Right on the Money: Young Fundraisers Are the Best Fundraisers

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Photograph of a teen girl holding out a donations box.

If you've ever bought a box of Girl Scout cookies or paid a high school softball team to wash your car, you know that young people bring an almost irresistible something to fundraising. At the same time, young fundraisers pick up important skills, like setting goals, planning ahead, working as a team and making the case for a cause.

Members of 360 Youth Services’ youth advisory board, in Naperville, IL, wanted to learn those skills raising money for activities and supplies for youth in the program, says Damir Djidic, transitional living program coordinator and advisor to the group.

“Adults tend to respond better to kids than other adults,” Djidic says. “They see other adults as just collecting money, while they see youth as doing more than collecting money. They respond well to commitment and entrepreneurial skills in young people.”

This year the advisory board decided to hold a car wash and a youth art sale, raising more than $1,000 with assistance from adult mentors. The advisory board uses the cash they raise to put on fun game nights, support community organizations that feed the hungry and help veterans, and purchase school supplies and clothing for program participants, Djidic says. Here are some lessons Djidic and the youth advisory board have learned about fundraising:

1. Marketing makes a difference. Youth can’t raise money at a fundraising event if people don’t come, Djidic says. “The only way the fundraiser can be successful is if you put a lot of effort into advertising.”

The 360 advisory board uses social media, old-fashioned paper fliers and word-of-mouth to get the message out. Some great, free places to advertise include coffee shops, grocery stores and community bulletin boards.

2. 'Tis the season. Is there an ideal time to hold a fundraiser? Absolutely, Djidic says. 360 Youth Services has found the best times to be the holidays (the end of November to the beginning of January) and late summer (end of August to early September).

Those are times when people have more free time and are in the spirit of giving and helping others. For winter fundraising events, youth should consider an indoor activity and always try to be the first to ask for funding, Djidic says. For example, if youth are planning a winter fundraiser, they should get a jump on soliciting donations in mid-November.

3. Flexibility is key. Not every young person who volunteers to help with the fundraiser may be as enthusiastic as others all the time. Maybe someone’s personal issues are taking the forefront. Someone else might be busy with school work, or just not interested in the particular activity.

Youth workers or other adult mentors can mediate a conversation among youth about working together, while also helping to find specific roles that fit the busy young person's strengths, like designing fliers, counting up the money in the cash box or handling social media marketing.

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