Why Kids Don’t Go To Camp: The 25 Best Fundraisers

Drew Hill January 7, 2022

We’re continuing our “Why Kids Don’t Go To Camp” series by looking at The Top 5 Excuses Kids Make and How to Respond.

  1. My friends aren’t going.
  2. I don’t have the money.
  3. My parents won’t let me.
  4. I have schedule conflicts.
  5. I’m afraid of the unknown.

Today we’re talking about how to address the money problem

Money is a huge stressor in most teenagers’ lives. When they see camp flyers they tend to skip everything and focus right on the $$$ amount.

“There’s NO WAY my parents can afford that!”

“I’m already saving for a car.”

“I still owe $300 for my underage drinking ticket and lawyer.” (Yes, this really happened!)

We can go blue in the face telling kids “Don’t let money keep you from going!” BUT… until we show them (and their parents) a plan for how we’re going to raise the cash, our words are empty promises.

OVER-Communicate The Fundraising Plan

  • Create information in an online format that is easily accessible for parents.
  • Make a simple video of yourself explaining how the fundraisers work. Link to the video on your area’s website and social media accounts.
  • Make hard copies of the plan. Keep them in your car so you can be prepared to give them to a parent or potential camper along with the camp registration form.
  • Include the fundraising plan on the back of your camp flyers.
  • Make individual phone calls to parents. Give them the website to visit so you can both view the plan as you walk them through it.

The Fundraising Plan

  • Lay out the total cost.
  • Ask them to pay the deposit.
  • Ask them what additional amount they can pay.

Break down the fundraisers with practical examples of how they could raise the remainder along with how much time it would take.


$799 (Total Cost)

– $150 (deposit)

– $100 (could pay additional)


$550 (left to raise)

– $50 (from carwash donations: 3 hrs)

– $175 (Trash-A-Thon sponsors, 7 people giving $25 each: 3 hrs)

– $150 (Selling greeting cards, coupon books or Yankee Candles: 5 hrs)

– $100 (YL Yard Sale: 4 hrs)

– $75 (Yard work for a friend of YL: 4 hrs)


$0 remaining camp balance after 19 hours of work


The truth is that most fundraisers don’t raise as much money as you hope… and they take a lot of effort, so doing fundraisers can be discouraging… UNLESS you realize that fundraising together is part of the journey, it’s contact work, it’s making memories, it’s relationship-building, it’s showing kids that you so badly want to spend a week with them that you’re willing to work your tail off WITH THEM to make that happen.


The Young Life store would love to help you create your own shirt design and run your own online store. Click on the Young Life Store for more details on custom screen printing.


  • Create a 2×4 Sticker design (or have a student create one.) It could be anything: your school logo, a fun saying that people at your school like, or even a customized Young Life sticker.
  • Order some from the Young Life store or use a sticker website to create custom ones (Sticker GeniusSticker Mule, Standout Stickers)
  • Sell them for $5 a sticker or 2 for $8.
  • Advertise these on your social media accounts and have your kids post them on theirs as well.


Last spring, we had great success pressure washing sidewalks, homes, and driveways. Make a flyer and have kids pass them out in their neighborhoods. Get a group of kids together on a Saturday morning and borrow a pressure washer or two. After you get done, ask the folks you worked for to make a tax-deductible donation to YL and split in among the campership for all the workers!  This can be combined with picking weeds, and selling and spreading mulch.

Sell Mulch

Find a local business that will sell the mulch at bulk prices. Homeowners pay extra to have students spread the mulch for them. Marcus Eiland said his group made $100 per house on mulch and an additional $200 for spreading the mulch. This is also a great opportunity for contact work time with students. 


Location is key. Find a busy road and ask to use a parking lot in view of the road. We’ve had success with Chick-fil-a, Walmart, and grocery stores in the past.

You will probably make around $200-$400 in donations if you have 20 kids wash cars for 3 hrs. That’s not even minimum wage per kid. In order to boost the kitty, you can find donors to match donations or have kids get sponsors.

The Best Carwash Secret

About 2 hrs in, when kids are getting tired and discouraged by the $2-$5 donations, have a pre-arranged friend show up to get their car washed. They were going to donate $100 to campership anyway, why not throw a $100 bill in the pot and encourage the kids to keep going strong for the last hour.

Another way to increase earnings is to have kids get sponsors. Ask Aunt Ruthie to make a tax-deductible donation of $1 for every car lil Johnny washes. Wash 50 cars= $50. Get 5 folks to do that and you’ve raised $250 in 3 hours!

