Adoption fundraising advice

If there's one "adoption question" that gets asked over, and over, and over again, it's, "Can we afford it?"  In fact, besides "When is he coming home?" the fundraising question is probably the one I get asked the most. Most adoptions are expensive.  Most families don't have $20,000-$30,000 tucked away somewhere to pay for their adoption.  Fundraising is usually a necessary step in the adoption journey.

I've shared our fundraising journey in detail throughout this blog, but I think it's time to condense it down and spill it out all in one post.  So from all the books and articles I read, to the seminars I attended, to our personal experiences: here it is.  My very best adoption fundraising advice.

First things first, if God has called you to adopt then take heart.  He will find a way to make it happen.  Before you write your fundraising letter or start planning your ice cream social, commit yourself to prayer and ask for one thing: clarity and confidence of calling.  Only when you've determined in your heart that this is indeed God's calling on your life can you summon the energy, the tenacity and the staying power to work your way through the fundraising.  You will be humbled by the generosity of others; let it humble you and give thanks for it.  Do not be embarrassed by it.  All the money in the world belongs to God and when he directs it toward your adoption, give thanks and use that gratitude to energize you as you move forward in your journey.

And then we get to the practical.

1. Write a fundraising letter.  Send it to everyone you know.  Don't not send it to anyone.  Really- send it everyone.  You never know who God will use to bring your little one home.

Your letter should include a few things.  First, remember that your request for help is not about you, but about a child.  You are not inviting your friends and family to make you parents (or make you parents again) as much as you are inviting them to make an immeasurable difference in the life of a child who needs a family.  You are also inviting them to be part of a story, a story that imitates what God has done for us in Christ.  A story that reminds us that we are all adopted by our heavenly Father.  Make sure your letter reflects these truths.

Second, share your story.  Why are you adopting?  Who are you adopting? What kind of adoption are you doing? When will this adoption happen?  People want to know.  Share the information you are able to share. Be generous with your story and invite others into it.

Third, talk about why you need their help to cover the costs.  People who are not familiar with the adoption process are often surprised shocked by the cost.  Tell them what the money goes toward.  And tell them how else you plan to cover the costs (tax credits, applying for grants etc.)  Show them that you've thought this through and have a plan to make sure their donation does not go to waste.

Fourth, tell them how they can donate.  Is their donation tax deductible? Who can they make their check out to?  Etc.

Last, write a thank you card or email every single time.  Never loose sight of the generosity you've been shown and always show your gratitude.   

As a result of our fundraising letter and flat out donations given via our blog, we raised $16,924.
Signing one of many letters we sent out. 
2. Cover the spectrum.   By this I mean: make sure your fundraisers give everyone in your life an opportunity to participate.  Think about the demographics of your community with respect to age, gender, finances, and general interests like hobbies or introversion vs. extroversion.

Our community looked like this:
- lots of younger families nearby (mostly from our church)
- young professional friends who live in a couple hour radius from us
- extended family and lots of friends from my side who do not live close by at all
- most of our community is what you'd call middle class

 We held two big event based fundraisers and two smaller on-going fundraisers.

Our main event fundraiser was a pancake breakfast.  We thought long and hard about doing a dinner fundraiser "banquet," but settled on the breakfast after really considering our community.  A dinner would mean our friends would need babysitters and to mark up another night on their already busy calendars.  A breakfast, however, included the kids and could be held as more of a come-and-go event rather than a long evening.  Plus, breakfast food is much cheaper to prepare than dinner, so our out-of-pocket expenses would be less.

We raised $4,507 at our pancake breakfast, which included one enormously generous $1,500 donation. 
Serving breakfast at our fundraiser!
Our second event fundraiser was an online auction.  When we announced our adoption we had a few people say that they could not afford to write us a check, but they would love to help in another way.  This help came through in the form of donations to our silent auction.  We had hand carved pens, children's clothing, a fishing trip and lots more unique items donated.  We decided to do it online so that our friends and family who did not live nearby could also participate.  We used the site 32auctions.com to host and ran it for two weeks.  We "showcased" a different item via facebook each week.

