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Every year we have a fundraiser to help send our youth to camp (Scout Camp, Cub Scout Day Camp, and Girls Camp).
Please note that each ward handles their camp fundraising as directed by their local leaders (Bishop or Stake President), so this activity might not be appropriate for everyone. Here is the official policy from the current handbook of instructions.
13.6.8 Fund-Raising Activities
Fund-raising activities are not usually approved because expenses for stake and ward activities are paid with budget funds. As an exception, a stake president or bishop may authorize one group fund-raising activity each year. Such an activity may be held to raise funds for the following purposes only:
- To help pay the cost of one annual camp or similar activity as outlined in 13.2.8.
- To help purchase equipment that the unit needs for annual camps as outlined in 13.2.9.
If a fund-raising activity is held, it should provide a meaningful value or service. It should be a positive experience that builds unity. Contributions to fund-raising activities are voluntary. Priesthood leaders should take special care to ensure that members do not feel obligated to contribute. Stakes and wards that sponsor fund-raising activities should not advertise or solicit beyond their boundaries. Nor should they sell products or services door to door.
This is the first year I’ve been involved in the planning committee for this activity/fundraiser, so I thought I’d share what we do. This is a somewhat complicated activity, but once everything is worked out, it is easier to replicate as an annual thing and it is always very successful.
I should also add that our Bishopric has assigned each auxiliary/group (or several auxiliaries combined) to provide a ward activity each quarter (ie, the Relief Society & High Priests are in charge of the Christmas party, the Ward Mission and the Elders Quorum are in charge of our annual talent show). The Young Men and the Young Women organizations are responsible for the 1st quarter activity, which coincides with the annual youth fundraiser (which has been going on for a number of years). So for the past few years, the fundraiser (which originally started as only a Scout Camp fundraiser) has developed into a ward chili-cook-off dinner, followed by a youth fundraiser auction (which benefits all of the youth – ym & yw – going to camp, and also the Cub Scout day camp). There is no charge for the dinner, just like a regular ward dinner would be. After the dinner, everyone is welcome to stay in the cultural hall for the live auction (proceeds from the auction are the ‘fundraiser’ part of this). Participation in the auction is optional, but everyone is encouraged to stay and watch the fun. We don’t want anyone to feel like they shouldn’t come or that they are pressured to purchase anything. This is a ward activity FIRST and a fundraiser SECOND.
ADVERTISING: We start passing sign-up sheets on a clipboard (3rd hour of church) about 1 1/2 months before the activity. We also put a little blurb in the bulletin about it and start talking about it on facebook to get the word out (I created an ‘facebook event’ so people could ‘join’, ask questions, get updates, etc). We announce the activity to the youth for months ahead at every class and activity so that the youth are well-aware of it ahead of time. We have a poster that we put up about a month before the activity and have committee members announce the activity in priesthood, relief society, etc. 1 or 2 Sundays before the activity, we give out handouts and really ramp up the advertising.
Here (in purple) is the text from the handout for this year (the text formatting & artwork did not copy over to this blog, it looks much better in person- you’ll have to use your imagination!). It is a full-page handout because there is a lot of info to explain, but this will give you a good overview of what this activity is all about. Again, this activity/fundraiser is not for the faint-of-heart – it is very complicated and takes a lot of planning, but it works very well.
ANNUAL ____________ WARD CHILI COOK-OFF DINNER & AUCTION
(DATE & TIME) IN OUR CULTURAL HALL
DINNER: Delicious chili, taco soup, and baked potatoes will be served. Dinner is provided for all – there is no charge for dinner. That’s right- its FREE! Bring the whole family! This is a activity for all ages, everyone is welcome. You don’t have to bring anything unless you’ve signed up to help*!
AUCTION: Immediately after dinner, the youth will provide FREE childcare for all kids (10 and under), so the adults can focus on the live fundraiser auction! FANCY CAKES, CUSTOM ITEMS, AND MORE will be auctioned off to anyone who would like to bid (bidding is very welcome, but OPTIONAL!).
THE REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF: All proceeds from the auction sales will benefit our ward’s youth (funds will cover costs for Scout Camp, Girls Camp, Cub Scout Day Camp, etc). This is the only fundraiser we do. Please stay for the auction fun, even if you choose not to bid. This is a ward activity first and a fundraiser auction second. It is really fun just to watch the bidding wars!
