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20 Ways to Fundraise for Your Mission Trip During a Pandemic

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by D.J. Morgan D.J. helps connect people to opportunities to love and serve others like Jesus as a member of the creative and marketing team at Experience Mission.

If you’re planning a mission trip for next Fall (or next year) your fundraising efforts can’t simply stop because of a global pandemic. 90% of Experience Mission's IMMERSION team members fundraise for the cost of their trip, and completing their goal it is often the sum total of many different efforts and strategies over the course of months. That’s why we’ve kicked into high gear with our fundraising ideas, doing everything we can to help mission trip team members be creative within the limitations of stay at home orders or bans on large gatherings. Below is the list of all of our best ideas from this season. Hopefully, future team members won’t be forced to fundraise from the isolation of their own home, but if that’s still the case for you, we hope this list is helpful and encouraging!


Online Fundraising Ideas


1. Adopt-A-Box

One of the most effective fundraisers we’ve seen is also one you can do anytime! Using social media or email, ask donors to “Adopt” one or more boxes on a grid, donating the amount equal to the number in the box. We’ve provided some example grids that you can use to share on social media, and check off when people claim boxes or make donations. We recommend picking a timeline (2-3 weeks) during which people can join. Update followers regularly on the progress of your grid!

BONUS IDEA: Make it a raffle! The row number that a donation is made in is the number of times a person’s name is entered in the drawing. Pick a clear end date to enter the raffle and pick a great prize for the winner.

2. Video Call Competition

Give your friends something fun to do in these “already watched everything on Netflix” times! Set up a video call “Lip-Sync Battle”, Dance Off, or Trivia Night! Set a date and time (with entrance to the competition coming at the price of a donation toward your trip), and send out the details and rules for the competition. For a Lip-Sync Battle or Dance Off, simply take turns showing off your skills in front of your computer for the virtual audience, then have all competitors text in their votes (or send a private chat message) to pick a winner. The best part is laughing together as you make fools of yourselves in your living room. Don’t forget a good prize for the winner!

3. Sell T-Shirts

This is a fundraiser that can be done entirely online! It also provides people with a tangible item they can use to feel connected to your trip. You can work with a company to design a custom shirt or design your own. Then, collect online orders and mail them to your supporters —all while keeping an appropriate distance.

TIP: Our T-shirt fundraising friends over at Fund The Nations are still going ahead full-speed and can get you started today!

4. Rock-A-Thon / Telethon / Game-A-Thon

We may all be at home right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel disconnected. Create a personal challenge for yourself (like rocking in a chair for 12 hours, walking 10 miles, or bouncing a basketball outside), then get your friends and family to make pledges to support this feat. Cast the entire event over Facebook/Instagram Live for accountability and to make everyone feel included.

TIP: Get your family or roommates involved! Consider asking another relative or friend to offer commentary or play-by-play for the event to make it more engaging for friends and family who tune in.

5. Make a Video

If you haven’t yet recorded a short video of yourself talking about your upcoming trip, now’s a perfect time! It’s a proven fact that people are more likely to give when they hear you personally talking about why the trip is important to you. Take a couple of minutes to record yourself talking about your upcoming trip—what excites you about it, what you hope to gain from the experience, and why you need the support of others. Then share your video on social media with a link to your sponsorship profile. You’ll be amazed at how excited people are just to see your face in this time apart!

6. Instagram / Zoom AMA

It’s been said that “people give to people,” and nothing will encourage people to donate more than hearing you talk about your trip and why it’s important to you. So, take this time at home to do an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) about your trip! Collect questions on an Instagram Stories question sticker and post your answers as individual stories or set up a ZOOM call or live video where anyone can join to ask questions about your trip. Make sure people know how your fundraising is going and how they can donate. Your friends and family are likely looking for ways to help others, and you’re giving them a great opportunity.

7. “Pay to Play” Live Video

This idea came from 2020 IMMERSION team member Dani Allen! She said, “My siblings and I came up with the idea to raise money by having people pay to ‘do something’ to one of us. Like getting a pie in the face or having an egg cracked over our heads. We planned a live stream and just started posting on Facebook to get people involved. We had a whole list of things people could pay for: water balloons ($5), a spoonful of hot sauce ($10), an egg cracked over the head ($10), pie in the face ($15), a bucket of ice water ($50), Koolaid hair dye ($75), and a sardine smoothie ($100)—which, by the way, was DISGUSTING. Overall, I raised about $850, and a few people also said they would send in checks. It was very easy to pull off and a fun way to just get people involved. Most anyone can do it, and it’s even better if they can get their family or a group of friends to do it with them.” Check out the recording of Dani’s live video!


“Socially Distanced” Fundraising Ideas


8. Support Letters

If you haven’t written a support letter yet, do this first! Support letters are one the easiest and most effective ways to fundraise for a mission trip. It’s also easy to do at home right now! If you’ve never written a support letter, the structure is simple: 1) update people on your life, 2) let people know about the trip and what you hope to gain from the experience, 3) share how people can support you (financially and emotionally/spiritually). Check out our example support letter!

9. Mask Making

Most of us could use more face masks—at least something better than the bandana or scarf we’ve used so far! If you’re handy with a sewing machine, everyone is on the lookout for a face covering to wear around town or to the store, and many people would be happy to donate to your trip in exchange for a homemade mask. Order your supplies online or head to the local craft store for fabric and elastic. Find a pattern online and get started!

