Let’s say it together: raising funds for bigger church initiatives can be scary.
You’re probably here because you’re scouring the internet looking for that perfect fundraising idea, right?
Maybe you’ve invested time in failed ideas in the past. Now, you’re looking for that ideal event or challenge that will encourage your congregation to open their wallets, fire up their smartphones, and start sending their donations your way.
If you’re part of a growth-oriented ministry looking for fundraising ideas for church building and growth, you’ve come to the right place – but probably not for the reasons you think. Let me just say that I’m glad you’re here!
I want to walk you through the critical factors that will revolutionize how your church raises money. From there, we can break down the best options for fundraising in both small and large churches, as well as some ideas to optimize and track your giving as you go along.
Fundraising vs. Tithing vs. Giving: Consider Your Terminology
When the money-raising process comes up in church, there are three distinct terms that are often thrown around: fundraising, tithing, and giving. Let’s consider each of these in a church context:
- Fundraising: This is the process of seeking specific support from both your congregation and third parties, typically through distinct events and initiatives.
- Tithing: This is the Biblical concept of honoring the Lord with a tenth or “tithe” of your income. The Dave Ramsey team adds, “The Bible explains that tithing is an important part of faith for those who follow God and that your tithe should be money you set aside first.”
- Giving: Also called offerings, giving follows the tithing concept but in the fundraising mold. It consists of Spirit-led giving in specific, individual amounts (read: not necessarily 10%) for certain events, causes, or needs. Generous giving is often in excess of 10% of a person’s income.
Do you see the differences here? Fundraising is a secular term that simply implies you’re seeking funding from donors, usually through organized events. For example, non-profits of all kinds fundraise.
In contrast, tithing is a Biblical principle built on honoring the Lord and trusting Him to meet your needs with the first fruits of your labor. Giving is similarly Holy Spirit inspired, but it takes place in specific moments and isn’t the same as the tithing principle.
Why do I point all of this out? Because I have to challenge you on something.
As a rule, church fundraisers are a terrible idea.
I realize that’s a strong point of view. But hear me out.
The Fundraising Trap
Fundraising in church, in a traditional sense, is a financial trap that too many small and mid-sized churches fall into.
Don’t believe me? Consider this.
Have you ever noticed that most megachurches and even larger churches never run fundraisers? They just don’t. Why is that?
The answer is actually a huge clue as to why these larger ministries are able to grow, even while the hundreds of small and mid-sized churches around them remain stuck and stagnant.
Growing churches realize that the fiscal priority shouldn’t be one-off money-raising events with a carousel of financial benchmarks in mind. It should be teaching people how to tithe and give from a Biblical perspective.
Not only does this better align with how we’re supposed to live our lives as Christians. It also scales in a way that bake sales and coupon campaigns simply can’t.
In contrast to healthy tithes and offerings, here are a few reasons fundraising gimmicks and initiatives are such a bad idea:
- They absorb a ridiculous amount of time and often steer people away from focusing on spiritual growth.
- They don’t teach individuals to experience the personal and sacrificial elements of tithing.
- They make people believe other people will fund the mission.
- They are a ton of work for very little return.
Regarding that last point, let me tell you a quick story…
A Personal Example of Fundraising vs. Tithing
I began my personal ministry serving as the pastor for three churches. These were tiny ministries that hadn’t grown in half a century, and I would minister by preaching a circuit on Sunday morning.
Here are the numbers in relation to this trio of tiny faith-based organizations:
- The first and smallest church had an average attendance of six and a budget of $4,000.
- The second church saw 14 people attend on a Sunday morning and had a budget of $15,000.
- The largest of the three churches had an average attendance of 23 and a budget of $20,000.
…and yes, those numbers represent the annual budgets – not a monthly or weekly budget. The smallest church raised $4000 a year. That’s what they were working with.
Not surprisingly, when I initially showed up, all three churches raised a lot of their money through fundraisers. They put on bake sales, rummage sales, bazaars, dinners – that kind of stuff.
Within a year of arriving as their new pastor, I asked one of the bake sale organizers how many cookies they needed for a sale.
“Several thousand,” she replied.
“And how much money will it raise?” I asked.
“About $300,” she answered.
“That’s a lot of cookies for very little money,” I replied.
I opened up a dialogue with the leaders of the church about shutting down the fundraisers and trying something else: tithing.
