Most people want to serve on a mission trip but don't understand how to raise money. If this is you, DON'T WORRY! You are not alone. Once you commit as a volunteer, the next step is to begin fundraising to help get you there. The sooner you start, the better. Your friends, relatives, work colleagues and church members are your audience - here are five ways to reach them and raise money successfully:

1. WRITE A LETTER

is one of the most effective ways to fundraise for a mission trip. Don't limit yourself to just friends and family. Send letters to everyone you can think of, including local businesses. Many youth groups have prepared fundraising letters, and samples for you to use. Follow-up a week later with a phone call if you can. And don’t forget a thank you note to everyone that responds.

2. HAVE A YARD SALE

Gather some friends and sell all that stuff you're not using. This is a great way to fundraise. Ask people to donate extra items (the kind of stuff that lies around collecting dust in the garage) and hold a giant sale. Be sure to advertise locally so that lots of people will come. With donated items, you’ll be able to raise money very quickly and remaining items can be returned or passed on to charities or thrift stores.

3. SERVE

Organize a group of volunteers and sell vouchers for around-the-house services. You can mow lawns, tidy yards, clean garages or paint a small room. You can sell these vouchers door-to-door or through your church. Although most people have small jobs they can’t seem to find time for, the elderly and single parents will especially appreciate these services, so approach them first.

4. HOST A DINNER PARTY

If you are planning an international mission trip, do some research into the food and culture of the country you’re visiting. Mission Discovery has several group mission trips planned for Jamaica, Guatemala, Mexico and more. Plan a menu, print out some fact sheets about your destination and the volunteer work you will be doing and host a fun evening for family and friends. Sharing your excitement and plans over a unique meal will encourage guests to donate.

5. HARNESS ONLINE TOOLS

Websites such as Razoo and Fundraiserhelp.com offer virtual tools for personal or group fundraising. From creative ideas to social media platforms, fundraising sites can put you in touch with new audiences and potential donors in a few easy steps. Some sites charge a fee, so be sure to read the small print before you commit.

Setting a monthly goal can be helpful when you are fundraising. Breaking down the full amount into more manageable pieces can make the process less intimidating. Keep a thorough record of people that pledge and don’t be afraid to follow up - busy people can forget they promised to donate to you. Consider buying souvenirs and gifts for your major donors while you are away. Lastly, don’t wait to begin - start now and maximize the time before your mission trip. Good luck!