Terrible & Funny Fundraising Stories, Winner gets a Free book!

We are running a fun quick contest this week. Use the comments below to leave your best terrible/funny, or both, fundraising stories. To the winner, which will be decided totally objectively by the YWM team on which story we found to be most intriguing, will win a copy of “A Spirituality of Fundraising” by Henri Nouwen newly printed by the UpperRoom. It’s a great read!

Check in all week for some fun & “oh my gosh” stories.

UPDATE: Our friends at UpperRoom are going to give us multiple copies of “Spirituality of Fundraising,” so that means multiple winners! Woo-Hoo!! More fun


  1. One of the first fundraisers I ever held (over 20 years ago now…yikes!) was a “Domino Topple-a-Thon” to raise funds for the general youth group budget and a summer trip they wanted to take. I was a huge fan of setting up and toppling down dominos as a kid, and I thought it would be fun to a) get donations of thousands of dominos and b) set them up all over the church and then c) topple them over. The idea was that we’d get donations based on the number that successfully tipped over on the first try. Sounds great, right?

    In reality, things were somewhat more complicated than that. First of all, it wasn’t exactly easy to get folks to part with their dominos, though we did get a few thousand – quite a few of which we ended up buying (which cut into our proceeds). Second, we quickly discovered that not everyone had the crucial skill of keeping their hands steady and their feet away from dominos already set up by others. So, we had to put lots and lots of “breaks” where there were no dominos, to be filled in by the best domino setter-uppers among us at the end. And finally, all of those dominos had to be counted at the end…which was not exactly what we wanted to do after spending hours setting them up.

    In the end, about 90 percent toppled successfully, we avoided major arguments, and we did raise a fair amount of money. More importantly, though, we spent a lot of time together laughing and bonding as a group, which was important since I was a fairly new and clueless youth leader. I don’t think I’d do that particular fundraiser again, but on the bright side I’ve still got a big box of dominos for my son to eventually play with!

    • haha! that’s awesome Tim! love it! very creative, which I’m not surprised coming from you.

    • Tim, I rememeber that fundraiser it was awesome!!!!! Didnt we also set them up like the methodistt symbol??? If I rememebercorrectly I think that I was one that caused us to start putting breaks. You were right it was fun. Not that our car washes werent too!!!!! EVERYTHING you did with us was fun. You always could come up with the most creative and crazy stuff!!!! The good old days! I MISS YOU!!!!!!!

      • Kim (Bailey) Pondelicek

        Tim, thank you for writing this down and bringing back such fond memories. I just shared your story with my family. It has been SO long, but we had some of my best childhood memories with your help. You will never know how much your involvement and participation in our youth ministry meant to each and everyone of us! Thank you for all the wonderful memories.

  2. We raised money for a small group of youth that would be going to Nicaragua for a 2 week mission trip. We decided to offer different incentives for individuals to give. $25 would get someone a post card from Nicaragua, $50 would get them a small trinket, and $100 would get them a beautiful painted pot. I thought this would be the first of several fundraisers, and since there were only a handful of students going I really didn’t think we would get very many $100 donations. Apparently, these pots were a hit and we raised nearly all of our money with this one fundraiser. While that was great, it meant that while in Nicaragua we were going to have to round up about 70 of these pots, pack them very carefully in our luggage, and transport them back home and distribute them. The entire time I was constantly purchasing pots, haggling for the best price (since this also dug into our profit), and tried to carry them everywhere…..many broke before we were even flying home! And, to make matters worse, at airport security in Nicaragua and the US, they insisted on opening the baggage, undoing the packaging and looking inside the pots. Surprisingly, we got enough pots home, the kids had room for their souvenirs as well, and still 4 years later people comment how happy they are with the beautiful hand painted pots.

  3. The dreaded chain! When i was in college, i visited my high school youth group often. So much so that I’m the youth pastor now! Anyways, one year to raise funds for the 30 hour famine we made a paper chain. It sounded like the best idea ever. Each chain link (an inch wide strip of paper looped and stapled by hand) represented a child that would die of hunger each day. I think we were selling the links for $0.25 each, but most of them were doubled. Well it was fun for the first hour of watching meet the parents at church and stapled loops together, but as far as i know the chain never got completed. We stretched it out in the sanctuary for everyone to see, and it circled the room over and over with extra still left in the back. The annoying thing was storing it. We had to build this custom cart that kept coming apart. The weight of all that paper was so massive that no one person could move this thing by themselves. And in the end, we had a huge truckload of paper that we had to recycle. This fundraiser made for a lot of memories, although all of them are not so positive. Thanks Vicky for trying the paper chain!

  4. More than 10 years ago a youth told me about a church that would put two flamingos in someones yard for a fundraiser. We decided that we needed more than just two, so we decided to purchase 100 plastic pink flamingos. But after talking with the flamingo company, we found out that it was cheaper to purchase a gross (144) of flamingos than just 100. Each year we would have a “flamingo season” that would last between 3-6 weeks where we would put 100 flamingos (more like 144) in someones yard during the night and leave a letter explaining they could choose the next church member that we would “flock” the next night and a giant sign reading “You Have Been Flocked by the Youth Ministry at…….”. If they liked, they could make a donation to our mission trip, but it wasn’t necessary. After a few weeks we trained the youth to go out themselves and we had very little adult volunteers needed. We had it down to a science, most of the time.

    Every once in a while the youth or adult volunteers that were flocking would run into a few snags and I would get a phone call in the middle of the night. Some calls were from the police asking if I knew the youth that were “caught” with flamingos driving slow in a neighborhood, sometimes it was a volunteer explaining how the youth had seen “an eye full” of the young married couple next door while delivering the birds in the night, and a few phone calls from inebriated people coming home asking if a church really did this.

    It took about 15 minutes to put the birds out, about 10 minutes to pick them up, and we at least twice made more in a week (about 3 hours total work) than we did in a carwash or cookie/magazine sale. Not only did we pay for a huge part of our mission trips, the church would always get attention from the local newspaper and television stations.

    In the “off season” we would put them out for a special occasion for $50 a night and we probably put them out once or twice a month the rest of the year. Probably on the best fundraisers the church did at that time. People still talk about “that church that had the flamingos” years later.

    If you want to know where to get cheap flamingos, let me know. Happy flocking.

  5. Very Cool Everyone!

    I actually have four copies to give to everyone who shared a story. So Tim, Eric, Chris & Emily if you would send me your address to my email gavoweb(at)gmail.com I’ll put your free copy of “A Spirituality of Fundraising” by Henri Nouwen in the mail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *