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Top 25 fundraising ideas for churches

09 May 2016

A competition run last year with Ecclesiastical Insurance to find the best fund-raising ideas has turned up many great ideas. To inspire your own efforts, here are the top 25

Wriggle room: participants at the Aspull worm-charming contest

Wriggle room: participants at the Aspull worm-charming contest


Worm-charming — St Elizabeth of Hungary, Liverpool

Every second Saturday in June, hundreds of people gather on Aspull village green, frantically jumping up and down. The reason? They’re competing for the chance to be Champion Worm Charmer of the village!

Most teams use the traditional method of sticking a fork in the ground and then banging it. As the vibrations travel down into the soil, the worms think a mole is approaching and make their way to the surface.

The worms are collected by the team members and placed in a welcoming jar to be counted. At the end of half an hour’s charming, the team with the most worms wins the trophy. We also award one for ‘Big Jim,’ the fattest, juiciest worm caught on the day.

A local wildlife officer is on hand to check on the worm welfare, and every single worm is replaced once the sun has gone down and all nearby hungry birds have gone to roost.

This idea won St Elizabeth’s the first prize in our competition


The great mouse hunt — St Paul’s, Walton-in-Gordano, Somerset

A simple knitted mascot was the inspiration for St Paul’s Church in Walton-in-Gordano.

The mascot, a knitted church mouse, known affectionately as “CM”, was the centre of attention over the years with St. Paul’s holding a number of CM events, including Mouse Suppers and ‘The Great Mouse Hunt’.

For the Great Mouse Hunt, children in a local infant school were invited to colour in an outline of CM and St Paul’s received 100 colourful mice, 24 of which were hidden in gardens round the village.

Children, parents and grandparents all came along to see how many mice they could find. Everyone visited St Paul’s to pick up their entry forms, with refreshments and stalls in the church to raise extra cash too.

Thanks to CM the PCC now have enough funds to take them to the end of the year and to pay the Parish Share for 2016 too. Well done CM!


Quiche bake-off — St Thomas of Canterbury, Devon

The event should give would-be fundraisers plenty of ideas. Bake offs are great ideas particularly for a Harvest or Christmas event, for example.

The Dodbrooke Parish and Community Hall was originally built in 1898 but was showing its age. The roof needed urgent restoration work, and the PCC of St. Thomas of Canterbury was hungry for a winning fundraising idea.

Held on April 23rd every year, World Book Night gives people the chance to share out copies of a book of their choice. The congregation at Dodbrooke chose the lighthearted crime novel ‘Agatha Raisin & the Quiche of Death’ by M C Beaton, and devised a whole evening of activities inspired by the book’s plot.

The main event was the Great Dodbrooke Quiche Bake Off, where competitors brought in a home-baked quiche. Each one was judged for appearance, and then tasted by a professional chef.

As well as the bake off, there was a recipe book swap and quizzes like ‘Murder Most Foul,’ where competitors had to match pictures of crime writers with their novels.

With its fun and unusual events, the evening got everyone in the local community involved and At the end of the evening, many of the quiches were sold to raise even more money.


Paper aeroplanes — St Andrew’s, Chardstock, Devon

When it comes to fundraising, the sky’s the limit with this idea.

St Andrew’s Church, Chardstock in Devon needed to raise funds for essential repair work. The challenge was to find a way of using a large, empty building with a high ceiling to raise money. That’s when the idea of ‘The Great Chardstock Paper Plane Competition’ was born.

From the top of the chancel steps to the back of the bell tower, the aisle of St Andrew’s is 22 metres long — the perfect space during the Chardstock Street Fayre, for people to come into the church to try their hand at the Paper Plane Competition.

The paper planes ranged from streamlined aerodynamic planes to simply crushed paper into a ball. Every entry was valid as long as it was from a single piece of A4 paper.

It was a great event, enjoyed by young and old and many contestants said they would be coming back next year to try to better their previous throws, so the event could run and run.


Stop the clock — St Mary Magdalene, Cwmbach, Aberdare

If you’re thinking of an event like this, it works in much the same way as a raffle.

