Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Adoption Fundraising Ideas

"It takes a village to raise a child, but it will take a village to bring this one home."

I don't remember where I came across that quote, somewhere out in the adoption blogosphere I'm sure...but it stuck with me because that is exactly how I feel sometimes. Without the help and support of our family, friends, and total strangers, this adoption would be impossible. We took a huge leap of faith when we started down this road, and trusted that the Lord would provide the funds we needed. We felt strongly He was leading us down the path to adoption, but how would we afford it? Could we afford to raise another child? Sure. But did we have what could be upwards of $20,000 up front to fund this process? Josh is a teacher and I work part-time, and we are comfortable. But we don't have tens of thousands of dollars in savings just waiting to be spent. I have been faulted for that a time or two, but such is life.

I think finances is the most popular reason for a hopeful adoptive couple to nix their adoption dream before it has a chance to sprout. I read a statistic somewhere saying that 70% to 80% of Americans will consider adoption, but only 3-4% will actually adopt. My guess is that many get two steps into the process and when the cost estimate comes in they pick their jaw up off the ground and turn right back around. Or, more likely, they never begin the process at all because everyone knows "adoption is crazy expensive".

But adoptive families who do choose to continue fall into one of two categories (maybe there's a third but I couldn't think of it...). Either the hopeful adoptive family is on the higher end of the tax bracket and simply draws from their own savings to cover the cost (Yay them!), or they find themselves up at 2 a.m. four nights a week googling "Adoption Fundraising Ideas" and "Adoption Grants" and slapping price tags on everything in their house that isn't nailed down to sell on Craigslist.  Needless to say, we fall into the latter category.

I have met a few couples who have been so blessed not to have to rely on fundraising for their adoption. And I am so glad for them, because the last thing you want to have to stay up at night worrying about is money when you are already up at night thinking about home studies, paperwork, babies, birth moms and orphanages. But the overwhelming majority of the adoption community I've come in contact with has worked overtime, drained their savings, and held at least one yard sale, car wash, or puzzle piece fundraiser to aid in their adoption expenses. But...believe it or not...there are naysayers out there (Gasp! Naysayers?!? Noooo!!!).

Whilst I have traveled the internet in search of fundraising ideas for our adoption, I have read some very, very negative things about adoption fundraising.

"If you can't afford to adopt, you can't afford a baby."
"Fundraising for your adoption sends the wrong message, like your adoption is a charity case, and your child is a charity case."

"I don't fundraise when I want to buy a house or a car, why should you fundraise for your adoption?"

"Fundraising for adoptions is essentially telling the world you're buying your child."

And after having this blog post up for less than 12 hours, this gem appeared as a comment. "Have you considered the lack of money as a sign from the Lord that this is not supposed to be your kid? You obviously do not love this kid as you claim to, as evidenced by your lack of planning/effort/savings!"
Ouch. These are actual quotes I have read out there when researching adoption fundraiser ideas as well as from right here on my little ol' blog. Obviously, I disagree whole heartedly. But I want to address a few of those "opinions" while I have the chance, and then I will list some of the ideas we came up with (and copied) to raise funds for our own adoption. Searching the internet for ideas is overwhelming, and the most helpful things I ever found were just lists of ideas on adoption blogs from adoptive mommies such as myself.

First of all, I will address the most common anti-fundraising argument I have seen everywhere and heard myself a time or two."If you can't afford an adoption, you can't afford a baby." Weeeeelllll...not really. I would compare this argument to someone saying, "If you can't pay for your car in cash, you can't afford the upkeep of a vehicle. Take the bus." Not that I want to compare my future beautiful child to a car, but I think you get the idea. Can I afford gas? Car insurance? The inevitable tire blow out or dead engine? Yes. But paying for my brand new car in cash is a different story. And before you go all Dave Ramsey on me, adoption agencies don't have the "Buy used for less" option.