10. Yard Work

Never has everyone spent so much time looking at their yard and wishing it looked better. Print out a flier to leave on people’s front porch (or knock on doors), offering to do any yard work they’d like to get done in exchange for a donation toward your trip. Most people have something in mind they’ve been meaning to get around to but would rather pay someone else to do! To keep your distance during the money exchange, give them the link to your donation profile or Venmo @name in your flier or allow people to write a check and leave it on the porch for you when you’re done.

11. Porch Portraits

If you have photography skills, ask people if they would be willing to make a donation to your trip in exchange for taking a family photo of them on their porch or in their yard. It’s a way you can still practice social distancing if necessary, but help people document this unique season through a semi-professional photo. Consider having a suggested donation amount or range. A great family photo is worth a lot to most families!

12. Washing Cars

Most people are home right now, so it’s a great time to go door to door with your soap bucket and scrub brush of choice, offering to wash cars for donations toward your trip. Like the Yard Work idea above, you can keep your distance while accepting donations by providing a link to your donation profile in a flier, sharing your Venmo @name, or allowing people to write a check and leave it on the porch for you when you’re done. Make your neighbors’ days with a clean car as you open up the door for them to support you on your upcoming trip.

13. Card Making

While time seems to stand still in the middle of coronavirus, the calendar marches on. With it comes holidays and birthdays we typically celebrate together but may not be able to this year. If you’re handy with paper, scissors, stamps, or a paintbrush, get yourself into the handmade card business! Craft stores are fully open so supplies are readily available. In exchange for any size donation toward your trip, make a card for the giver to send to a loved one for an upcoming occasion. Drop cards off to givers in person or send them in the mail.

14. Sell Coffee

Contact a local coffee roaster and ask about a special deal for selling coffee on their behalf or through a bulk order. Then, charge a little more for the coffee and sell it to friends, family, classmates, or co-workers as a fundraiser. You’ll be giving your community a chance to not only support you but also support a local business who may be facing financial hardships in light of local business shutdowns.


Events / “Plan for the Future” Fundraising Ideas


15. Yard Sale

People are home and cleaning things out! If you have a space to store things like an empty garage or covered backyard porch, get the word out that people can bring their used items to you! Your friends and neighbors may also be willing to hold onto their Yard Sale donations until you’re ready for them in a month or 2 when we’re able to get out and about again. Read our full “Yard Sale” How-To Guide.

TIP: Put up a sign in front of your garage asking for Yard Sale item donations from neighbors and people driving by. Something simple, like, “Help Me Fundraise for My Trip! Now accepting yard sale item donations for a summer sale. Just leave items by the garage!”

16. Movie Night

Pick a summer Saturday night, the best movie you can think of, and make an event out of it! Set up a projector in your backyard or go all out for snacks and drinks for a movie in your living room. Charge a “make a donation toward my trip” entrance fee and give people the opportunity to be generous in exchange for a fun night. Start planning and get the word out now to build excitement! We may only be able to meet in smaller groups this summer, but this could be a fun night with friends after being separated in our homes for so long.

17. Host a Tournament

Get something on the calendar that people can get excited about! A $30-$50 donation could get them into your tournament—softball, whiffle ball, kickball, ping pong—while including a free hot dog and/or drinks during the tourney. Do you play online games? Do your tournament now! Entice your gamer friends with a great prize and set up a Saturday tournament for everyone to participate in from the comfort of their own beanbag chair. Not into sports or online games? Get creative! Compete with a photo scavenger hunt, board games, or movie trivia.

18. Cook-Off

This competition fundraiser idea is delicious and fun! Invite your friends to compete in a good ol’ fashioned cook-off of your food of choice! Easy go-to’s include: soup, chili, or dessert treats. Charge a competition entry fee (and a taster fee for everyone attending just to eat) and make a trophy or small prize for the winning chef. If you set up your event now, your friends will have some time to perfect their recipe before showing it off in a month or so when larger groups can congregate together.

19. Lemonade Stand

As the weather warms up and people start venturing outside again, go old school and sell lemonade on your street! If you want to really catch people’s eye, build yourself a classic lemonade stand and hang out in your front yard for an entire afternoon (or 2). You can tell people about your trip while brightening the days of your neighbors who haven’t spoken to many friendly strangers in months. Like always, we recommend going “donation only” which encourages people to give way more than a cup of lemonade is normally worth!

TIP: If your neighbors might be scared off by an open container of liquid, you can sell pre-packaged drinks out of a cooler or “ready-made” lemonade in a cup, using powdered lemonade or lemon juice and sugar that just needs some water at home.

20. Backyard BBQ

As soon as you can gather in groups, make your backyard BBQ the first thing on people’s social calendars! Grab some bulk hot dogs or hamburgers (along with some chips, corn on the cob, watermelon, or anything else you love) and charge a “donation toward my trip” ticket to your backyard (or front yard or deck) party. We’re all craving these sorts of social hangouts, and, again, you’re giving people a way to give and help others, which they may have been missing these last couple months. The sun is coming and the restrictions are lifting, so get planning!

There are dozens of ways to fundraise and every person and group ends up finding the ideas that work best for them. We hope these ideas spark some creativity in you and help you feel like fundraising is possible, even in the middle of this crazy season.

Learn more about bringing your group on a 1-2 week mission trip or joining a 1-9 IMMERSION program around the world!


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