Winners of the fishing trip, just last week!
We raised $1,388 through our online auction.

Our two on-going fundraisers were the jewelry I made and sold via my etsy shop and our t-shirt sales.  In all of my fundraising research the idea of making something and selling it kept coming up over and over again.  When I was 10 I sewed a couple sack bags with a drawstring closure for my grandparents to keep their dominoes in.  That was about as successful as my crafting skills were.  I enjoyed art class in high school, but that was a far cry from being good at it.  So the question remained: what to sell?  I knew I had to teach myself a new skill.

Inspired by a necklace I had bought during our struggle with infertility, I determined to teach myself the art of hand-stamping.  I researched my little heart out: materials, methods, sellers, prices.  Etsy, Michael's, and youtube became my close friends.  It took a few many tries to get my first necklace right, but I did it.  I set up a shop on etsy and advertised to all my friends.  I spent many hours wielding my hammer, but it was worth it.  Through my sales on etsy, we raised $1,635 for our adoption.
My very first successful necklace.
My jewelry was "marketed" (for lack of a better word) at women, so we wanted something that men buy to support our adoption as well.  Enter our t-shirt sales.  We asked my sister and sister-in-law, who are both artistically inclined and have the right software for this sort of thing, to each design a shirt.  We guesstimated how many of each shirt we should order and in what sizes and friends of ours who own a local print shop did the printing work.  We sold the shirts for $20 each and then lowered the price to $15 when we had just a few in hit-and-miss sizes left.

I only recorded t-shirt sales until we hit out fundraising mark, but we kept them up on etsy after that.  I have to guesstimate the money raised on this one, but it was somewhere in the $500-600 range.

There were a few small things we did in addition to these like sell cards a friend made for us and sell coffee through justlovecoffee.com.  The youth group at my childhood church also threw us a spaghetti dinner fundraiser which raised over $700! We made an appearance via Skype to that one since we live to far away now.

Though our various fundraisers we really covered the spectrum; there was something for everyone.  Some people gave a donation and bought a shirt.  Some came to the breakfast.  Others bought a necklace for all their friends at Christmas time.  People who wouldn't necessarily donate $20 because it seems "too small" (it's not!) will happily buy a shirt for the cause.  One little girl did chores around the house to raise money for "Mrs. Burden's baby" and brought it to us at our breakfast fundraiser.  Friends of ours gave us their Christmas money.   As I type this is the screen is getting blurry because I'm still so moved by the generosity of others. 

3.  Share your story.  I hinted at this in the first point, but it is worth emphasizing again.  Your fundraising will be more successful if you invite others to share in your story and your joy.  People love to give to something when they feel like they are a part of it.  This blog was one of the best things we ever did for our adoption journey.  Not only have we received great encouragement through it, but I believe our fundraising went quickly because of it.  I used to have a little fundraising thermometer in the sidebar and people always commented how they loved watching it rise.  When we were only a couple hundred dollars shy of our goal, a family from our church drove over to our house with a check for the rest of they money we needed.

We also had people from our pasts and people we didn't even know give us money; that was amazing.  I will never forget opening my email one morning to find a $1,000 donation from someone whose name I didn't recognize.  I honestly thought it was a mistake until my husband told me that it was from a brother of someone he went to high school with.  Unless we had shared our story on this blog, that connection never would have been made.  Share your story.  You never know whose heart will be touched and who will want to join you to bring your child home.