Most people, when deciding to grow their family, aren't asked to put a $20,000 to $45,000 "down payment" on their pregnancy. Health insurance covers the cost of the pregnancy and delivery, hopefully one has enough extra funds to cover mummy's maternity clothes and late night ice cream cravings, and aside from the possible missed day of work due to morning sickness, there really is no other cost to a pregnancy. Yet adoptive families are asked to shell out anywhere from ten to fifty grand to fund their adoption, and that's all before bringing baby home!!! And to address one comment on my blog that said "Most people save up at least $20,000 before trying to get pregnant" I would like to say....Bull****. Not that it isn't a wonderful idea in theory. I just don't think "most people" do that. Not in my world anyway, where $20,000 is sometimes more than half of the family's yearly income.

All that to say that just because you can't afford to pay for your adoption in cash up front does not mean that you can't afford to raise and love a child. And it certainly doesn't mean that "God doesn't want you to adopt" because you don't have tens of thousands of dollars of disposable income. You might disagree with me (and many people do, as evidenced by the occasional pepperinig of negative emails and comments I get), but I do not think that adoption is only the responsibility of the rich and well-to-do. Sorry Middle Class, but we don't get off as easy as that! God didn't put the disclaimer in His Word that it is our responsibility to care for orphans "Except ya'll that don't make six figures." And while we're on that subject, let's address the "I don't fundraise when I buy a house or car, why should you fundraise to adopt?" argument.

I think it goes without saying that children are not finance-able. There are no banks offering "30 year-fixed" payment plans for children. Are there adoption loans out there? Yes. But they are actually very hard to get and almost never able to cover the entire cost of the adoption. But even if every couple could get approved for a loan covering the full cost of the adoption, is that what we're doing now? Asking those that open their homes and hearts to children without families to please also take out a loan for it? I can just see it now. "Well Johnny, we can't afford college because we're still paying you off my sweets."

Adoptive couples are not purchasing the next latest and greatest American Gotta Have It. They are trying to bring a child who needs a family home. This is not a luxury that should be financed. It is a Biblical command that should be supported by the church. If a couple is willing to adopt, is willing to open their homes to the orphaned, the homeless, the fatherless, are we really going to tell them to "go get a loan"? Maybe it's just me, but I find that idea appalling.

James 1:27
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." 

Moving right along, I will address the "Fundraising sends your child the wrong message, that they were a charity case." I don't know what every adoptive family plans to tell their children about how they got there, but I plan to tell mine this:

"My love, you were so wanted, so prayed for, so desired, that our entire support system gathered around us to help bring you home. We so desperately wanted you that we worked overtime, held yard sales, raffled prizes, and collected pennies to cover the cost of bringing you home. Everyone helped, everyone donated their time, their money, and their prayers to bring you to us. Jake and Eisley's arrival was covered by insurance, but yours was covered by our family and friends!" ;)

Or something to that effect. My kid won't be stupid. He'll know that adoption is expensive, not that he was an item to be bought. He will ask how we could possibly afford it given the fact that he has to share a room and a car with his brother, and I will tell him. "We couldn't, but God made it happen because that's just how He rolls. And if you want your own car, get a job my love."

But I digress. As for the last argument, "Fundraising tells the world you're buying your child." Well I think that one is just plain ignorant and doesn't really deserve a response. But for the sake of this blog, I will respond. Of course we are not buying this child. The money that is raised for this adoption does not go into the hands of the birth parents. It goes towards court and legal fees, it goes towards the cost of running our adoption agency, it goes towards adoption classes and home study meetings, it goes towards counseling for the birth parents, in some cases it goes towards running the orphanage, traveling expenses, document retrieval, finger printing, and the list goes on and on. Adoption is complicated, time consuming, and expensive. But not because cash is exchanging hands between adoptive couples and birth families. I think this one deserves a "Duh."

Okay. Now that we've got all that out of the way, onto the fun part! I wanted to create a long list of adoption fundraiser ideas that will hopefully grow over time. I will list them in order of "I actually did this and it was or was not successful" and then I will list others that I have heard of or read about on other blogs. Please feel free to comment if you have experience with a fundraiser that is not listed! I would love this to be a great long list for adoptive families to draw from.

- PRAY!!! 
Yup, I'm actually listing this as a fundraiser! I cannot tell you the value of praying over your adoption. God will provide for this if He brought you to it! Consistently praying for provision and creative ideas and opportunities to earn money is effective, in my experience! Ask others to pray with you as well. It certainly can't hurt, right?

