It all started late last summer. I would hear church members asking the congregation to bring in various items for outreach programs and for our food ministry, and I knew we could get these things much cheaper if we were using coupons. I started telling a few of my friends at church about deals and how a coupon match-up could make for little out of pocket cost. They began bringing me the coupons they weren't using. Eventually, we had the entire congregation leaving their coupons in a basket at the front of the church, and the program became what we now call Coupons for Christ.
Late last year my husband and I would buy a little here and a little there for the church. By the end of the year we had calculated to have spent less than $30 and had brought in over $700 worth of products. Early last year, the youth raised $225 for our food pantry, which has helped quite a bit. Having the "kitty" of money allows us to buy much needed products like diapers that we might have not been able to before. Now our food pantry contains everything from cereals to deodorant. With the economic downturn, it has been used much more frequently than in the past. Continued donations from the church and community, along with what we buy with the coupons, allows us to meet the needs of people struggling.
How can you start a coupon ministry at your church, synagogue or community program?
- Start small. If I hadn't already been using coupons for our family, it would not have been so easy for me to make the transition into buying for the church. Begin by asking a few friends to bring you coupons and see how it goes.
- Get organized. Don't clip every coupon for the sake of clipping it. Write the date on the front of the circular and when you see a free after coupon match-up posted on a blog, cut it out at that time. File the circulars based on dates so that you can return to them more easily. Try to do this each week.
- Enlist the help of others. You do not have to be the only person working your coupon ministry. See if friends are interested in helping. Maybe you could trade off weeks where one person organizes the coupons from one week and the other does so for the next week.
- It takes time, but not as much as you might think. For the most part, I do the shopping for the church when I'm already going to be in the stores. I don't like to waste gasoline, time, or energy. While I strongly believe in the importance of this program, I try not to let it take away from time with my family or with the church.
- Have some kind of system for keeping coupons separated. I know how many papers I buy each week and that I receive coupons from my grandmother and a few other friends. This helps me to know which coupons I can use for my family and which ones I can use for the church. Knowing the church members, they would never care if I used coupons from the church for us, but it just seems like bad Karma to be cheating the church out of something they could be use. However, when the product is something that the church may have no use for, I feel comfortable using it for our family.
- When shopping, I store the items for the church in the bottom of the cart so I can keep them separated. I tend to move coupons from my binder to my pocket as I put items in my cart. I keep ones for the church in my left pocket and ones for our home in my right pocket.
- Ask your church or charity about use of the tax exempt form.
- Keep records. I have an envelope in which I put a little money from what the youth gave us, the tax exempt form, receipts, and catalinas. When I get home from shopping trips, I record what we spent, when, where, for what, and how much we saved. Never have church members asked for an accounting of the money, but I want to make sure I am using it appropriately. If ever people wanted to see what we were buying, I could easily show them the documents. I give occasional updates. From last summer when my husband and I started buying for the church to now with the addition of funds from the youth, we have spent about $125 and have bought over $1400 worth of products.
I hope these tips and ideas will help you and the charitable organizations with which you belong. Please post any questions or additional tips in the comments section.