I have to laugh at the fact that we know that candy is just straight up awful for us, so much so, that most schools have banned selling candy on school grounds. Yet, I keep getting hit up to buy candy to support everything from the basketball team to a missions trip. Please stop. Just ask me for the money. Tell me your story and ask me to support you. I would MUCH rather give you the whole $5 to put towards funding the youth missions trip than to know that $2.50 of it is going back to the candy supplier.
So if candy is off the table, then what, pray tell, do you suggest I do to raise these funds? Make giving fun and meaningful. Take this opportunity to bring your community together to yes, raise funds for your cause, but also have a shared experience as a community. Too often we look at church as the building and not the community. WE are the church. Use a fundraiser as an opportunity to bring people together on other days beyond Sunday. This is opportunity to connect with others by sharing the stories of what you're doing and why you're raising the money. You'll find that people will not only give more, but also want to get involved.
As for specific ideas, here are some that I've seen work well:
Noodles & Doodles – Pasta Dinner & Art Auction
Have students create their own original artwork around their favorite Bible verse or story (painting, sculptures, poems, anything). At the event, serve a pasta dinner using the students as servers and have either a live or silent auction for the artwork.
Mystery Dinner or Dessert Theater
This is a good one for a youth group. These are totally hilarious and so much fun! Check out www.theater4church.com for scripts and tips.
Hold a Valentine's Day themed dinner and offer child care. You can utilize your worship team to provide the entertainment and the youth to do the serving. Have a photo booth area and don't forget flowers for the ladies. This is such a nice alternative to overspending at local restaurants and trying to find childcare. To decrease your expenses, ask for food and tableware donations prior to the event. Donations from local restaurants and grocery stores can help too.
At all of these events, I recommend not charging a specific price, or event suggesting a donation. Sure you can distribute tickets so you can plan accordingly, but don't charge. Yes, I know this sounds scary, but you will find that by not charging, people will tend to donate more than you would have charged anyway. Again, I have to go back to 2 Corinthians 9:7:
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
People will naturally tend towards giving more when you allow them to give according to their heart.
Christmas Shopping Babysitting Day
What a lifesaver! Offer donation based babysitting at the Church so parents can get out and get some shopping done. This could be a great way to collect Christmas gifts for local families in need while also giving the children a chance to make Christmas gifts for their family.