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9 Simple Ways to Raise Money and Engage Your Community
By: Bethe Ferguson

Are you looking for new profit-packed ideas for fundraising?

While tried-and-true festivals and one-to-one sales will always be key money-makers, there are other ways to inspire the awe factor and bump up contributions.

Fun foods set the mood, remind parents of wonderful memories, and build a sense of community. They are the perfect pairings with most fundraising activities with low food costs to help you keep more money—most average 70% to 80% profit margins.

But don't forget the KIS Principle. Keep it simple by focusing on profitable items that are proven money makers (e.g., popcorn and gourmet corn flavors, nachos, cotton candy, or hot dogs).

There are countless creative tweaks and new flavor combinations you can add—using your existing machine or one that has multiple uses—to keep your overhead low.

The nine profit-packed ideas below will also help you connect with families and the neighborhood.

Be sure to ask your committee members, families, and the congregation for help. You'll increase the number of personal connections, which can help turn a "no" into a "yes," and they'll feel more involved with the event.

1. Partner with a Local Business
Work with local restaurants or companies in your neighborhood to increase your audience outside the congregation. For example, team up with a local pizza place to offer a frequent buyer program and meal deals.

Create the perfect night in and generate sales with pre-packaged cotton candy, nachos, or caramel corn for dessert. You'll receive a larger cut by providing the items yourself, and the pizza shop will stand apart from the competition that only offers the traditional two-liter of soda.

2. "Drive-In" Movie
Bring the family fun to your gym or auditorium. Create a weekly event, or a special night with Christmas classics. Invite families to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, or sleeping bags and snuggle in. Offer meal deals as part of the ticket price.

It's dinner, a show, and a snack in one family-friendly night. You can also theme the food to your movie (e.g., red and green candied popcorn for a Christmas film, or Spoon Full of Sugar Sno-Kones for Mary Poppins).

3. Photography/Art Exhibit
Find the inner artist. Host an exhibit with age-specific categories and charge an entrance fee. Work with the local newspaper and TV stations to profile the winners. Hang them in your hallways for purchase with profits going to the church.

4. Coffee Talk
Host a morning coffee break for parents. You can have one speaker or invite a group of local experts for a panel discussion.

Suggested speakers include health professionals to address concerns (especially relevant during flu season); local sports stars to speak about how to encourage a healthy lifestyle; or librarians/historical preservation society members to speak about the history of your area. Charge a small entrance fee, offer the coffee for free, and sell the treats to go with it.

5. An All-Neighborhood Garage Sale
Everyone needs a good excuse to clean out the closets and garage. Host the event in your parking lot or gym and advertise it in the paper. Either set up a concession stand or offer popcorn for free as they come in to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

6. Night Out/Night In Raffle
Ask a local movie theater/video store, pizza place, and a restaurant for gift certificates. Package the gift certificates with movie munchies.

Mom and Dad will get a night out, and rest assured knowing their children are well-occupied with an age-appropriate movie. The raffle can stand alone or be added to an existing event.

7. Putting On the Hits
Create age-specific categories, charge for admission to the concert, and let your superstars shine. Work with your local paper and TV stations to cover the event. The winner can get a chance to sing at an upcoming game, receive a cash prize, and/or put up a plaque with his/her name on it.

8. Game Night or Bowling Night
Rejoice in the American classics like Monopoly, Shoots and Ladders, UNO, and more. Challenge your families to dig out their oldies-but-goodies games and set up tables in your gym or auditorium.

You can also work with a local bowling alley to host an event and split the proceeds. Promote the tasty treats at their snack bar with fun names like Knockdown Nachos. Bowling alleys may ask you to go in on an off-league night.

9. Murder Mystery Night
Who dunnit? Solve the case and involve your congregation. A few well-placed plants in the audience will ensure the plot moves forward.

You can buy scripts or challenge your staff and families to create their own. Serve dinner as part of the event, or blindfold your guests and have a mystery food tasting.

Bethe Ferguson is with Gold Medal Products Co., www.gmpopcorn.com.

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Religious Product News