Turning $1 Into 4 Months Rent for a Family in Need

A couple weeks ago I was challenged in a business workshop to turn $5 into as much revenue in 24 hours. This challenge is meant to get students to think outside the box with an unstructured project.

Guidelines for the $5 Challenge:

  • You can’t spend more than $5 on materials.
  • Once you open the envelope containing $5, we had 24 hours to earn as much revenue as possible.

With these lack of constraints, many people would believe the project was simple. However, without constraints, innovation becomes much more difficult. The first step we took was to add structure to our environment.

3 Steps to Organize Your Team’s Projects:

1. Choose a Leader

You must pick a leader. Someone has to be managing the project to keep the team on track and on time.

2. Brainstorm Ideas

Once you have a leader, begin brainstorming ideas. Create a nice long list to work with. Remember: the more bad ideas you have, the more good ideas will show up.

3. Prioritize the List of Ideas

Now that you have a nice long list of ideas, where do you start? Begin prioritizing your list with this framework:

Impact vs. Difficulty

Each of these ideas will have a level of impact for your team and level of difficulty. Apply values for each category and idea to determine which idea you’ll act on first.

You Have Your Idea: What’s Next?

Go do it. Once you have your top idea, prioritized by impact and difficulty, you can get to work on the project at hand.

We had our idea: raising financial aid for a student in need at Lancaster Bible College.

Here’s an issue that we didn’t realize until late in the project: how do we choose a student in need? This is a difficult task because we then had to rank the students in need due to our own definition.

We started having conversations with the administration of the college of which students were in greatest financial need with unique situations. Through a number of meetings, we heard the story of an international student-family who arrived in America. Due to the sensitivity of the family’s situation, the family asked that we share minimal details about their story. This added an interesting dynamic to the strategy as we worked to bring dignity to the family while remaining sensitive to their situation.

Creating a Strategy

Next, we had to create a strategy of how we were going to fundraise. We met with the advancement department of Lancaster Bible College. After getting ideas from them, we formed a strategy with a goal of $6,000 to support the family for a year. We operated through with the following strategy:

1. Pray

This seems like an irrelevant step for most strategies, but it was the foundation and most important action step we could take. With a goal of $6,000 for this family, we were struggling to envision how we could accomplish the goal. We recognized that God’s hand had to be in it for this to work.

2. Create a Fundraising Page

Our next step was to create a fundraising page for donors to easily contribute support. This enabled donors to visit an easy-to-access destination to view progress, updates, and share with others.

3. 1and1 Domain

We needed an easy-to-remember domain for donors to visit. I purchased studentsinneed.org from 1and1.com ($0.99 for a year) and enacted a simple HTTP redirect to forward the link to the fundraising page. This was a key strategy as we shared the mission of the fund with potential donors. This was a simple URL to remember and sharable.

4. Create a Call List

We decided to create a call list instead of an email blast because of the ability to share the student’s story with personal connections. Too often stories are shared via social media or email and we believe that there is a loss of personal connection that comes with this approach. This became especially crucial as we honored the family’s wishes in sharing minimal details of their story.

5. Create a Brand Video with a Strong Call-to-Action

We realized that not everyone would spend their time reading the content on the fundraising page, so we created a short brand video with a strong call-to-action, challenging viewers to donate just $5. However, most who watched the video gave more than $5.


6. Present to Our Peer Groups

Each of the group members had their own circles of influence within the LBC community. We spread out on campus, having conversations with peers and sharing the story of the family in need. We encouraged our community to pray for the family and if they felt led, to give in support.


It’s game time! Our group setup a time to get together and start calling everyone on their contact lists and asking for support. This was probably one of the most difficult parts of the project because it’s very uncomfortable to ask for money. While this part required the most effort and added the most tension, this challenged our group to grow the most.

We settled on a phonathon format, choosing to make calls from one room, encouraging others in their fundraising calls. We spent crucial time sharing stories about the family, sharing the vision for this fund, and how the donors had the opportunity to contribute.

While the donations started coming in slowly, we gained momentum and others began catching the vision for the project.


At the end of 24 hours, we had raised $2,000 in support. After sharing the results of our project in the business workshop, we started generating a lot of buzz for the opportunity we had to surround this family as the body of Christ.

This is more than just a 2-day conversation. We are continuing to raise funds for the family. We are taking the week to regroup, reform our strategy, and meet with influencers in the community.

If you would like to find out more about our cause or the family we’re supporting, visit studentsinneed.org.

Thank You

Last but not least, I want to thank the group I was privileged to work with. The 24 hours were hectic but our mission and getting to work with this team made it totally worth it. From left to right: Leighton, Austin, Lindsey, Joy, Brad (Me), McKayla, Jeff, Colin (Not pictured: Whip and Naomi).

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