This post is just about fundraising. I haven't touched on all the possible forms of financing adoption.  In addition to fundraising, there are a multitude of other ways to cover the cost of your adoption.  Employee benefits, grants, tax credits, and more.  I've said it before and I have to say it again: read this book Adopt Without Debt. It is only $15 on amazon and it will be some of the best $15 dollars you will spend.  Filled with great ideas and advice, it will inspire you and help you think of creative ways to raise money for your own adoption, as well as explain potential complications for each one.  This is how I got the idea for my jewelry fundraiser and it also gave great advice as we planned our breakfast.

 Blessings to you on your fundraising journey!  You can do it!  xo


  1. What about if you feel "financially secure" enough that you feel bad about fundraising. Ian and I have been saving for our adoption for the last year and a bit. We talked about fundraising etc but just felt that if we could "afford" it, fundraising felt like cheating....


    1. Great question. My thoughts are that if you experience financial strain due to the adoption, then fundraising is fair game. If the adoption costs don't make you sweat, you don't need to fundraise.

      Friends of ours are adopting and covering almost all the costs themselves because they saved in advance, but they are fundraising for part of their costs, specifically the orphanage donation. Lots of adoptions ask for a one or two thousand dollar orphanage donation; this is a great area to fundraise for, to cover just those costs.

      Even with domestic adoption, you are putting a lot of money that you would otherwise invest or put into a college fund etc., into the adoption. I still think fundraising is fair game. Ultimately stay true to your convictions, but I say you can at least do a smaller fundraiser like a garage sale or dinner party or t-shirt sales etc. Make your goal public "ie: we're trying to raise $2,000 to help with our adoption costs" and then celebrate with friends when you meet the goal.

      Hope that helps a bit!

    2. I think that so many people WANT to help! I found that out as we started the adoption and fundraising process! Everyone's hearts had broken for us over our struggles with infertility and they wanted to do something to help us out.

  2. This is amazing ! Its so great to see people from all over coming together.. and I hope your child one day is soooo honored and thankful to know how much work and how many people came together to make his/her life possible.

    1. Thanks Michelle! I hope he feels so loved by all this effort too. I have saved all the cards we received with donations to show him someday. Thanks for commenting!

  3. What a wonderful post. We just brought home our first daughter through adoption (from Taiwan) and we have definitely see the Lord be faithful to provide the funds. Our adoption wasn't nearly as expensive as it could have been (it was through a private orphanage) but it still wasn't cheap! :)

    Thank you for your testimony of the Lord's provision. Hopefully it will encourage others to adopt!!

    1. Congratulations on bringing your daughter home Tara! Wonderful. Isn't it amazing how the Lord provides? So happy to hear your good news. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Thanks for mentioning my book Jill. This is a great post and WOW, hugely successful pancake fundraiser. I'd love to share more details about that with my readers if you wouldn't mind. If you're interested, email me ([email protected]) and I'll shoot you some questions.

    1. Well WOW! Feels pretty good to know you think this was a good post! ha. Thanks for commenting Julie and I shot you an email.

  5. I just want to say thank you for not just sharing your story, but the details of how you were able to make this happen. I would love to adopt at some point, and you have really inspired me that it is possible and worth every single second of waiting. Best of luck to you! I cannot wait for you to bring home your little man!

  6. Anonymous10/03/2012

    Jill, that was such an informative post! One very important thing you touched on was "Share Your Story." Many adoptive families do not realize just how important this is when asking for donations or support.

    Also, I HIGHLY recommend Julie Gumm's book Adopt Without Debt. It's a terrific investment and inspirational read as you begin your adoption fundraising efforts.

    Matthew Lee

  7. My husband and I just went through IVF and unfortunately it was unsuccessful. I have felt the call to adopt for a long time and so we are currently seeking adoption info from places near us. Thank you for this post:) the cost of adoption is so daunting and thinking of fundraisers can be hard! We plan to do a puzzle fundraiser where we "sell" the pieces, then put it together and have it framed (two sided) so the child can see all the people who loved them so much and helped make this adoption a reality! Thanks for the other ideas! May God bless you and your sweet family!

