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What Are Tricky Tray Fundraisers (Complete Guide)

Author: Adie M.
Raffle tickets for tricky tray fundraiser

Tricky trays, or penny socials, are a popular and effective way to raise funds. They combine all the fun, mystery, and anticipation of an auction while helping you meet your fundraising goals. 

They’re also extremely versatile as you can go small or big with attendance for your tricky tray fundraiser. You can combine it with other activities or make it standalone and opt for a virtual or in-person version.

Here’s everything you need to know about this fundraising strategy. 

What Is A Tricky Tray?

Tricky tray fundraisers, also known as penny socials, are auction-style events that your non-profit can host to raise money. 

Tricky trays combine aspects of both raffles and auctions, offering an excitement-filled and fun way to approach fundraising. 

Other names for this fundraising approach include penny social, lucky number dinners, chance auctions, and penny sales. However, the term ‘Chinese auction’ which was used to refer to tricky trays in the past is now outdated.

How Do Tricky Trays Work?

For your tricky tray fundraiser, you must have a wide selection of items available as prizes. Participants buy standard raffle tickets for the auction and they use the tickets to secretly enter themselves for any available prize item. 

In an in-person tricky tray event, you arrange the items around the room and have an entry jar for each. Participants can walk around and see all the items, deciding which prize they want to enter. 

They put their raffle tickets into the jars for the prizes they want to win. At the end of the event, you select a winning raffle ticket and the owner collects the prize.

A virtual version is pretty similar, except you have to have a website or page with pictures and details of each prize. People buy raffle tickets for the items they want to win. 

How To Run A Successful Tricky Tray Fundraiser

1. Establish Your Fundraising Goals

The first thing you want to establish on your journey to hosting a tremendous tricky tray is your end goals. Knowing what you want to achieve will help you to make informed and intentional decisions that lead you to your goals. Of course, your overarching goal will be the funding goal you want to reach; how much do you want to make?

Other goals could include the number of people you want to attract to the event, the number of old and new donors, volunteer sign-ups, etc.

Raffle Stand For Fundraising

2. Make A Logistics Checklist

Next, you can put together a list of things you need for the coordination of your event. Knowing whether you want to go with a digital or physical auction will govern the kind of logistical considerations you need to make. 

For in-person events, these include:

  • Venue
  • Event team and/or volunteers
  • Food and catering
  • Furniture and seating
  • Music or entertainment
  • Lighting and sound
  • Ticketing
  • Raffle jars
  • Decor

The list for a virtual tricky tray starts and ends with auction software with raffle features. You can manage your items, add descriptions, process payments, and more. Auction software can also enable you to create a website that houses relevant information about your tricky tray.

Decide whether you’d prefer a physical or virtual event and draft your logistics checklist with that in mind.

3. Create A Budget

With your logistics checklist in place, you can now create your event budget. Use the items listed above as line items for your event. You can also add marketing, auction software, and any other things that may be specific to the kind of event you want to have.

Consider what each item on your list might cost. For now, get an estimated minimum and maximum cost of each item so you don’t under- or over-budget. 

4. Get Other Donations & Sponsorships

You can also think about alternate ways that you can get the things you need for your event.

Working hand-in-hand with the budgeting step is the process of sourcing donations and sponsorships. For one, asking for donations can be a viable way to gather the raffle items for the tricky tray. 

You can ask businesses and even individuals to donate items that you could put up as prizes. If this is the route you want to take for sourcing raffle items, you must get an early start on it as donors may need time to process your request.

You can also ask for a helping hand for the other aspects of your tricky tray fundraiser. You could, for example, approach companies that may be able to loan you their space as a venue. Or you could ask to use a community space like a community hall or park. 

Your existing volunteers and donors may also have skill sets that you can utilize. Maybe one of them DJs or is a musician in their spare time and they could volunteer to perform at the fundraiser. 

The point is that organizing a tricky tray is a great time to reach into your networks and ask for help. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg and that way, you make much more than you spend.

5. Market Your Event

The last consideration you must make before putting the entire event together is your marketing. How will you get people to know about your event and want to attend? 

Marketing is a key part of making your fundraiser a success. Without it, you may not have many attendees which will hamper your ability to meet your fundraising goals.

Use all the avenues available to you to drive your marketing and reach more people. You can start by designing a fundraising website that will have all relevant information about the auction. This will be like your event home. 

You can also use social media to drive attention to the website and build hype around the auction.

Also share information about the fundraiser on your nonprofit website, through newsletters, and whatever other channels you have. 

People talking at a fundraiser

Key Takeaways

Now you’ve got everything you need to throw that tricky tray together! This can be an enjoyable process for everybody involved. With an expansive network and smart planning, you can put together an auction that is a resounding success. 

Achieve your fundraising goals by trying out this method and using our step-by-step guide above. Reach out to us today and we can support you in your efforts and provide you with the best auction software for tricky tray success.