“What’s tithing?” they asked.
A fascinating dialogue ensued.
We shut down the fundraisers within a year of that conversation. By the time I wrapped up my ministry with those churches two decades later, we had raised $2.5 million dollars that year alone.
The method? Simple. People gave.
Okay, we’ve spent enough time on the terminology. But trust me when I say that this is really important.
It’s easy to dive into a resource like this expecting to walk away with your head full of exciting ideas for car washes and bottle drives. I’m not interested in leading you astray with those kinds of carrots and sticks, though.
If you want ideas for how to raise funds, I want to be honest with you with my suggestions.
You aren’t going to build a new building with a bake sale. You won’t fund a major initiative with a theater night.
Don’t get me wrong. Those are could be fun community-building events. But are they really going to move your mission forward? Don’t think so.
If you want to truly tap into the financial resources of your congregation to build the Kingdom of God, though, you have to treat fundraising as something bigger than gimmicky events.
You have to teach tithing and look for the givers who will go above and beyond.
So, I’ll continue to use the terms “fundraising” and “giving” interchangeably just to keep things simple and understandable. And to hopefully help change your mind.
But know that I’m not talking about the small stuff. These are real, powerful strategies. They’re super-charged fundraising ideas for church building.
Alright, let’s dig in.
How to Use Tithing to Fund Your Ministries, Buildings, and More
Why do churches raise funds? You’re probably already aware of this question and have at least part of the answer. That’s why you’re here, right?
Churches use donations to fund ministry, beef up a church building fund, empower outreach efforts, and even build a new building or campus. These are the surface-level answers. But there are deeper reasons that raising funds within your church is a good idea.
The Role of Fundraising
The non-profit nature of a church naturally means there will be a need for generous and consistent giving.
Smart Church Solutions estimates the average annual cost for general maintenance, utilities, and janitorial services for an American church to be between $5.25 and $7.50 per square foot.
To translate that into a real-world example, a small church with a 5,000-square-foot facility is looking at paying around $31,875 per year just to keep the lights on and the building in good working order.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t even take into account any capital improvements on the property, let alone the many different outreaches, missions, and initiatives that churches invest in outside of their physical locations.
Additional Benefits of Increased Giving
Along with the need to cover basic operations, fundraising, and especially tithing, funnels your congregation’s Biblical call to give toward constructive, Christ-centered causes.
Giving at church also helps individuals confront the easily overlooked issue of greed. Some years ago, Tim Keller pointed out the lack of awareness around greed that’s part of the awkward relationship between money and the church.
The call to give counteracts that tendency.
The ability to financially support other things outside of our personal lives has a powerful impact beyond the money itself. It helps build community and fosters a sense of togetherness in your church culture.
As you review the fundraising ideas for church building below, remember the reasons you’re raising funds. You aren’t part of the Boy Scouts of America or a political campaign.
Your calling is bigger. Much bigger.
Giving Strategies to Fund Buildings and Capital Campaigns
You want to think of bigger giving strategies when it comes to constructing a church building. In fact, you want to invest much more upfront time in building a solid online strategy before you put anything into motion.
When you take on a capital campaign for a mid to large-sized church, it usually requires a significant amount of money above and beyond tithes. (We’re talking about the kind that can cost hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars and would need several billion cookies based on my bake sale analogy.)
When that’s the case, you want to look for over-and-above giving. Rather than focus on fundraising events, you want to craft a call to sacrifice for your members and attendees.
Throughout this message, you don’t want the emphasis to be equal gifts but equal sacrifice. This is the reverse application of the lesson from the Widow’s Two Mites story at the beginning of Luke 21. In the same way that the poverty-stricken woman gave according to her means, you want to encourage your congregation to look inwardly and let the Holy Spirit lead them in their giving.
Planning a Larger Capital Campaign
When orchestrating a larger capital campaign, such as opening a new campus or figuring out how to raise money for church-building fund efforts, you want to take the time to lay the groundwork.
Often, this kind of initiative means you’re aiming to raise one to three times your regular annual giving, depending on the length of the campaign and the nature of the project. With such a big number as your target, it’s best to start by hiring a consultant.
An experienced professional can guide you through the multi-month preparation process. (I would plan on at least six to eight months). They can also help you stay on track as you launch and then oversee what will likely be a fundraising campaign that lasts multiple years.
