Coming out of this recession, congregations are looking for new ways to augment church income. Many of the more traditional options (craft fairs, flea markets, service auctions) can, if well done, help build community, but they tend to be one time affairs, place high demands on volunteer hours, and most often do not raise substantial amounts of money. Many congregations are making use of more technologically assisted options with good results. You might wish to consider something along these lines.
One such program is to sign up your congregation as an affiliate with a service provider, such as Amazon. Being an affiliate simply means your organization will post somewhere on its website a notice that anyone who wishes to order anything from Amazon may do so by clicking on the Amazon logo on your web site. When this is the done, the purchase is automatically credited to the church’s account for a share of the purchase price. Signing up is simple, and Amazon provides a monthly statement, as well as automatic deposits of the proceeds. How much the church earns is a bit more complicated an answer, depending on volume and amount and types of purchases, but in my congregation’s experience, it runs about 4% of the amounts spent. The pattern for most seems to be for a bit of a slow start the first couple of months; once members get used to the idea, volume builds up quickly. Since the program applies not just for books but for everything purchased on Amazon (furniture, clothing, electronics, etc), the totals grow nicely. There are other affiliate programs available (Barnes & Noble, for example). We chose Amazon because the variety of items available for purchase is so much larger.
Not everyone will think affiliating with Amazon is a good idea, seeing it as one of the reasons local book stores are struggling. You may wish to remind your members that supporting book sales in the church, Beacon Press, Skinner Books, and your local book stores are all worthy actions, but when and if they are considering an online purchase of books or other items, they can do so through your website and make a contribution to the church at the same time.
Another option is to contract with Cafe Press, which can provide any number of church affiliated items (coffee mugs, shirts, bumper stickers, etc), which your members can order on line, again with a share of the proceeds going directly to the church. Cafe Press works on a just- in-time model, so there is no inventory, no upfront investment, and no management for the church. Just provide the logo/phrase you want to use and advise them what items to offer. These bring in revenue to the church and help advertise the church as people wear the shirts and use the mugs in other places.
These programs are not a substitute for home-based stewardship programs, but they can provide a boost. If interested, you may find more information on these two particular programs at Amazon and at Cafe Press.