-Start a Blog
People LOVE following an exciting journey like adoption. This is the best and most effective way of getting your story and needs out there! People can't support your adoption if they don't know about it. Blogging about your adoption journey from start to finish (does it ever really finish? I have yet to see that!) is a great way to involve others, and document your journey for your loved little ones! I can't wait to show my child the blog when he or she grows up. I fully intend to print it out into a book and let them see how they came to be, and all it took to bring them home. As for fundraising, putting a Paypal "Donate" button right on the blog is a great way to bring in funds. People want to help, they really do! Giving them a way to do that is sometimes all it takes. We got our very first donations for the adoption by simply starting a blog and adding a Donate Tab. Easy as pie, and doesn't cost you a thing.

-Odd Jobs, Extra Hours
This one is kind of a given. Adoptive families always put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their adoption fund. Is it possible for you to pick up extra hours at work? What about odd jobs like cleaning houses or babysitting? I am really blessed to be able to get a few extra hours at work here and there as needed, though this year much of that has gone towards unexpected costs like medical bills and car repair (isn't that always the way it goes?). Josh picked up a coaching job that helped add to the fund, and we even did a few cleaning jobs to help out! Ask around, put the word out you're looking to earn some money, and I guarantee things will pop up.

-Apply for Grants
This one is tricky. There are a lot of great organizations out there that offer financial assistance to adoptive families. The catch is you can't apply until you're homestudy is completed, but there are a lot of adoption fees that are due far before your homestudy is complete. Some organizations require you to be matched with a child before you can apply, some require you to have made "reasonable efforts" to fundraise on your own before applying, some ask that your adoption be well underway but not yet finalized. It depends on the organization and the kind of adoption you are pursuing. You're usually neck deep in the adoption process before you're even eligible to apply for many funds, but, if you can make it that far, it is wonderful to be able to receive assistance from these organizations. Please let me know if you know of an organization not listed below that provides grants to adoptive families so I can add it to the list!

Show Hope
Gift of Adoption:
Lifesong for Orphans:
Adoption Grant Information:

-Penny or Change Drives
This was our very first adoption fundraiser and we raised over $1000 this way! We posted on our blog and spread the word that we were hosting a Change Drive to help fund our adoption! It is always nerve racking to jump in and start your very first fundraiser, but you gotta start somewhere. We passed out baby bottles with a verse and our blog address to anyone that would take one! We posted on Facebook and had an end date. Friends were generous enough to donate a gift certificate as incentive to whoever collected the most change, and it was a great success!

Our bank was nice enough to let us turn in the change in large Coin Bags so we didn't have to roll it all up or waste 19% at a Coinstar Machine, and as it came in we counted it and added it to the bags. Every few days I'd take a trip to the bank and deposit it! This is a little to no cost way to raise funds, and it was lots of fun too! You can see how our Penny Drive went here.

-Photo Shoot Fundraiser
This was by far my favorite fundraiser and it was a great success!!! Do you know a photographer? Most of us can't swing a dead chicken without hitting a talented friend or family member with a photography business. I happened to have a wonderful cousin who is also an adoptive mommy offer her services and come up with this amazing fundraiser idea!!!

The way it worked was my cousin, Lisa, who also owns her own photography business, offered to do a day of "Mini Sessions" back to back, all day. One mini session included 20 minutes of photos, with all edited images on CD with the Copyright release. We had time slots from 9 a.m. all the way to 5 p.m. and picked a location with lots of different photo opps! Luckily we have a local historic park that is a great place to take a wide variety of photos. Lisa also created a flier to advertise the fundraiser which we passed out, posted to the blog, and sent rampantly over facebook!

Each mini-session cost $65 and Lisa was kind enough to donate all the proceeds to our adoption fund! She put a lot of work into this day as well as editing all those photos, so you will have to find a photographer willing to do that, but if you can, it is a wonderful and fun way to raise funds.

We easily booked the entire day with back to back sessions and raise almost $1000 that day! It was just so much fun and people were eager to jump on board and get their Christmas photos done while also helping a great cause!

