Tips and tricks for funding your Wonder Voyage

In my life pre-Wonder Voyage, I was a youth pastor and mission pastor for over a decade. The last church I was employed at had 300 souls and a youth ministry with 80 kids attending weekly. We averaged four trips annually, with about 25 people on each at a cost of $1000 a person (in the mid-90’s mind you). That meant we needed to raise $100K a year. And those funds had to be entirely raised by the youth. There was no underwriting from the church. Fundraising was daunting, but with a little bit of thought and a whole lot of creativity, our fundraising helped us grow our community emotionally and spiritually.

Through this process, I learned that there are a few important factors to considering when fundraising is integral to your journey.

Fundraising philosophy

Fundraising should not be a necessary evil. Let it be a part of the philosophy of the journey. Each participant needs to have skin in the game to add value to their journey. Throughout history, pilgrimage has always cost the pilgrim something. The greater the cost, the more potential for transformation. Freebies produce entitled travelers- the exact opposite of pilgrims.

Let the fundraising be a group effort. ‘We do this together or not at all.’ That mindset will create a bond in the group and remind them that this is a community voyage.

Make sure you layout your fundraising philosophy with everyone involved including participants, parents, and other leaders within your organization.

Who’s footing the bill?

When I was putting voyages together the youth had to foot the whole bill. We used creative fundraising including community garage sales, fundraising letters, and a few silent donors.

Many churches today have the 1/3 fundraising rule in place. That means 1/3 is raised by the youth, 1/3 is paid by the parents, and 1/3 is paid by the church. It’s important to determine what you’re comfortable with and not allow the parents who can drop the whole bill in one fell swoop to take away the opportunity for their child to earn their portion.

Fundraising guru

Find that person who knows how to raise funds, who is an encourager, and who can keep books to run the show. Give them the tools and support they need and let them do the job of leading your fundraising efforts. This will take a tremendous amount of pressure off you and free up your time.

Nonrefundable deposits and payment schedules

Most organizations are lax in creating a payment and deposit policy, and that comes back to bite them. The major thing that keeps people from flaking out down the road is the price they pay upfront. Make sure you take a 10% non-refundable deposit when they register. From there, give smaller payment options so each one looks doable.

Set up a payment plan and collect the funds a month before you need to send them in to give yourself some breathing room. Again, every payment is an investment and should be non-refundable except in extreme circumstances. The travel companies, airlines, car rental places, and food preparation people all need that money well before you arrive so they can take care of you.

If someone needs to cancel, you are giving them a fair chance to do it in plenty of time. Their money can go to the team so others aren’t punished.

Fundraising may seem daunting but there is an opportunity to utilize it in a way that builds community and brings value beyond paying the bill. In my thirty years of taking thousands of participants on trips across the planet, I’ve never seen a participant left out who was willing to work hard, pray hard, and stay the course.



After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.

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