast. This St. Patrick’s Day, host a full Irish breakfast fundraiser instead of the usual soda bread and corned beef dinner. Invite community members who don’t attend your church to sample some bubble and squeak and join in on the fun!
  8. Mehndi (henna) party. Host a mehndi party at a local park and invite members of your temple and members of the general public. Donations can be based on the size and intricacy of the design. Take the opportunity to educate guests on the origins of mehndi and consider serving traditional street foods to really make it a celebration.
  9. Faith-based festival. If you’ve got the resources, holding a big festival and inviting the whole town is a great way to raise money for your congregation. A Buddhist temple might have a calligrapher writing attendees’ names on rice paper, while a synagogue might teach guests how to dance the Hora. Have plenty of entertainment, lots of activities for every age, educational opportunities, and, of course, lots and lots of food.
  10. Candle-making workshop. At many churches, candles symbolize prayers, and a candle sale is a popular fundraiser. Make your candle fundraiser a bit more hands-on by hosting a candle-making workshop in exchange for donations.
  11. Coffee shop. If services start early, sell coffee and treats to get the day started on the right foot. If someone knows how to make a latte, you’ll really be raking in the dough(nuts). For the Mormons out there, just make it decaf.
  12. Indulgence day. Whether you’re fasting for Ramadan or giving up sugar for Lent, an indulgence day is a great way to indulge in what you’ve sacrificed together. Post-Passover, we have a feeling that everyone would pay a small fortune to enjoy an all-you-care-to-eat leavened bread buffet.
  13. Sukkot showcase. Work with local architects and architecture students in your town to build creative sukkahs (outdoor huts covered in plants and vegetables). Display them in a local park for the week following Sukkot and let visitors bid on their favorites. It’s like getting an extra-awesome playhouse that the whole family can enjoy!
  14. Family kits. Encourage some screen-free quality family time by selling easy craft kits that the whole family can enjoy. Include materials to make natural inks, the pre-cut wood for a birdhouse, or all the fixings for easy homemade playdough. The options are endless!
  15. Obon festival. In Japan, everyone looks forward to the Obon festival each July. If you ask us, this traditional festival honoring one’s ancestors needs to make its way stateside more often. Buddhist temples can host their own Obon festival, complete with taiko drumming, traditional dances, and bonfires. You can charge admission and also sell paper lanterns for guests to buy in remembrance of their ancestors.
  16. Congregant concert. Sell tickets for anyone and everyone to listen to your church choir or join in on some bhajans. After all, music is the great uniter!
  17. Sunday (or Saturday!) school crafts. Even your youngest members can lend a tiny hand to your fundraising efforts if you use childcare during services as crafting sessions. Have the kiddos make wall art, decorate picture frames, or paint tote bags. And no need for quality control with this art sale: we have a feeling parents will buy it no matter what.
  18. Communal cookbook. Invite every member of your congregation to submit their favorite recipe. Then, invite the kids to illustrate each one. Sell the delicious and hilarious results in a communal cookbook. You could also consider an official launch party fundraiser: everyone cooks their featured recipe to share.
  19. Ornament sale. Whether it’s Christmas ornaments or Festivus ornaments, everyone loves adding some new and meaningful adornments to their tree each holiday season. You can encourage members to donate lightly used ornaments or make their own to sell.
  20. Appetizer picnic. Get outside and get fundraising by hosting an hors d’oeuvre picnic for the whole congregation. Everyone brings their favorite fancy finger food; you supply lots of blankets, lawn games, and festive beverages. You can also just give the people what they want and make it a BYO cheese party.
  21. Diwali festival. Diwali is celebrated by over a billion people worldwide, so why not host a festival of lights for the whole town this year? Serve sweet and savory traditional dishes, sell sparklers (just make sure it’s legal!), teach guests how to draw rangolis, and, at the end of the night, release lanterns into the sky.
  22. Read-a-thon. Get your younger members reading and learning by organizing a peer-to-peer fundraising challenge. You give the kiddos a list of books that resonate with your values, and they solicit pledges for every 10 pages they read. For every book they finish, there’s bound to be a bonus.
  23. Flower art. Whatever your belief system, we all have our own ways of appreciating nature’s beauty, and a flower art fundraiser is a perfect way to welcome spring with your community. Host a by-donation flower crown how-to, wreath-making crash course, or ikebana lesson. After, attendees can take home their works of art or donate them to brighten your space.
  24. Holiday decoration help. Finding it hard to mount that giant inflatable menorah on the roof this year? Never fear–help is here! Get your strongest congregants to volunteer their time to help decorate members’ homes for the holidays. Then, get your most artistic congregants to make some super-snazzy custom decorations to really up the fundraising potential.
  25. Children’s holidays. Many religions have special holidays for children—and we know from experience that parents will take any excuse to get the kids out of the house. Whether it’s the Shinto holiday Shichigosan or International Children’s Day, embrace holidays that celebrate our wee ones with a fundraiser for all the kids in your congregation. Be sure to include plenty of games and snacks while also honoring your traditions and beliefs.
  26. Family photobooth. Encourage everyone to dress up and rent a photobooth for memorable family photos. This works especially well before the holidays, when many families have festive cards on their minds. Don’t forget to bring plenty of props!