St Mary Magdalene church in Cwmbach, Aberdare, needed to install a loop hearing system as well as curtains and screens for the back of the church, and were looking for a new fundraising idea.

The solution was a ‘Stop the Clock’ competition — a simple but effective way to encourage members of the congregation to make an extra donation. A clock was wound up to its full extent, then placed in a sealed box in the church and left until it stopped going. People were then encouraged to buy minutes — if their minute was the time showing on the clock when it was taken out of the box, they were the winner.

There were also runners up prizes — for the exact minute an hour before the clock stopped, and an hour after it stopped. As people tended to buy blocks of minutes, this avoided anyone winning more than one prize.

Give members of the congregation blocks of minutes to sell, and they can then jot down who buys which minute, or choose to buy minutes themselves. It’s an idea whose time has come!


Sponsored cyclothon — Holy Trinity Church, Blackpool

The best fundraising ideas are those that involve the whole community, letting people choose to give the amount of time or money that suits them.

This was certainly the approach at Holy Trinity Church in Blackpool. After having restored its stained glass windows, the church had to raise £24,000 to pay for plastering and painting around the new window spaces.

The PCC devised a day’s fundraising event, called “Go cycle, get plastered” — a sponsored cyclothon, with a simple exercise bike taking centre stage in Holy Trinity. People signed up for as much or as little time they wanted to cycle for — 2 minutes to 90 minutes on the bike.

The event began at 10 a.m., with a prayer from the archdeacon, after which the first volunteer mounted the bike. Refreshments were provided throughout the day, and the organising committee made sure there were three separate refreshment groups, so the workload was shared equally.

The event struck a chord with the wider community, and people who wouldn’t normally visit the church came and experienced the beauty of the building, not to mention the new stained glass. Over 30 community groups were invited to come and take part, and the local MP also publicised the event.


Potato challenge — St John the Baptist, Flitton, Bedfordshire

Who would have thought the humble potato could provide such an opportunity for fundraising and entertainment?

Friends of Flitton & Greenfield Church decided to revive an old tradition of an annual Potato Race, to help raise some much needed funds for local projects and charities.

In the original Potato Race competitors carried a hundredweight sack, which is the equivalent of 51 kg. Nowadays the sack is a much more manageable 20 kg.

Alongside the race itself there are all sorts of potato-themed events to raise money as well as a smile. Each year schoolchildren are invited to design a potato head, with the Vicar being given the unenviable task of choosing the winner. Schools and youth groups also take part in the ‘Tatties in a Bucket’ competition, with a prize for whoever grows the heaviest crop from three seed potatoes.

The emphasis is very much on the community rather than the church, and local businesses lend a helping hand by donating raffle prizes and sponsorship – not to mention the potatoes themselves! In 2015 a local wood carver also created a special Mr Spuddy carving for the event. The Potato Race is proving so popular that it already has an imitator in Ely — sounds like a chip off the old block.


Chocolate mint race — St John the Baptist, Westwood, Coventry

Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? When people filmed themselves having a bucket of ice water poured over their heads, then nominating the next person for the challenge? This idea isn’t quite so cold, but probably just as messy!

Groups within the congregation of St John Baptist, Westwood set up a challenge on Facebook called “Eat With Your Face”. The challenge was to compete in your group to be the first person to eat a chocolate mint thin like an After Eight. Doesn’t sound too difficult? Well, the mint had to start on your forehead and end up in your mouth, and you could only use your facial muscles to get it there!

The campaign was set up to support Kidz Klub Coventry, a partner missions organisation of Westwood Church. Every time a group took on the challenge they donated a small amount to Kidz Klub.

The idea spread like wildfire, people of all ages and denominations took part, and there were even people in Hong Kong having a go! The event proved so popular across the region that people young and old voted for Kidz Klub to win the Lloyds Community Fund support. The funding will be used to take 40 families from local deprived areas on a summer holiday. That’s a very sweet result.