  8. I love your blog (my pastor, Mary Stegink) directed me to it and I've been reading faithfully ever since you brought your little guy home….post after post brings me to tears and touches my heart deeply. We are starting our adoption journey (still in the home study stages so we haven't posted it anywhere yet!) and I've bookmarked this post in particular to reference back to!!! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, your journey, and your heart. Blessings to you and your family!!
    Emily (www.myincrediblefamily.com)

  9. Anonymous1/05/2013

    Beautiful journey & blog! For your readers who may still be daunted by the cost of international adoption, take heart: my husband and I were blessed with two amazing sons, but hoped for a bigger family. We get by on a very limited income, so when the stork stopped visiting, we adopted our two amazing younger sons through our county-- for FREE! They joined our family as foster sons when they were 18 mos. and 3 yrs., and our wonderful bio sons were 6 and 4-- yes, we had *four* boys ages six and under-- crazy FUN!!! And, by God's grace, the adoptions were finalized a little over one year later! Today our lads are 8, 9, 11 and 13-- and all around *great* guys!
    Our American foster care system is bursting at the seams-- please consider opening your heart and taking one or more precious children "out of the system"! Adoption through your county is free and *much* needed! We hope to adopt more ourselves (since the stork still hasn't shown up again), but we learned our house is too small, and we are in no position to relocate. Please prayerfully consider domestic adoption through your county! Thank you, and God bless!!!

  10. i have3 nieces who are currently in the states custody, going up for open adoption. WE would love to take all three of them to assure they have a loving home and more importantly they stay together. I honestly believe that separating them for any reason would be departmental to them. I would love to take them, but financially we can not take on 3 more kids, where we have 4 children of our own. What would you suggest?

    1. I'm fairly certian adopting out of foster care- even if its family - gives you $800 stipend (amount may have changed) per child until their 18 birthday. Check with your state social services to be sure because things change all the time but I'm. Sure tha will give you enough to care for your nieces! I hope it works out. I'd be looking into things immediately before things cannot be undone.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I have been blessed by God with one biological son who is now 9 years old. We have for years considered adoption but have never moved forward with it--perhaps we were ignoring God's call or God is still preparing us and our child to meet. Your advise is very treasured and, should we get the blessing to adopt, use your ideas and advise to bring home the child God has called us to care for. We are prayerfully considering foster-to-adopt or international adoption.
    I actively blog my daily devotions at http://byschellewithlovefromgod.blogspot.com/ so feel free to share in my journey with God as I will now be actively sharing with you in yours!

    In His Name,

  12. Wow...you made me cry! We adopted our little boy, Israel, last year and now we are in the process of adopting a little girl from Uganda. Let's say we are in the process of seriously asking God for His leading....We have a name of this child and know some information about her. We just don't have any more money for another adoption. This has given me some great ideas and some hope! Thank you! Beth

    1. Anonymous4/08/2013

      hi Beth! We are also in the process of adopting from Uganda. We are in the beginning stages and have been working on fundraising as well. My blog is www.love1more.weebly.com. Would love to connect!

  13. Anonymous3/22/2013

    I have adopted 4 times once from China, once from Korea, and twice from the US. The adoption in the US took me 7 years my boys were our foster children that long. I am not saying dont do it but it is hard over 12 years as foster parents many children have came and went and very few could be adopted unless they were in the system many years. I love all my children so much and I am in the process of adopting again from China I know God will lead me and help me come up with the money for this little life.My daughter was in a orphanage for 10years her story of waiting for parents to come is very sad I think all children need parents no matter their special need,sex,or where they are from. Dont let cost keep u from adopting ever!!!

  14. Thanks for all your encouragement and fundraising ideas! We are at the somewhat beginning stages of adopting from China...I am amazed at what He has provided so far! Sometimes it is a little scary to wonder where it will all come from, but I am certain that this is where He wants my husband and I and that is what I keep coming back to. He won't leave us to do this alone, He will provide!