-Yard Sale
Oh yes, the dreaded yard sale!!! I am not a fan at ALL of hosting yard sales, but their effectiveness can't be denied! Yard sales are a great way to earn cold hard cash for your adoption fund, costing you nothing but oodles of time and energy. I have seen some awesomely successful adoption benefit yard sales, and you can really get serious with this one if you have the ability to do so! We let people know we'd be accepting donations for our upcoming yard sale and the stuff started rolling in! We filled our entire garage to the BRIM with stuff by the time the yard sale date came around. People gladly donated to us rather than their local thrift store, and we had everything from couches to clothes to snowboards for sale.

I made a lot of really big, really bright signs to hang around the neighborhood, advertised on craigslist, spread the word on facebook, and created a facebook event to get the word out there. We had friends and family help sort, organize, price and run the sale and it went great! We got rid of almost everything in one day, and raised over $1700! You can read about it here.

Something else we did at the sale was exploit our adorable children to host a lemonade and cookie stand. We made them a really cute sign ("Help Us Bring Home Our Baby Brother or Sister!"), grandma made dozens of cookies, we made some lemonade, and we put them to work! Their cute faces together with sweet treats was an unstoppable combination. Those little ones raised hundreds of dollars on their own that day! Made mama so proud. ;)

I've seen adoption benefit yard sales go a step further and host two weekends in a row. We ran out of stuff mostly, but time and space were an issue as well. My not-so-expert yard sale tips are as follows:

-Advertise! Get the word out that you are taking donations, and drill the date into everyone's heads via facebook, blog, text, whatever! And definitely list your sale on craigslist the week before and every day leading up to it. People check those before going out yard saling and will want to come see yours!
-Make sure you advertise it as an "Adoption Benefit" yard sale. Some people will stop by and donate cash just because they believe in the cause!
-Organize! People like to browse your yard sale like they would a store. Group like objects together, and make it look "neat".
-Price simple, price low. People come to yard sales to get a bargain. Let them. Round prices off to the nearest 25 cents, you don't want to mess with change all day, trust me.
-Don't expect people not to haggle just because it's "for a good cause". People will try to talk you down all day, so just anticipate it so as not to get your feelings hurt. ;)
-BRIGHT SIGNS bring people in!!! Put them everywhere and make them EYE CATCHING. And don't forget to be a good citizen and take them down afterwards.
-Host a bake sale or lemonade stand in conjunction with your yard sale! Nothing makes people hungrier than shopping! You could bake, make lemonade, whatever! Depending on the weather even coffee and hot chocolate would be great ideas!
-Sell the bigger items on Craigslist, if you have the time and patience. Typically you can get more for that donated treadmill on craigslist than you can at a yard sale, but it really depends on the time you are able to put in.

-Host an Online Raffle
This was also a really fun one that we did that raised a LOT of money! You can do this a number of ways, but we decided to create themed baskets that we would raffle off on a set date. Before the raffle we had been asking for donations and got lots of responses! People donated their business (photography session, personal training, handyman) as well as things like handmade items and time at their cabin! We also had a large cash donation that we used to buy little items and gift cards to make the baskets extra special!

The way it worked was people could purchase entries for $5 a piece, and enter their tickets into whichever baskets they wanted to! You can see exactly how this worked by clicking here, but basically people would purchase tickets and tell me where they wanted their entries to go. Example: "I want ten tickets! Put five in the Date Night Basket and five in the Cabin Getaway!" I had a very nice little spreadsheet where I kept track of entries and later put each person's name on their tickets and placed them into separate baskets to draw from. Some people had one entry, some bought multiple entries and spread them out!

We then picked one ticket from each basket and the winners were chosen! It was a lot of fun and people really got into it! It was also by far our most successful fundraiser, bringing in over $2,000. I highly recommend this one!

-Restaurant Fundraiser
This one we did in conjunction with our Raffle, as we had been told it wasn't worth it to do by itself. Basically this fundraiser is when you find a local restaurant that will give you a date and time, and whoever comes in on that day and either mentions your adoption or gives their server a flier will automatically donate a portion of their proceeds to your fundraiser.

I know of quite a few restaurants that do this, but we picked our favorite because it was oh so yummy and they donated the largest percentage of money (20% of the bill). They were also kind enough to give us the entire day, open to close, as well as print out 500 color fliers to pass out. You can click here to see how ours went!