Pudding evening — St Paul’s, Penketh, Warrington

A fundraising army marches on its stomach.

That’s the thinking at St Paul, Penketh, near Warrington, where people were invited to come along and buy tickets to sample each of the six puddings in whatever order they pleased.

Puddings were scored and the winning chef received a prize, as did the table that scored the most in the picture quizzes. At the end of the evening, the church had raised over £400, for little outlay and effort. The money will go towards the church rebuilding programme, along with friendship evangelism within the community.

The puddings evening is a good way to involve people beyond the church, as friends and family come along with members of the congregation to sample the puddings. With events like this in the past, St Paul, Penketh has found that most tickets are sold online, and the church keeps in touch with people across the community via regular emails.

All in all it’s a simple way to raise funds for essential work, while getting people involved in the church. What could be sweeter?


The angel festival — St Helena, South Scarle, Nottinghamshire

Can you think of a song or hymn that mentions angels? Or a book with an angelic theme? The parishioners of St Helena’s in South Scarle certainly can.

In the last week of September 2014 St Helena became the venue for all things angelic, from heavenly music through to homemade angel cakes, from secondhand books through to an Angel Craft stall, all encouraging people to come and visit and make a donation.

The Angel Festival was all in aid of St Helena’s Fabric Fund and ran for a whole week, and in that time the church played host to several hundred visitors, many of whom had not visited St Helena’s before, all making a donation of their choice.

Younger visitors were encouraged to make their own angels, while their parents could flick through a large reference book about angels in art and the Bible. Budding sculptors took part in a willow weaving workshop to make larger angels for the display. A raffle was also held throughout the week of the festival. The prizes? Angel themed of course!



Bike repairs and recycling — Kairos Network Church, Harrogate

The congregation at Kairos Network Church are keen cyclists so it was only natural that the idea should have a cycling theme!

The church encouraged people in Harrogate and further afield to donate broken or unwanted bicycles, which could then be repaired to full working order and sold, with all proceeds going to charity. And as part of the initiative, people were encouraged to volunteer and learn how to become bicycle repairers.

Young, old, people with learning difficulties, scouts groups — lots of people volunteered, rolling up their sleeves and learning the ropes to become expert cycle repairers.

As the fundraising scheme was a little different from the norm, the initiative has generated a number of articles in the local Harrogate Advertiser. To raise even more publicity, the church also held a week of events culminating in the ‘Big Bike Revival,’ a special day when over 70 people came along to the church to take part in craft activities and a sponsored pedal.

If anything, Kairos has become a victim of its own success, as it now has over 100 bikes still waiting for repair. Now the congregation has to solve the problem of where to keep them all!


The thanksgiving candle — St Peter and St John the Baptist, Cudworth, South Yorkshire

Every year St Peter and St John the Baptist in Cudworth near Barnsley gives people the chance to buy a candle in thanksgiving of their mother. It’s a beautifully simple idea that encourages young and old people alike to cherish their mother while getting involved in a community event that raises much-needed funds.

Volunteers from the church visit local schools, pubs, clubs and shops, leaving behind a batch of candles for people to buy for 50p each. The event has been running for ten years, and is becoming something of a village tradition. A number of people in Cudworth started buying candles when they were at school, and now continue to get involved as adults.

Parishioners who buy a candle are invited along to a special Mothering Sunday service at the church, when the candles are blessed and lit. Whether they are giving thanks for a mother, or remembering someone who is no longer with them, every year people from across the local community come along to witness the touching service.

A board displayed in the church also gives the details of every mother who is being remembered in this way. The event is a natural draw for local newspapers, as the service is atmospheric and photogenic, and the Barnsley Chronicle features a photograph each year.


The Lasagne Fund— St Thomas of Canterbury, Grantham, Lincolnshire

The church’s proximity to the village pub gave St Thomas of Canterbury in Grantham, Lincolnshire a tasty idea to raise funds!

The Cholmeley Arms is popular with locals and tourists, and sees around 20,000 customers a year. The PCC approached the publican and asked him if he would be willing to add 50p to the cost of every portion of lasagne sold, with the proceeds going to the church repairs.