  15. Wow this post was so helpful and encouraging! We have a similar strategy for fundraising and would love feedback if you have time to do so...I have an etsy shop that targets mostly women and my husband is making and selling leather iphone sleeves and wallets that primarily appeal to guys. We have a blog (www.dadwillbuildyourleg.blogspot.com) and have a few larger events (multi family yard sale, dinner banquet) planned for the future. We made prayer cards with the intention of mailing them out with a support letter to friends and family. Would you be willing to read over our support letter and give feedback based on your experience?

  16. Jillian, thank you so much for this. We adopted our son last year and we were able to pay for it mostly on our own, but we are feeling God call us to adopt again (so soon!) and obviously, twice so close together is an enormous financial strain and we are looking at ways to raise funds. A humbling experience indeed. Your words bring me hope that what seems like an impossibility to us isn't bigger than our God.

  17. Anonymous1/17/2014

    My husband and I are starting the adoption process now and this was so inspiring. Thank you

  18. Thank you Jillian for your post! Do you have a sample fundraising/donation letter that you could post?

    1. Hi Elizabeth! There is a picture of it in this post- I think you should be able to read it! http://www.addingaburden.com/2011/12/photo-post.html

  19. Thanks for the inspiration. My wife and I are just starting into the process of adopting a child from the Philippines, and this has helped us. We have lots of ideas, such as asking our friends to throw all their loose change for a month into jars, and organizing a paintball tournament for the guys at our church. I'm setting up a silent auction on our adoption website and plan to have a garage sale in the spring.

    We're trusting in God to meet this need!

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  20. Hi Jill,
    My husband and I are actually finishing up our final round of fertility pills this month and if we are unsuccessful, we will spend the next 9 months saving for our home study/ initial expenses. When should we start fundraising? Do we wait until after our homestudy is completed? Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Liz! We started fundraising as soon as we were accepted into a program with our agency; so right at the same time that we started the homestudy process. You will not be able to apply for most grants until AFTER the homestudy because submitting your homestudy will be part of the application process, but if you are doing something like an auction or selling something you can definitely start earlier! The sooner you start the sooner you will be done!

    2. Jill,
      Thank you for your reply :) It was very helpful. I am very unfamiliar with the adoption process so please excuse me if my questions are ignorant. We have not picked an adoption agency yet b/c my husband is in the process of applying for a few jobs out of state and we do not want to start the adoption process here in Virginia if there is a chance we will be moving. Once we pick our agency and get our homestudy, do you typically pay the adoption agency money up front or do you pay everything at the end... before the adoption is complete. Thanks again for your insite!

  21. Great post! Been reading a lot about different aspects of adoption. Thanks for the info here!

  22. Thank you for posting this. I started following your blog a few months ago (let's be honest, I read the whole thing start to finish over the course of a couple of days like it was a novel) and I'm sure I read this post but re-reading it today really inspired me. I have always known I was meant to adopt, but kept telling myself "not yet" because of money. A few months ago God really opened my eyes to the fact that HIS CALLING doesn't need to match up to MY TIMING and that if I obey, He will provide. Thank you for affirming that and for all of your great ides. I'm ordering the book now and am saving this post in my favorites. Blessings to you and your family.

  23. We are currently fundraising and figuring out details. We just announced to everyone we are adopting, and are so excited. We are just trying to make sure we are proactive and plan ahead. Love your site and all the advice!

  24. Anonymous10/28/2015

    I have a question regarding your Etsy shop and taxes. I am interested in possibly opening up an Etsy shop as a fundraiser, but I am a bit intimidated by the tax portion of it?

  25. Anonymous5/22/2016

    This information has helped so much. But it doesn't help with the fact that I am just horrible at putting words to paper. Our hearts our overwhelmed with passion for adoption. We have just started this journey and are trying to write our letter. I have crumbled up countless sheets of paper and just don't know where to start!


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