One of the coolest things that I inherited at the church I work at is a fundraiser called the “Youth Auction”. Over the next few days on this site, I’ll try to give youth workers everything they need to know about how to pull off a quality auction. (Props to my friend, Jake, for suggesting this post.)
First – a disclaimer. I HATE FUNDRAISERS! They are a nuisance. If there was one thing that could drive me away from youth ministry (other than dumb parents) it would be fundraisers. Philosophically, I think they have no place in churches. If the church thinks it’s a good idea for youth to go on a mission trip, it should be covered in the budget…just like all the other expenses of the church. If youth have to wash cars, bake pizzas, mow lawns, etc. so they can go on a church trip then the Altar Guild should have to do a bunch of bake sales and rummage sales so they can buy candles and communion wine.
All that said, the reality is that fundraising remains a necessary evil in 21st century youth ministry. If you have to generate funds for your ministry, the best way to do it is by having events that bring the congregation together. Any organization (secular or sacred) can sell you stuff you don’t need…but not every organization allows an opportunity for Christian fellowship and an actualization of the individual gifts within your congregation, all while raising a ridiculous amount of money for your youth ministry.
Let’s start with your purpose for the event. The primary goal of this event is to create community – NOT to raise money. If you stray from this purpose, you won’t end up raising money or creating community. At that point, you’re back to looking at bake sales, car washes, and other lame projects that generate significantly fewer funds for your ministry.
You start by asking some of the core active members of your congregation to consider their spiritual gifts. “What are you good at and what do you like to do?” Once they have figured this out, ask them to think of one way they could use those gifts for the Auction.
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
- Jean loves to cook and has a beautiful formal dining room in her house. She offers a “Fancy Dinner for 4 people” at her house for people to bid on at the Auction
- John’s wood carvings win 1st prize at the State Fair every year. He offers a handmade bird carving.
- Lisa offers to bake 2 dozen cookies each month for a year.
- Larry offers 4 hours of yard work
- Jim & Tina are empty nesters. They offer “overnight babysitting”.
Once you have 6-8 quality items lined up, put those on a sign-up sheet and post several dozen blanks below it for others to write their donated item(s). Do this at least 1 month before the event. Put announcements on your website, bulletin, newsletter, email lists, etc. for people to donate their items. One thing I’ve learned, especially when starting something new – don’t post a blank sign-up sheet. Few people (especially Midwest protestants) want to go out on a limb and be the first to sign up for something they don’t know much about. However, if people see some of the more active members of the congregation are supporting the Auction, they’re more likely to jump on board.
All for now. Later, I’ll let you know what you need to do in the days leading up to the Auction (part 2), what happens during the Auction (part 3), and how to put the finishing touches on the event.