The publican was happy to add the 50p cost to the dish, and villagers were soon referring to the concept as ‘The Lasagne Fund.’

Since the fundraising began, St Thomas has received a healthy contribution from the Lasagne Fund, and the takings in the collection boxes on site at the church have also risen. As visitors and tourists eat in the pub, the Lasagne Fund pricks their interest and many pop across to see the church after their meal. Food for thought for any aspiring fundraiser!


Famous face revealSt John’s, Prince’s Street, Edinburgh

St John’s Church is situated on the busy Princes Street in Edinburgh, and is visited by tourists from across the world every single day. One striking feature of the church is the exterior murals that often focus on topical and controversial issues. St John’s wanted to create a similar engaging attraction within the interior of the church too.

The solution was an interactive board, standing prominently at the back of the nave. On the board are forty different faces of people who changed the world in some way. The entire board is covered with small gold magnetic bricks, and people are encouraged to pay £1 to peel off a brick. Visitors are immediately drawn to the board, particularly children, and over time the 40 faces are slowly being revealed.

Some of the faces are ones you might expect to see in a religious environment, for instance Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama. Others however are more unusual, such as Ai Weiwei and Galileo, who was of course persecuted by the church. St John’s is keen to show that the church is inclusive and welcoming to all. Rather than being a historical building, this is a living space with an active membership that is engaged in the wider world.

Alongside the board are leaflets that give some background to the faces, and the church also uses social media to publicise the board. The money raised by the board will go towards a renovation and extension project that will help St John’s continue to engage with the surrounding community.


The charity shop — All Saints, Roberttown, West Yorkshire

This idea really is bring and buy with a difference!

Despite having links with the Brontes and the Jacobean uprising, All Saints Church in Roberttown, West Yorkshire, was unable to gain heritage funding to replace its leaking roof.

When a shop in Roberttown became vacant, All Saints Church realised this opportunity was too good to pass up. They put together a business plan and with the help of the local MP they arranged to set up a shop run by volunteers serving the local community.

Like many charity shops, the focus is mainly on old books and clothes, with takings going straight to the church funds. The premises also hosts a Post Office for two half days a week, as such providing an essential service for the village.

The shop has become a focal point for the community, with everyone from retired people to young mums volunteering to staff the outlet. Young people help too, as volunteering is part of the Duke of Edinburgh award, and the shop even doubles up as Santa’s Grotto for Roberttown’s Victorian Christmas night. It really is bring and buy with a difference!


Festival of fish — St Peter’s, Lyde, Herefordshire

As everybody knows, St Peter was a fisherman. So what better way for St Peter’s in Lyde, Herefordshire to celebrate its patronal festival than with, well, fish?

Fish in Church was a festival that ran for nine days in June 2015, designed to capture the attention of the local community and encourage people travelling along the busy A-road outside to pop in and take a look.

The church was decorated with fishing nets, fish boxes, shells and fish-related Biblical quotations. Even the flower arrangements picked up on the fish theme. People bought tickets to a screening of the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and a fish themed quiz was also available for general knowledge buffs.

But St Peter’s didn’t stop there. Thanks to the help of the nearby Kenchester Water Gardens, an aquarium of multicoloured coldwater fish stood on the altar, while live fish swam in the font. The owner of the Water Gardens was happy to oblige, having been baptised in the font himself! Children could also play with battery powered Robofish in tanks of water around the church.

At the end of the festival the church held a Patronal Service followed by a fish and chip supper in the church. A mobile van, the Starchip Enterprise, was parked outside the church and served fish suppers to every hungry visitor. It sounds like the visitors were well and truly hooked.




A red letter day —Holy Trinity Church, Ash, Somerset

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective, and this was certainly the case with Holy Trinity with a heartfelt plea.

The congregation needed to raise £8,200 to repair the ceiling, and the first port of call was the immediate community. The Treasurer of Holy Trinity simply wrote a heartfelt plea explaining the situation, then sent the letter out to every household in the village.