If you do this, go into it knowing it will take a LOT of people eating a LOT of food to earn a significant amount of money. We had over 150 people show up to eat that day and we brought home about $350. Many places offer a much smaller percentage for fundraisers so be mindful of this when choosing a restaurant!

The best thing we did for this fundraiser was to spread the word. I emailed that flier to everyone I knew, posted it on facebook, and asked ALL my friends to do the same. Facebook is a wonderful tool when raising money for adoptions, use it!

-Just Love Coffee
This is a company that offers $5 for each bag of coffee purchased from your online "storefront". It is free to set up and you don't have to do anything but wait for the checks to roll in. Unfortunately we haven't had great success with this fundraiser, but maybe that's because my circle aren't big coffee lovers??? Who knows. It is still an amazing company doing wonderful things for adoptive families. Click here to set up your store front!

Okay, those are all the things our family has done so far. We are now venturing into "uncharted waters" so to speak, but I wanted to list a few other ideas that I have seen other adoptive families do with success. Maybe you can too!

-Sell T-Shirts
Many places offer to make custom T-Shirts for you. I have seen some really cute ones to raise money for adoptions! You can put any number of things on your shirts, from the country you're adopting from to a Bible Verse to a uniquely yours icon or image. Get creative and start taking orders! Here is a company that I know of that does them, but there are lots out there!

-Sell Handmade Items
Set up an Etsy account and get to work! If you're crafty, start crafting and selling and use that money for your adoption fund!

-Fundraising Event
This can take a number of forms, and I have seen LOTS of great ideas out there! Sell tickets to your event and advertise away! You need a place, a date, and a theme, and lots of energy and help! Some ideas are a Poker Night, Spaghetti Dinner, Valentines Dinner, Concert, BBQ, the list goes on! This would be a great opportunity to host a Raffle as well!

-Puzzle Piece Fundraiser
This is a really cute one! Buy a puzzle that would go nicely in your future child's nursery. You then "sell" the puzzle pieces for a set amount like $5 a piece. When someone buys a piece, you add their name to the back of it and put it with the puzzle. When all the pieces are sold, you have a beautiful framed piece of art for your child's room that has the names of hundreds of people who helped bring him home!

-Car Wash
This one is pretty self explanatory! Host a car wash and make some cash for your adoption fund!

-Independent Sales
There are LOTS of companies out there that offer to host fundraising parties for you. Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, etc. usually offer about 15% of money spent at your party towards the fundraiser. It isn't much, but it's something!

-Support Letters
We never did this because we spread the word via Blog, but if that ain't your style, support letters are a great way to get the word out and ask for help.

Okay! I'm sure as time goes on and suggestions come in this list will grow! But for now, I hope it offers you some ideas to fundraise for your own adoption! Don't lose heart. I know how overwhelming the cost can seem, and how truly impossible it looks in the beginning. I am copying these verses from an adoption blog I follow and hope they are encouraging to you as well. She also posts about fundraising so go check it out HERE.

"God will generously provide all you need." 2 Corinthians 9:8
"This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:19
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32. 

Again, if you have anything you think I should add to this list please let me know! Thank you so much to our "village" for helping bring our child home!


  1. Loved your post! My husband and I were able to fully fund our placement fee for our son through fundraisers and direct donations. I never thought twice about what people thought about it...crazy what actually goes through people's minds!!! It sounds like you are doing all the right things! We applied for several grants/loans but were either turned down or told we no longer qualified since we got our son so suddenly from a hospital call. Saying a prayer for you as I post this comment...

  2. Fundraise away! Some people are just plain STUPID n d should not have orifices (sp?) where a mouth should be!

  3. Just wanted to say how very "Dave Ramsey" of you, to not go into debt to bring your baby home:)

  4. Haha we do love Dave Ramsey!!!

  5. GREAT post! I joined the blog hop and noticed you had stopped by my blog too! So great to have such a community of support! I agree wholeheartedly with you...we too have had naysayers...but I have had to let that roll off my back despite the fact that finances are a touchy issue. We know what we can afford...our homestudy is complete and those things were checked. Praying for God's provision for your family, knowing He keeps His promises!