Fundraising Activities for Youth Groups

Dear Kim,

I have been asked to work with our inner city youth group (ages 14-21) this summer, to develop them into grassroots fundraisers. Most of our kids dislike school, but require a lot of structure. Can you think of ways to teach them in a fun, engaging method without them feeling like they have been sent to summer school? We’ll spend about four hours a week for three weeks on this.
—Stumped for Summer Fun

Dear Stumped,

This age group actually make great fundraisers so I think both you and they can have fun. If it is hot where you are, (and especially dusty or smoggy), a car wash is a fun outdoor activity that can raise a surprising amount of money. Use the first week to plan where it is going to be, what materials will be needed, and how it should be advertised. Call around to professional car wash places and find out what they charge to determine how much you will charge. You can make signs and divide up tasks. Find out what each young person likes to do (i.e. wash, wax, stand on street corners with signs) or take turns doing stuff. Most people like to wash and rinse because they get to cool off. Few like to vacuum the inside of a car, although some may realize that the seat cushions are where all the loose change has fallen. Maybe everyone wants to take turns. The second week you can do the car wash and the third week count your money and debrief. Add-ons to the car wash are to have popsicles or other treats for sale to patrons while they wait for their car.

If your charges are more cyber-oriented, let them write to their relatives and adult friends explaining their cause in an e-mail. The e-mail ends with this request: “If you are willing to consider making a gift, I would like to send you a letter with a return envelope. Simply reply to this e-mail with the address you want me to use and I will send it off. If this is not possible at this time, I understand. Simply reply and wish me luck. Thanks for reading this e-mail.”

IThe e-mail is composed and sent the first week, the letters and return envelopes are created, addressed and sent out the second week, and again, the third week is spent debriefing and counting money.

IThere are many other variations on these themes, which I am sure you can figure out. The process of dividing up tasks, deciding what the compelling message is (either for what you tell patrons of the car wash or what you say in a letter), and then learning that no matter how good your cause, most people will not give, are all important lessons for young people to learn.
—Kim