The letter explained that the church was at the heart of the local community, an essential venue for occasions like weddings and christenings, and was a part of the local heritage too.

The key to this fundraising was the honest appeal, and the emphasis on community. The letter brought people together for a common goal, and the village literally raised the roof.


Crowdfunding online — St Mark’s, Isle of Man

The World Wide Web has made all the difference to this global village demonstrating the strengths and benefits of using social media to raise funds.

Alongside traditional fundraising events, the PCC decided to turn to social media, using a crowdfunding website to invite people to pledge a donation. They were unaware just how successful the approach would be, as the crowdfunding not only quickly met its target, but led to a number of other benefits too.

For a crowdfunding appeal, charities have to offer something in return to thank their supporters. St Marks offered the ability to use a shared space that would be for everyone to use, not just the church. The idea caught on with people from beyond the congregation, and the local press got hold of the story. During the TT races, the Vicar was even interviewed on local TV as the church offered the new space as a refuge for bikers visiting the island.

A social media campaign to promote the crowdfunding got St Marks noticed further afield, and the parish is now forging a relationship with the Trustees of St Omer’s Trust in Liverpool who are keen to provide escape breaks for family groups.

It has brought the local population together too, a priceless achievement in such a rural community.


Organ donations diagram — St Nicholas’s, Ashchurch, Gloucestershire

Google Earth helped save time and energy — not to mention carbon emissions too in this quest to raise funds for a new organ!

This was just one of the creative ways St Nicholas Church in Ashchurch approached their fundraising idea. Rather than driving around to read individual company signs, they searched on the internet gathering local business information in a bid to gain sponsors.

The pipe organ provides the music at many of the community events such as weddings and school events but was a little bit on the old side, so rather than spending at least £45,000 on repairing the existing old organ, St Nicholas’s decided to invest in a new electronic organ costing £17,500. The fundraising committee then created a diagram of the organ showing each individual element, including keys, pedals and stops. Donors could choose to donate towards one individual piece, rather like buying a brick in a building appeal.

The donors will be listed on a framed chart that will hang in the porch, showing what each person or business helped to buy. It’s a very simple but effective way of illustrating what is needed, and showing how close the church is to reaching its target.


Animal magic — St Mary Magdalene, Taunton

Animal magic in the shape of a horse called Gypsy had the communities around Taunton follow her every footstep, and even read her thoughts on her own daily updated blog. With her own website and fans following her via a GPS tracking system, she became a bit of a celebrity!

It was all for a very good cause. St Mary Magdalene Church in Taunton needed to raise £300,000 to recast an out of tune ring of 12 bells and restore the Carillon. Keen rider Annie Suddaby came up with the idea of riding a horse to each of the 51 church towers in the Taunton Branch of Change Ringers, hoping to raise £9,000 to replace one of the bells.

Annie took her sister-in-law Jo along, to teach her the ropes of bell ringing along the way. They had to plan the ride in great detail, contacting all the towers beforehand and letting them know estimated arrival times, while also arranging food and stables for Gypsy!

Crowds turned out along the route to cheer the team on, with the bells often ringing out a warm welcome. Annie had recruited one main sponsor for the event, but there were lots of other fundraising opportunities enroute – the team even sold off Gypsy’s used horseshoes to enthusiastic supporters.




The one-minute sponsorship — St George’s, Worcester

The clock at St George’s Church, Worcester is a local landmark. Yet the 1830 24-inch clock and chamber bell had stopped working, and a complete overhaul was needed, costing £15,000.

The Friends of St George’s came up with the ‘Just a Minute’ appeal, where people sponsored a minute that was special to them. The idea was beautifully simple, yet it struck a chord with people across Worcester and beyond.

The appeal led to some very poignant stories. The Bishop of Worcester chose the minute his wife died after losing her battle with cancer, for example, while John Butterworth chose the time when he knelt before The Queen to receive his MBE.

The idea could be adapted for any building appeal. For instance, people could sponsor a brick and describe a specific memory they have of the church. Alternatively people could guess the time of a stopped clock, and explain why they chose their specific minute.