FREE DINNER & A FUN AUCTION? COULD THIS ACTIVITY GET ANY BETTER? WHY, YES- IT CAN!:
- -Highly-coveted certificates will be awarded for the chili cook-off (best overall, spiciest, best meatless, most unique)
- -Highly-coveted certificates will be awarded for cakes to be auctioned (best overall, most inventive/unique, most delicious looking)
- -Italian Sodas will be for sale during the auction
- -Kids Silent Auction Room (in RS Room) for kids 11 and under
- -Did we mention FREE childcare during the auction?
- -Our ward’s youth will be working before, during, and after this activity to help earn their way to camp!
* This activity is being hosted by the ______________ Ward Young Men and Young Women organizations. If you’d like to help with the dinner or donate a cake but haven’t seen the sign-up sheets, contact ____________ or ______________. Auction items are limited this year to keep things simple- all auction items must be pre-approved, please see __________________ if you have something to donate
We also made these trophies for the chili cook-off and the cakes (to be auctioned) and I posted these photos on facebook to help build interest:
I bought some small metal buckets and filled them with platic bags. Then I covered the top with crinkled foil and hot-glued dried beans to the top. Then I took the foil/beans outside and spray-painted them gold. When dry, I hot-glued the foil/beans on top of the plastic bag filler.
I bought some used trophies from a thrift store ($1 each). I chose trophies that had a large ball on them (basketball, soccer ball, etc) and then made gold paper cakes which I glued onto the balls. So it looks like the man is shooting a basket with a cake, kicking a cake, etc. I then covered the original engravings with “Best Overall Cake”, etc on gold-ish scrapbook paper.
TIME FRAME FOR THE ACTIVITY ITSELF: 4PM- SET UP AND FOOD PREP (YOUTH & LEADERS, PARENTS?)530PM-CHILI, TACO SOUP, AND AUCTION CAKE CHECK-IN BEGINS6PM- DINNER STARTS7PM- DINNER ENDS, CHILDCARE & FUNDRAISER AUCTION BEGIN830PM- ACTIVITY ENDS, CLEAN-UP BEGINS (YOUTH & LEADERS, PARENTS?)930PM – DONE!
YOUTH PARTICIPATION: Youth should work at the set-up, during the entire activity, and until the clean-up is complete. Youth leaders, parents of youth, and other ward members can help as well, and should be doing most of the planning and supervising, but the fundraiser is to benefit the youth, so I try to make that clear to them and give the expectation that they are expected to pull their weight, so to speak. In the past we’ve had loosely-planned assignments and there were some problems with youth not following through (ie, goofing around). This year, we plan to do pre-assigned 1/2 hour shifts for each assignment during the activity to (hopefully) give all youth a chance to do a variety of things (ie, yw may be able to help with auction or italian sodas for one shift instead of doing childcare the whole time). We will have a clipboard to keep track of the assignments and youth leaders will supervise to make sure they are where they are supposed to be.
YOUTH ASSIGNMENTS FOR SET-UP (10AM):
- SETTING UP TABLES, CHAIRS, ETC
- HELPING WITH FOOD PREP IN KITCHEN (putting condiments in cups, learning to make italian sodas, etc)
YOUTH ASSIGNMENTS THE NIGHT OF THE ACTIVITY (YOUTH ARRIVE BY 530PM):
- (ALL) FINAL SET-UP, WHATEVER NEEDS TO BE DONE RIGHT BEFORE THE DINNER
- 2 YOUTH TO HELP IN THE KITCHEN DURING FINAL PREP & DINNER
- 2 YOUTH TO CHECK-IN CHILI & TACO SOUP ENTRIES AT THE DOOR
- 2 YOUTH WORKING AT ITALIAN SODAS
- 2 YW WORKING IN THE AGE 1-3 NURSERY (AFTER DINNER)
- 2 YW WORKING IN THE AGE 4-7 NURSERY (AFTER DINNER)
- 2 YW WORKING IN THE AGE 8-10 NURSERY (AFTER DINNER)
- 2 YOUTH WORKING IN THE SILENT AUCTION ROOM
- 2 YOUTH HELPING WITH THE DESSERT AUCTION (AFTER DINNER)
- (ALL) CLEAN-UP
This is the minimum we need for each assignment, but if we have more youth show up to help, the more the better! We were instructed by the Bishopric to only have young women doing the childcare (no young men/young women mixes for childcare, either), so we try to make this as fair as possible so that some girls aren’t “stuck” doing childcare the whole time (most of them prefer helping with the auction or doing Italian sodas). We passed a sign-up (for the ym & yw) to indicate which assignments they prefer and we will try our best to make sure they get to do some of the assignments they want to. With rotations every 1/2 hour, at least everyone will get a variety.DINNER:The dinner is a chili and taco soup dinner with baked potatoes. We have ward members volunteer to provide chili or taco soup in crockpots and other ward volunteers bake the potatoes at home and bring them the night of the dinner (we purchase all of the potatoes for them, they just bake & deliver them). We also purchase toppings for the chili and/or baked potatoes (sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, chives, etc), which are pre-portioned out into little paper cups. Some people have chili on their baked potatoes, some just have baked potatoes, or just taco soup, etc. We divided the crockpots, potatoes, and condiments up between 3 different stations in the cultural hall – this works great to prevent long lines. Since the chili & taco soup are donated, we only need to purchase the condiments, baked potatoes, italian soda supplies, award certificates, and paper goods.
