Moving Forward: Fun Fundraising – Oxymoron or Innovation?

by Rev. Dr. Deb Uchtman, Bethel-Murdoch Presbyterian Church and Vice Moderator of the Presbytery of Cincinnati

Then [Jesus] sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.” Mark 41-44

Both furnaces that supplied heat to the sanctuary at Bethel Murdoch Presbyterian Church entered the church triumphant in November of 2023.  This is a nightmare for most churches with aging buildings that is just waiting to happen.  BMPC was fortunate to have had saints in the church that consistently contributed to the Capital Fund for just such an emergency and were able to pay for the replacement of the furnaces without undue stress.  However, that left the Capital Fund depleted and the budget appeared to be totally sinking. 

What does a church do in such circumstances? Most of the time, churches tend to run a Capital Campaign that involves lots of letters soliciting the congregation members for money.  There are Minutes for Mission each Sunday morning driving home the need for financial support. These presentations often include a worst case scenario in which the church will have unforeseen horrible consequences if the funds are not raised.  All of which sounds either boring or threatening to many church goers and, while necessary, few want any part of a Capital campaign. 

What if instead of making it a chore to raise the necessary funds, we have some fun instead?  Long ago, Bethel Murdoch Presbyterian Church, a small rural church in the Presbytery of Cincinnati came up with an innovative way to fundraise when they developed Coin Wars.  There was a realization that not everyone had a lot of extra money lying about to be able to participate in a traditional Capital Campaign.  In order to raise the needed funds and leaning into the story of the Widow’s Mite, the church came up with the idea to pit one side of the congregation against the other in a friendly competition to raise funds using pocket change.

The congregation chose the names: Radical Right and Hard Left indicating which side of the church the member sat on that corresponded to a label on jars in which their loose coins could be deposited.  The goal was to have the bragging rights for the week and the competition was fierce.  This fundraiser has been used to pay for the specialized paint that is required for the breathable bricks of the historic building, to repair and refurbish the doors of the church, and purchase pew cushions for the 200th anniversary of the church.

It is no surprise that in the current situation, the Session decided to run the Coin Wars once again, this time adding the Online Community to the Radical Right and Hard Left. It is now a three-way race to see which group gets bragging rights for the month.  There is a good deal of friendly competition that is helping to rebuild the capital fund and people are excited to participate.  Folks are bringing in jars of loose change in order to help their team have the bragging rights for the following month. 

Perhaps, in the future, your church may want to consider a fun way to fundraise instead of doing a typical Capital Campaign.  If your congregation members enjoy playing as they support the church and one another, the Coin Wars may be an innovative alternative to a Capital Campaign for your church.