The following ideas were gathered from youth workers across the country and originally published as resources for the 2007 and 2010 National LCMS Youth Gatherings. Thanks to the Gathering for sharing these resources with thESource!
At my previous congregation, we set up a policy with our trips that after a certain date, about 2-4 weeks before the trip, all money needed to be in and there were no refunds at that time. We also collected a non-refundable deposit of 10 20% of the trip’s cost at the time they register, and had the parents and students sign a covenant which states the no refund policy. One could set up something in their paperwork also that states that if a youth is on scholarship and drops out last-minute their family has to reimburse the scholarship. Of course, there are circumstances where a refund may be in order or a drop-out is understandable, i.e. illness or death in the family.
Kyle Blake, DCE
We have a 50% worship, education and fundraiser requirement the year before an out of town event. We have found that it clears up a whole host of issues. Better attendance leads to better fellowship and relationships. Frankly the ones that can’t make the 50% cut, we most likely would not want to leave town with anyway. There are many other things they can participate in without participating in this event. Participation in the ministries becomes a bigger assessment of who gets to go beyond financial ability. I would much rather find $500.00 for a kid who has built up a relationship with other youth than a kid who can throw out $1000.00 of their own (parents’) money.
Wade Johnson, DCE
I was blessed to serve in a congregation where we had a sizable scholarship fund available through the generosity of some individuals, as well as other youth who set aside part of their fundraising to help others in the group. We used both financial criteria (need) as well as willingness to participate in events leading up to the trip, camp, gathering, and so forth. I wanted youth who were willing to work together with the group in order to achieve their goal. We avoided simply “handing out” money for kids to participate in events. As I recall, I used to word it something like, “If you really want to attend (event) we will help you get the funds you need through fundraising and scholarships, but you have to commit to the whole process in order to make that happen.” I never had to turn away a kid who couldn’t afford it; God always provided the funds when we needed them. I also tried to follow-up by having the recipient thank the donors for their gift (sometimes via an anonymous note).
Mark S. Sengele, Editor of Youth Materials, Concordia Publishing House
The policy that we used for a couple years at my previous congregation is to charge the registration cost up front to get buy in. Then the youth are able to fundraise back that deposit for spending money while on the trip. In this way we hope to avoid any questions of the use of donation money for the youth’s personal use. The money used is a refund of the original deposit and all fundraised money is used for group controlled expenses.
Dave Rueter, DCE
I would strongly urge all groups to open a Steward Account through LCEF for the Gathering. Some of the advantages that this offers, that you could present to your congregation, include a fantastic interest rate on moneys that are in the account, access to debit/credit cards tied directly to the account, the ability to pay registrations via an electronic funds transfer rather than a check that could get lost in the mail, and, in the case of the National Youth Gathering, access to emergency funds throughout the Gathering as LCEF will have a bank available. In addition, moneys invested with LCEF in such an account help the church at large.
Our group did this for the last Gathering and will be doing it again this Gathering. The debit/credit card allowed us to get our hotel rooms tax exempt. We don’t make any other major purchases while we are at the Gathering, but I would think that if a group is cooking its own meals or eating together in restaurants, that this type of purchase could also then be tax exempt. Right now we have approximately $11,000 in the account and are earning about $30 in interest every month–to me it doesn’t take long for this money to accumulate enough to help offset the costs of the adults who are going to the Gathering or to provide a little extra for the youth.
I have doled out fundraising money in a couple of ways. My preferred way would be that everything raised goes into one “pot” and everyone works for everyone else. I think this better teaches the concept to our youth of being a “church family.” There are always those who argue, “But what about Jane Doe who never helps with a fundraiser, why should my child do all the work for her.” My answer is, if we are a “church family” we help take care of each other. Do we in the church say to the family that doesn’t give an offering on Sunday morning, “I’m sorry you can’t go to Sunday School because you don’t give an offering to help pay for the curriculum”. Over the last couple of years, I have convinced our youth board to move from giving 100% of what is raised to those working, based on an “hourly wage” (profit/total hours times the number of hours a kid works). We now give 10% off the top of every fundraiser to a mission project (I have encouraged the board to let the youth pick this mission). We also give 10% of the profit to a “general” account that can be used to help pay for adults who give up personal time to be a part of events or to have for scholarships for those who even after fundraisers can’t afford events. The remaining 80% is given to the youth based on an hourly “wage”.