Benefits of faith-based fundraising

If you want to keep the faith and keep things running smoothly, fundraising is vital. At the same time, it’s a lot of work. So, it can be helpful to remember why you’re asking your community members to give. Here are just a few reasons.

Cultivate a broader community

You love your faith community, but fundraising events allow you to connect with the larger community and welcome them into the fold. Regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, we’re all in this together, and spreading the love—while supporting your cause—is what it’s all about.

Honor member achievements

At any place of worship, there are members who put in that extra time and effort to do good. Fundraising events are a wonderful opportunity to recognize their contributions in a meaningful and impactful way.

Hear from the people

As times change and patterns shift, it’s more important than ever for faith communities to listen to their members. What are they looking for in a place of worship? What are you doing right? What could be better? Fundraising events allow you to connect with your members person-to-person and plan for the future with their needs in mind.

Connect to the kiddos

Sometimes, young people aren’t as into church, synagogue, or any required weekend activity as we might like them to be. But fundraising events are a great way to get the younger generation involved and amped up.

Tips for faith-based fundraising

A lot of faith-based organizations worry about appearing too money-centric when it comes to fundraising. Still, they have programs to run, outreach to do, and a community to support. Happily, you can both fundraise and uphold your mission. Here are some tips you can believe in.

  • Focus on the impact. Giving additional money to an organization for which you already pay dues or donate can feel like a big ask. Be sure to emphasize how these funds will benefit your organization, whether it’s updating a building or supporting a new program.
  • Emphasize your volunteer needs, too. Some folks don’t have any extra funds to spare, but they still have a lot to contribute. Ask for money, ask for ideas, ask for hours. Make sure everyone feels welcome and needed.
  • Bring in the whole community. Your congregation is a wonderful source of funds, but the giving doesn’t have to stop there. By hosting fun, welcoming events for all ages, you can bring in money from outside your congregation.
  • Be transparent about your fundraising and budget. Your members are more likely to donate if they know those funds are being wisely and carefully. Annual reports and regular updates can go a long way to building trust.
  • Consider committees. If you’re short-staffed, organizing members into committees who are then responsible for their own fundraising can save your staff many hours and many headaches.
  • Give back to other causes. Part of being a person of faith is supporting others in need. Don’t forget about other causes that need your help. For example, you could feature a different local nonprofit or family in need each week in your program.
  • Plan for the full year. With faith-based fundraising, a lot of events will coincide with holidays and holy days. Depending on your religion, that can lead to a squeeze during certain times of the year. Planning for the full calendar year can help you balance your budget, stay realistic, and stay accountable.

Faith-based fundraising ideas: FAQs

What are some fundraising ideas for small churches or other places of worship?

If you’re a small but mighty faith community, focus on smaller fundraising events that don’t require as much time and resources—think movie nights, raffles, and communal meals. Additionally, you can encourage non-members to get involved in fundraising efforts by opening your fundraising events up to the community and conducting peer-to-peer fundraisers.

What are some easy fundraising ideas?

The easiest fundraisers require a minimal amount of planning and a lot of help from the community. Focus on crowdfunding and stay away from big parties—those can really suck up your resources.

How do you raise money for synagogue, mosque, or church construction projects?

For a big, one-time expense, a capital campaign is your go-to, and you might want to invest in a consultant. You’ll need to plan out your capital campaign carefully, including setting a financial goal, assembling a team, and determining your deadline. But all that hard work will be worth it when you have a shiny, leak-free roof.

What are some ways for my organization to raise money during COVID?

When another COVID surge strikes, take your fundraising online or outdoors. With a Zoom account and a social media strategy, you can share your efforts even farther and wider than you could IRL.

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