We have judging (usually by the full-time missionaries) for the chili cook-off (best overall, most spicy, best vegetarian, etc) and also “best taco soup”. We give out certificates or little trophies. This helps to draw out the competitive types (ie, everyone in my family). We usually have no problem getting people to donate chili/soup and always have more than enough. More info on amounts in the sign-up section below.
THE AUCTION: Our main auction attraction are the desserts. We don’t serve a dessert at the dinner, so the idea is that people will see all of the fabulous desserts on display and really want them! :) We have had a problem with too many desserts in the past (I know, this is normally not what I would consider a ‘problem’!). Since people were so willing to donate desserts, there was one year when we had an especially over-saturated “market”. Basically, we had WAY more desserts than we had people. Ward members really went all out and that was meant well, but it was too much. I personally ended up buying 3 full family-size desserts (like many people did) because it was just awkward to have no one bidding on desserts that had been donated. You would think the more desserts the better, but it actually drove the prices down. There was way more supply than demand! Its hard to sell 60 desserts to 20 families. And even though everything was eventually purchased, they were practically giving things away at the end. So you can have too much of a good thing. We didn’t want to discourage people’s kind-heartedness, but we decided to specify that we are only accepting cakes now (no cookies, pies, cupcakes, etc) and we highly encourage large cakes that can be shared with an entire table. Two or three families can even go in together to purchase a large cake if they want. Our top sellers (between $100-$300) for the past 3 years have been large elaborate cakes (like this beauty that I made 2 years ago!) that a family (or two families) have purchased and shared with others.
Even if you limit it to just cakes, there is so much extra to go around that even those who don’t purchase get to try 2 or 3 different desserts! There is a good atmosphere of fun and sharing. We don’t want pressure to bid or to have anyone feel uncomfortable.
- CHILDCARE -We have a lot of children attend and we have had MUCH more successful auction experiences when we provide free childcare during the auction. So families eat together, and then the children go to an activity (several age-appropriate rooms are set up with youth babysitters) while the parents are free to give their full attention to the auction. There was a HUGE spike in bids the first year we started providing childcare and we’ve never looked back.
- ITALIAN SODAS- We have the youth make and sell Italian Sodas during the auction and that was a big hit the first time we did it, last year.
- KIDS SILENT AUCTION- The other thing we do is have a ‘silent auction’ room (just for kids under 11 to bid) and people sign up to donate items (unwanted toys, etc) for that. The silent auction for kids goes on just until the main (live) auction starts because the kids go to childcare after that. The kids silent auction usually brings in about $100 by itself – which was a big shock!
I made sign-up sheets for the adults that included all of the information for the activity (date, etc) and a list of how ward members can help. This was followed by categories of ‘help’ and places to sign up. We have a smallish ward with average Sacrament attendance of 100-150 and this is a well-established tradition, so these are the numbers we were shooting for. You may want to adjust for your size/circumstances.
The categories were:
- DONATE CHILI FOR THE CHILI-COOK-OFF (BRING IN A CROCK POT) – 7-8 people needed for this
- DONATE TACO SOUP (BRING IN A CROCK POT) – asking for 4-5 people for this
- BAKE POTATOES AT HOME (WE PROVIDE THE POTATOES FOR THIS) – 5 people needed for this
- DONATE A CAKE FOR AUCTION – asking for 10-12 people to donate cakes (preferably large cakes)
- DONATE ITEMS FOR LIVE AUCTION – (unlimited, but want to keep it to quality items that we will not be responsible for disposing of if not sold. We used to take a lot of things (appliances, movies, treadmills, etc) but we’ve cut back because there was a lot of work involved in pick-up and disposal and besides- desserts are actually bigger money makers anyhow! We get donations of things like custom-made knives, smoked salmon, etc, but that is a smaller part of the night because this activity can run really long if you have a lot of unwanted things you’re trying to get rid of!
- DONATE ITEMS FOR THE KIDS SILENT AUCTION (unlimited)
I will try to post photos from this year soon and include anything I may have overlooked. PLEASE let me know if you have any questions!