There are specific giving approaches that lend themselves to larger churches, as well. Here are a few elite fundraising ideas for church building that scale with a larger organization:
- Larger events: Certain events, such as galas, auctions, and community festivals, scale well and can fit into an effective donor development plan.
- Online Donations: Technology has left physical donations in the dust. You can quickly scale how attendees and external donors alike can contribute to a cause via online platforms.
- Automated Giving: We already do it for the mortgage and the utility bill. Putting giving on auto-pilot is also a great way to create a sustainable, predictable income baseline for a church.
- Appeal Well: Sometimes, all you need to do is make an appeal to your church members. If you do so, use the HACC method (detailed further down) and time each appeal to avoid exhausting or annoying your listeners.
- Email Campaigns: It’s easy to forget about a verbal announcement, but everyone checks their email. Send out emails along with details, resources, and donation links.
If you want to fundraise as a larger church, look for activities that complement and enhance your ministry’s existing giving activity.
How to Boost Fundraising Success
As you lay your strategies and consider the different fundraising ideas for church building that you have available, here are two essential tips to boost your fundraising success. These will help you increase engagement and ensure that whatever way you choose to raise money, it’s as successful as possible.
The HACC Method
Any fundraising effort in the 21st century is going to come with a lot of content creation – especially in the digital arena. As you craft emails and create social posts, use the HACC method. The acronym stands for:
- Heart: Communicate from the heart to open doors and stir emotions.
- Audience: Always consider who you’re talking to and how to speak to them effectively.
- Create: Don’t be afraid to unleash your creativity as you look for unique ways to capture people’s attention and encourage them to act.
- Captivate: Captivating content that’s memorable draws attention to your giving initiatives.
Use a HACC approach to create content that resonates with your audience.
Invest in Digital Giving
Let me tell you something. Passing a plate is no longer an effective way to raise funds.
I don’t care what kind of congregation you have or how they prefer to give. If you want a fundraiser (or even weekly tithing, for that matter) to be successful, you have to equip your ministry with modern digital tools to enable donors to give generously.
This starts with a digital giving platform. Software like online giving portals and text-to-give tools are excellent. It’s also good to look for an automated giving feature.
Once everything is set up, educate your attendees on how to use your digital giving setup and all of its features. Whether it’s weekly tithes or recurring support for an ongoing initiative, we already automate the rest of our personal budgets. Why not do the same for giving?
How to Track Fundraising Success
You should never fly blind when raising funds. The last thing you want to do is invest huge amounts of time into a fundraiser that doesn’t work …and then do it again next year because you didn’t realize that fact.
Start by identifying important metrics. Fundraising goals are the obvious item to start with here. Take the time to size up real needs and then set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) that you can achieve.
Additional church success metrics to consider are ongoing church needs, monthly donor numbers, and even your “budget pie” (i.e., the percentage of funds going into investing in your surrounding community).
Make sure the giving tools you use allow you to track analytics, too. Seeing how your campaign progresses and what events or messages lead to greater donor activity can be helpful in guiding future campaign efforts and investments.
Finding Effective Giving Ideas for Church Building
As we wrap things up, remember my original point.
Church fundraisers (as traditionally perceived) are a really bad idea.
Don’t drink the Kool-aid. Resist the urge to call up your grandmother and see if she still has her cheesecake recipe. Save that call for Christmas.
Instead, invest in thoughtful, targeted, and effective fundraising concepts.
Start by teaching healthy tithing habits. Encourage Spirit-led giving, too.
Then align your fundraising efforts with these principles to unleash a new era of financial blessing and growth for your congregation and its Kingdom-focused activities.
Increase Giving and Fully Fund Your Mission—Regardless of Where You’re at Now.
When it comes to money conversations with your church, my guess is that you want the outcome (margin in your budget and a generous congregation) without the process (having to raise funds and talk about it).
The Art of Building a Generous Congregation is a proven method for increasing giving, creating a culture of generosity, and building financial margin at your church… without the stress and awkwardness.
Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about money right now.
Even if you’ve never seen your congregation fully engage with that kind of conversation.
Even if you’ve tried other methods without success.
And yes, especially, if you could make a bigger difference by increasing your budget by 20%, 30%, or even 40%.