Yard Sale

Here’s a link to 15 Tips for Your YL Yard Sale.

Support Letters

Last week we got a letter in the mail from a friend who is a Young Life leader in another area asking for $ to help take his high school friends to camp. We sent him some. Why? Because I can’t think of a much better investment to make in someone’s life. If you ask your friends and cast vision for them as to how incredible an investment this will be in a high school student’s life, they will support you. Ask your high school friends to send out letters too.

Odd Jobs For “Friends Of YL”

Jim Rayburn started a movement 75+ years ago that has impacted millions of lives. There are 60-year-olds in your community who still remember their first YL camp experience. Now they have good jobs and love to give away tax-deductible money. They would love for you to move that pile of wood from under their deck or pick weeds out of their garden. Just ask. They’ll pay your high school friends way more than they deserve because they learned 30 years ago at YL camp about this thing called grace that changed their life forever.


Find sponsors per bag of trash you pick up to clean up the highway. You can get sponsors per bag of trash or just flat sponsorships of $25. One of our gals made $350 in an hour doing this last weekend.


This is a fun outing to do after club has wound down for the year! Kids and leaders both can get pledges per pin they would bowl over three games. Most kids get pledges of 5-10 cents per pin. If a student gets around $2 per pin in total sponsorships and knock down 300 pins in 3 games, that’s $600! You can also get businesses to be lane sponsors (much like hole sponsors at a golf tournament) to cover the overhead cost for the lanes and the food.


This is a fun and popular fundraiser, and an opportunity for kids to bring their friends. You can ask a local restaurant like Buffalo Wild Wings or Zaxby’s to donate a portion or all of the wings. You can charge $20 for each participant, which will include wings, water, and a t-shirt which you can have sponsored by a local business. Students who are going to camp can get sponsors, they could be sponsored per wing or a flat amount. T-shirts can also be sold to spectators for $10 each, because who doesn’t want another Young Life shirt? You can read more about Wing-A-Thons here and here.

Carpet Cleaning

You can purchase a professional carpet cleaner, and together leaders and small groups of students can clean rugs and carpets.

Missions Trip Products

If you’re going on a YL Expeditions Spring Break missions trip bring back something unique from that place and sell it as a camp fundraiser. Example: coffee from Latin America (buy for $4/lb) and sell it for $15/lb.

41 & Change Coffee

The average family drinks 68 lbs of coffee a year. If that coffee was purchased from 41 & Change, that family would be making a donation of $547 to send kids to camp! Click this link to learn how. 

Sell Breakfast Burritos 

Sell burritos for $12 for a half-dozen and $20 for a dozen. Designate one or two leaders to be in charge of logistics, collecting donations, and purchasing ingredients. Find a weekend that works for most kids and use a church kitchen if available. You can make the burritos all together and have leaders go with kids to deliver them. Lizzie Penton, who shared this idea with us said her group made 65% profit on their burrito sale.

Other Fundraising Ideas That Have Worked

  • “Adopt-a-box” on social media, where you put 1,2,3,4,5,etc… all the way to 100 and ask your followers to pick a number of dollars to donate.
  • Run a YL5K Race and have runners create a giving page using the YL Event Software. You can contact your staff person to learn about this or email Events@sc.younglife.org.
  • Host a Trivia Night.
  • Host a breakfast at a local church on a Sunday morning. Advertise a few weeks in advance so people can bring cash donations for the breakfast.
  • Host a dessert sale, similar to the Breakfast Burrito sale, where you sell cookies by the dozen or half dozen, or pies before a holiday like Easter or Thanksgiving.
  • Set up a dodgeball tournament, with teams of 8 – 10 people at $10 per person which includes entry to play, t-shirt, water, and pizza. You can have the shirts paid for with sponsored ads on the back of the shirts.
  • Cornhole Tournament. I had 2 kids pay their way to camp by putting on a similar event.
  • Sell Krispy Kreme donuts. You can sell the 1 dozen donuts for $10 and kids make $5 per box towards camp.
  • Christmas Wreath fundraiser with Westend Wreaths.
  • Sell Local Coupon Books.
  • Sell Little Ceasar’s Pizza Kits.
  • Host a Young Life Daddy-Daughter dance and have students help with set-up, refreshments, and tear-down.
  • Work Concession Stands at local events.
  • Offer babysitting services for churches or corporate events.

Thanks to everyone in The Young Life Leader Facebook Group who contributed ideas! If you have other great fundraisers that have worked, email us ideas here and we’ll add them to the post.

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