St Swithun’s Day — St Chad’s, Rochdale

Legend has it that if it rains on Saint Swithun’s Day, it will rain for the next 40. Rochdale Parish Church has taken that legend and turned it into an effective fundraising tool that gets the whole community intrigued and involved.

On 15 July, participants sign up to give between 10p and £1 for every day in the next 40 that it rains. They are each given a pocket calendar so they can tick off the rainy days and keep a score of the amount they owe.

The event is a great success every year, probably because everyone in the UK is so obsessed with the weather! Costs are minimal, and it leads to wider activity too, including a theme for sermons, prayers and Sunday school projects.

If it’s fine on St Swithun’s Day, no problem. The legend says that if the sun shines on 15th July, then it will rain no more. So people then simply give an amount of money for every day that’s dry. The donations pour in, come rain or shine!


Mobility scooter ride — Crediton Parish Church, Devon

Sometimes throwaway comments can lead to great ideas!

When someone in the PCC at Crediton Parish Church suggested a mobility scooter ride around the inside of the church, they had their tongue firmly in their cheek. But the suggestion went on to raise a much-needed £541 for the church, all in just one afternoon.

The rider of the scooter was Anne Jerman, who had been diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis back in 2004. Anne had helped her husband with a number of sponsored walks and was keen to do a sponsored event of her own, so was very happy to take on the challenge.

Anne rode her scooter round and round the church, with sections renamed for the ride including the Choir Straight and Gas Metre Corner. People were encouraged to sponsor each lap, and church members could also guess how many laps she could complete before her scooter’s batteries ran out.

It was a light-hearted idea that certainly caught the imagination of the local community, and the Parish Church also publicised the event on its Facebook page, and received some very encouraging messages as a result.

In the future the event could be extended to incorporate the church car park, with trials around an obstacle course. Sounds like Anne’s got her work cut out!


The bathroom suite marathon challenge — St Lawrence’s, Eyam, Derbyshire

When it comes to completing a half marathon, a hilly course like Eyam in Derbyshire really puts keen runners to the test. So imagine if you had to run the entire 13.5 miles of the course while you were pulling a whole bathroom suite.

That’s exactly the task that members of St Lawrence Church set themselves, all with the idea of raising money for Tearfund’s Toilet Twinning project. Any money raised through sponsorship would help Tearfund provide people in the poorest communities on the planet with a decent toilet, clean water and all the information they needed to stay healthy.

18 runners took part with crowds of spectators cheering the runners on their way, and local cafés collected donations. It was a really effective way to encourage a sense of global responsibility in the community, raising the issue of sanitation and clean water in a fun and involving manner.

The runners raised an impressive £2,051, which is enough to pay for 33 twinned toilets, and St Lawrence celebrated the event with prize giving at their next Harvest Festival.

Tearfund have publicised the event in their national bulletin ‘Tear Times’ and may well use it in advertising campaigns too. St Lawrence should certainly feel flushed with success.


Team tapestry project— St Mary’s, Pembridge, Herefordshire

“Cherish the past … adorn the present … create for the future.” So reads the headline embroidery for twelve beautiful tapestries depicting the history of the village of Pembridge.

The tapestries began as a chance remark between two friends, and are now a fascinating tourist attraction that’s helping to raise money for St Mary’s Church, where they are on display.

The subjects for each of the twelve tapestries were inspired by research by local historians, and local artists then designed each panel for a team of stitchers to transform those designs into vibrant and colourful tapestries.

The tapestries were completed in April 2015 and exhibited for the first time at a four-day festival of Flowers and Music, held in the church. Visitors to the church can now buy a souvenir brochure, along with commemorative tea towels, aprons and postcards, and all profits go towards the mission and upkeep of the church.

If the church visitors’ book is anything to go by, the tapestries are proving a real draw for tourists, as there are many more comments in the book since they were displayed.


Maggie Durran reviews some of the best ideas

This competition was run in partnership with Ecclesiastical Insurance


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