Putting on a fundraiser can be daunting, frustrating and overwhelming. Or… It can be awesome. After speaking and singing at 400+ Young Life fundraisers I’ve seen it all.
Here’s my top 10 list, ranking what things are most important to focus on when you are striving to ‘up your fundraiser game’ (ranked from least important to most important). Drum roll, please!!!
10. PROGRAM. Good program characters can add the YL flavor to a fundraiser, but be careful because skits and games can end up being huge ‘time suckers’ which can be counter to a tight event. If you do it- Make it great!
9. FOOD. It’s important to make your fundraiser feel inviting, but don’t spend a gajillion dollars on food! Most people just want to have something good and simple. Go for elegance over extravagance.
8. A/V. Invest in a sound system that suits the needs of the venue and hire a pro to run it. It is worth it, I promise!! If you are using videos, make sure you have the A/V person practice showing them several times over before the event. How many times have you been to a banquet where the video failed? My answer… WAY too many.
7. VENUE. Choose a place that facilitates great communication with your guests. Outdoor venues can be great, but they also come with the biggest risks: uncertain weather, sound issues, etc. That is stressful!! Choose a place that is right for the size and ‘feel’ for your audience. Also, it’s often overlooked, but lighting matters! Ambiance matters! People will focus and enjoy themselves much more when you have cozy lighting with a spot lit stage.
6. CONNECTION TIME. YL fundraisers can be one of the greatest ways to bring a community together. Make sure you carve out time for people to mingle, laugh and connect as a community!
5. SPEAKER. I’ve been the ‘keynote speaker’ for most of my 400 plus fundraisers, but I’ve also attended plenty of YL banquets as a guest, and I can tell you this for sure… Who you choose to speak and ask for involvement and financial support matters! A great speaker will not only engage your guests, but they will also take the opportunity to share the gospel and inspire them to get involved and give (in the form of invitation, not obligation). When you hire a ‘professional’ to cast the YL vision and ask for involvement and funding, it almost always translates into more engagement and more money pledged. That’s a fact, Jack (Just ask ‘Ash’☺)!
4. STAFF Presentation. Other than the kids you are ministering to, who do guests want to hear from the most? YOU! They want to hear where you’ve been, where you are and where you are going so they can get a vision for what you are building in your area. ‘Area updates’ can either be a boring numbers ‘blah, blah, blah’ or an opportunity to inspire your guests with ‘God stories’ and amazing accounts of Him moving in your area!!
3. TIMING of the Night. You may be surprised this is #3, but timing is essential! I’ve been a part of too many fundraisers that go way too long. If your guests run out of the room when your banquet is over (or even before it ends), you probably went too long and lost out on a big opportunity. You’ll know you’ve timed it right when your guests linger after the final ‘thank you’ has been said. 1.5 - 2 hours in length is the ‘sweet spot.’
2. KIDS! When people are deciding to support a ministry, they want to see who they are supporting. If you are able, do whatever you can to get kids involved. You can do this with kids welcoming guests, serving dinner, sharing individual stories at dinner tables, cardboard testimonies, etc. Also, individual kid testimonies can be the most powerful and compelling part of a fundraiser, so invest time and work into training kids on how to share their stories effectively. Kids are key!! They are only 2nd to #1 and that is….
1. JESUS. Of course I was going to say this! He is the reason you give your life to serving in this mission. Fundraisers are a unique opportunity to share Jesus with so many who may not have otherwise heard about His transforming love. You have already ‘earned the right to be heard’ with many parents and supporters because you have spent your life giving to their kiddos. Invite Jesus into every detail and the rest will follow.
In conclusion, my biggest advice is this... Keep. It. Simple.
Go for ‘sleek,’ avoid ‘clunky,’ and make sure Jesus is the lens through which all is communicated. If you do that, you will have successfully ‘upped your fundraiser game’.
Jonah Werner is an award winning musician and speaker who has played music for YL all around the world. He’s done 33 month-long YL assignments and has a deep passion for the mission. You can bring Jonah to your area fundraiser! He speaks, entertains with music and story and is a professional at asking for involvement and funding. His hope is to ‘take the work out of the fundraiser for you! Contact him at http://www.jonahwerner.com You won’t be disappointed!!
Also, see what other staff are saying about Jonah as a YL banquet speaker HERE.