Cindy Twillman, DCE
For larger trips (servant events, gatherings) I’ve always set up a payment plan where the total estimated cost is divided into monthly payments for each family. Then I try to offer a fundraiser per month (I’ve also had one large event work toward two months). Each fundraiser then takes a certain amount off each monthly payment. After the fundraiser and before the payment due date (usually the end of the month) I send out a short statement with the payment amount minus the fundraiser amount earned. Parents seem to like this as the trip cost is divided up rather than being a couple of really large payments–plus, there are times that a really dedicated kid will have a month where they have no payment thanks to fundraising.
I give kids and parents credit for working “shifts”–for example, if it’s an all day event, I ask them to sign up for 9-12, 12-3, 3-6 or something like that and give one credit per shift worked. It seems easier than measuring actual hours. Or I’ve also done shifts by responsibility–like for a dinner, set up is a shift, serving is a shift, clean up is another shift, etc. The shifts aren’t hard to track in Excel–then it’ll figure out the amounts per youth.
Jim Bargmann, DCE
At my previous church, I figured out how much the entire trip would cost including meals. Youth were required to pay the deposit for the registration. The balance of the fees would be paid through fundraising monies they earned and/or their personal contribution if needed. (We had an elaborate funds dispersal system so not everyone had the same amount of fundraising monies in their account.)
Prior to the event I would put together a daily envelope for each person with the daily allotment. At the event, I would disperse an envelope to them each day (usually the night before at family time I would give them the next day’s allotment).
Other DCEs/youth workers tell me my figures are a little high but I usually budgeted $5 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, and $15 for dinner. Some of my boys had no problem laying out all of their money for food (and some of my girls, too). It always worked well and I was always up front, letting them and their parents know how much they would get a day.
Sarah Wittrock, DCE
We also gave 10% away and 10% to the general fund for emergencies, extras and special things. We allowed the parent who was in charge of the fundraiser to decide if the funds would be divided by item, by hour, or equally. This usually gave variety so we had fewer complaints. We stood firm on the requirement that a parent or adult must be in charge of the fundraisers or fundraising didn’t happen. When my children were in the youth group I also was the parent in charge for a fundraiser to be an example and to be fair. We also asked the kids to help decide on the fundraisers–that gave them ownership in the process and less to gripe about. The key is communication, communication, communication.
The youth pay a set price for the Gathering. For 2007, it was $235-$435 depending on how many fundraiser hours they put in. I have them sign in and sign out at fundraisers and tally how many hours they worked at the fundraiser. For the $235 price, they had to do 30 hours. This decreases as far down to less than five hours for $435. I find that this motivates the parents to get their kids to fundraisers.
I do not have the youth pay for their own meals. I have youth of varied economic levels and I don’t want anyone to go hungry. I also do not trust the youth to budget their own money well. When I budget and fundraise for the Gathering, I figure out how much I want to pay per meal per person. We eat at least one meal a day together. I use my church credit card to pay for this. I tell youth they have X amount of dollars for this meal and this needs to include tax and tip. For meals we do not eat together, I get cash and separate it into individual envelopes. They can only spend the money on food and return any change they might have. We gather the change and use it for an extra trip for ice cream or other uses.
I have done this for two National Gatherings, four District Gatherings and several Servant Events. I have never had a problem with this system. I do not give cash refunds for money raised over the needed amount. The youth are raising money for the group, not for themselves.
Sarah N. Prentice, DCE
All of the money is due for the trip three weeks before we leave. Even if a person drops out they are responsible for the cost. We have had that problem in the past so we put together a fundraising policy form that explains how money works for fundraisers and servant events and National Youth Gathering.
We are for the first time requiring a credit card number for the National Youth Gathering registration. If the total trip is not paid for by the middle of June next summer, the remaining balance for the trip will be charged to their card along with the 3% service charge for using a credit card. We lost out on about $2500.00 on the last Gathering because of some last minute drop outs and people not willing to pay for what the church had already paid in their name.
We make the kids earn their complete costs, but we ask the congregation to pay for the adults going. We don’t want the cost to be a burden to the adults on top of them taking vacation and working throughout the year to establish a cohesive group.
Jeremy Becker, DCE