5 great ways to fundraise for your DTS
So you decided to use your gap year for God and do a Discipleship Training School in YWAM. The investment in this mission trip can truly change your life. But now you begin to count the costs. Visas, flights, school fees, outreach expenses, a new backpack. They really start to add up. If you are just looking to do the cheapest DTS in the world, there are many places that you could begin your search. But the cost of your school should not be your deciding factor. It is vital that you seek God when selecting the DTS that is right for you. I truly believe the saying, “Where God guides, He provides.” But that isn’t an excuse to sit back and wait for money to come in! We must partner with God and fundraise together with Him! In my 25 years of ministry as a youth leader, pastor, and now missionary, I have seen countless stories of miracle provision for a mission trip, but only when that person both prays AND works to fundraise.
Keep reading to find out 5 great ways to fundraise for your DTS. But before I get to the list, I want to mention this important principle: START NOW. Don’t wait until the final weeks before your flights begin! A great first step is to talk to your pastor or youth pastor and get them excited about your DTS too! The pastor is key to opportunities to fundraise at the church. Your church may even have a mission’s committee or team that would be willing to support you monthly while you are at your DTS. The pastor may also let you use a room at the church, might let you share at a service, or allow you to do a fundraiser before or after church. Bonus: While giving directly to you in a fundraiser is generally not tax-deductible, if people choose to give an offering through the church that is designated for you, they can often receive the tax deduction that way. Be sure to talk with your pastor about this option!
You will also need a team to help you with some of the ideas below, so recruit those family members and friends to lend a hand too. So with that introduction… on to the list of 5 great ways to fundraise for your DTS!
1. Host a vision dinner or dessert
This works best when you prayerfully and strategically invite the right people and the right amount of people. (20 people or more is great!)
Whether you choose to cook or bake yourself, cater a meal, or just order pizzas and ice cream, food has a way of helping people to relax and get into a generous mood. Be completely transparent when you invite people, so they know to come prepared to give to your DTS. My personal preference is to not charge guests anything to come but let them know that you will be receiving donations (this will also help cover the costs of the food). It’s also helpful to share in the invitation when your school will begin and the estimated total costs.
Be creative here! You can make it formal or have a theme. If you are doing your DTS in a foreign country, consider decorating and serving cuisine from that place. If you are musical, you can give a concert. If you are a magician, do a magic show! (That's what I did for our trip to Spain in the photos below!) The idea is to treat your guests as VIPs from the moment they arrive and to serve them. I like to ask somebody else to be the Emcee for the night. The more work you put into making this a special event, the more people will understand how important this is to you.
At some point in the evening, stand up and share your story, like what has brought you to this point and what you expect to gain out of your DTS. (Your future school leader should be able to provide some resources to help here.) Maybe show a video, read some testimonies of students who have already done a school, or share some vital statistics about the people group or nation where you will go. The Emcee can then pray over you and receive an offering. Be sure to offer multiple ways for people to give (through their phone or online, cash, check) and offer pledge cards for those who want to support you but aren’t prepared at that moment. You can ask for one-time gifts, for monthly support between now and the end of your DTS, or both. This also can be the foundation of your ongoing support team if you choose to continue in missions after your DTS.
I suggest you have the Emcee count the offerings and pledges, and then share the amount with both you and the room so everyone can celebrate with you!
2. Collaborate with a local restaurant
Typically, restaurants get most of their business on the weekend, so the idea here is to suggest a day during the week where you can invite people from the church, friends, and family to come and eat. You provide them with a lot of extra business and advertisement, and in exchange, you ask for a percentage of the sales. Be sure to have a clear proposal when you approach the owner and get everything in writing. You can also offer yourself as a server and work for tips. For example, you invite everyone for a Wednesday dinner at a pizza place/ice cream shop/fancy restaurant from 6-8pm. Everyone who comes in that time gets to have good food and support missions at the same time.
3. Write letters
We live in a time of instant communication, so the fact that you take the time to hand-write a letter (or at least type and include a hand-written note) is very meaningful. Send these by mail for bonus points! Be sure to include all the necessary information including how to give and a deadline for when you need it. If you need an example letter, contact me and I would be happy to share a sample! It’s also great to ask/give yourself permission in the letter to follow up by phone or with an in-person appointment.
4. Sell stuff
Bake sales, car washes, doughnut fundraisers, handmade crafts can all help, but also consider big-ticket items like a car, video game system, camera equipment, or that musical instrument you never learned to play. I have many family members (especially older ones) who have offered to give me things of value so that I can sell them. Sometimes, they ask for part of the sale, but often they let me keep all the money!
5. Use what you have
Maybe a walk-a-thon or unicycle-a-thon is your thing. Maybe you can host or give a concert or theater performance. Recite poetry while submerged in an ice bath for 3 hours for missions. Host a chili-cook off. Are you artistic? Create some works and auction off your gallery. Good with kids? Offer to babysit so that people of your church can have a date night. Whatever is your passion, find a way to leverage that in raising money for missions.
Hopefully this list has inspired you to get started on your fundraising journey. If you found this to be a helpful start, be sure to read part 2 (as soon as I write it!) Haven’t decided WHERE to do your DTS yet? Check out our schools at YWAM Costa Tropical, for a great and meaningful way to spend your gap year.