How to Organize a Trivia Quiz Fundraiser Night
10 Steps to Organising a Successful Trivia Fundraiser
Over the years I have run more than 20 successful trivia nights to raise money for everything from kids sporting clubs and schools to charities like Youth off the Streets and the Cancer Council.
Each of these events raised thousands of dollars for their causes and for the amount of money raised were relativity easy to organise.
The key to running a great trivia night is to be really well prepared. Planning ahead and giving yourself enough time to gather prizes and spread the word about your event is vital. Below I have outlined 10 steps that will help ensure your event ticks all the boxes...These tips will help you make sure your fundraiser is fun, profitable and as painless as possible for those running it.
All of the images used to illustrate this page are taken from free clip art websites.
Step 1- Choose a time that works for your audience
Not the time that suits you best
Make sure your event does not clash with a big sporting event, a holiday weekend or other local event. Try not to stage it too close to money hungry times of year like Christmas, the start of the school year or tax time.
Don't start too early or too late. For a family event 6pm on a Saturday is probably best and for an adults only night 7.30pm works better. Avoid weeknights, other than Friday... while great for a local pub quiz night they are rarely successful for fundraisers.
The perfect trivia night manual
Step 2 Decide on your audience
Family friendly or adult's only event
There are two schools of thought on this one. Do you have a family friendly event so that everyone can join in or do you plan an adult's only night where people can let their hair down and have a few drinks? Personally I prefer the later... people tend to spend more at these nights too.
Don't worry too much about attracting a large crowd, you really only need 10- 20 families in your group to get involved and bring along a team of friends to have a very successful event.
Step 3 Find a suitable venue
Ask around - it can be a case of who not what you know
The aim here is to raise funds so spend some time trying to find a free venue. A school hall or community centre is your best bet for a cost free venue but if this is not an option approach some local clubs.. smaller ones tend to be best - you might be surprised at their willingness to give you a room for free provided you offer a bar.
The average trivia night attracts about 100-150 people Sell teams in tables of 10 at $10-$20 a head. I have often charged $20 a ticket with a discount of $5 if paid in advance. I have also been to events that charged $25 so it depends what you think your audience can pay. I would prefer a larger group and slightly cheaper tickets. Once there they will all spend a little more money anyway.
Ready Made Quiz format
Step 4 - Organise a prize committee
or even just a donations coordinator
You are going to need prizes. If you are working with a school or sporting club a letter to all families requesting donations or goods or services is worthwhile. Maybe some of the parents in your community own small businesses such as restaurants or hair salons. Vouchers from these types of businesses are great spot prizes or auction items.
It's good to give prizes for first, second and third or last place. They don't have to be expensive. One year we just bought a dozen bottles of good wine, another year a dozen movie vouchers. Second and third can be table prizes to share like chocolates. Last prize can be silly like a lolly pop or a packet of "Smarties" or even a wooden spoon.
Prize and auction ideas
These are some of the ways we have found prizes for our trivia nights.
- Door knock your local community
This works best in small towns and suburbs. We designed a sign advertising our event and then visited all the local business in the nearby area asking them to display it in their windows. While we were there we asked if they would like to contribute to the event in return for the opportunity to place some advertising at the event and appear in our next newsletter. We received many dinner vouchers from restaurants by doing this. This works best if you get someone who is well-known in town to do this job or share it among your group with people who are regular customers doing the asking
- Write a good donation request letter
And the send it to every family in your group. If you are fundraising for a bigger event send it to everyone in your email address book, post it on your Facebook status, tweet it. You never know who your cause might strike a chord with and what type of connections everyone in your circles has. We once discovered a parent who had a senior position at a record label who for the next few years gave us boxes of CDs and DVDs for every event we ran. Ask widely - the worse they can do is say no.
- Ask every family in the club or school to donate a specific item for a simple silent auction.
We did it this way.... every class in our small school was given a theme to create a gift basket. Then each member of the class bought in one item - we set the value at $10 per item but you can choose whatever amount you feel is suitable for your group. We had a chocolate indulgence basket; a body pamper basket, a baby basket, a picnic basket, a car cleaning and accessories basket, a family fun basket, a golf basket, an art and craft basket, a chef's basket and a make-up basket. There is no limit to what you could come up with.
- Signed items are great for silent auctions.
If you are a sporting club try to get hold of some signed jerseys or balls. Again ask around. I discovered that a man I worked with was good friends with World Champion Boxer Kostya Tzu... a few weeks later I had a signed pair of boxing clubs on my desk. Offer to pay for and supply the item that you want signed - make it easy.
We also managed to get hold of a script from a popular soap opera that had been signed by members of the cast... all cause one of the mums worked in the make-up department.
If you are a small club set a clear reserve on the item and if it is not reached you can always eBay the item after the event. Make sure everyone is aware of this so no one is upset the highest bid is not accepted.
- Lucky Numbers
At a footy fundraiser we had a lucky number balloon game. Players could buy a balloon for $5 and when they popped their balloon there was a number inside. Each number corresponded to a prize. All value of the prizes ranged from a couple of dollars to a whole lot more. At least half were worth more than the entry price. All prizes were collected from the kids a few weeks before the event with each family donating one prize. For our event this was bottles., any bottle, from barbecue sauce and perfume to wine and champagne. There were a few bottles of more expensive things to encourage people to have a punt on getting a good prize.
Buy some gift cards as prizes
If you can't be bothered chasing up prizes you can always spend some of your takings on some gift cards to give as prizes. These are really popular.
Step 5 - Find a charismatic host or two
Experience is not always necessary
While some people hire a professional trivia company and host to run their nights you can do it yourself quite successfully. Most community groups and schools have a couple of people who are capable and suited to doing the job. Perhaps there is a coach or teacher who everyone knows and loves that would be happy to help out. Sometimes getting 2 people to co-compare works well; it's less pressure if they are new to the task and not as much work.
For a really big event it is preferable to find or pay someone who is very comfortable with public speaking. A great host can be the difference between a fun night and highly profitable night and a tedious draw out event.
Give them the questions a few days before and include pronunciation guides if there are any difficult words...
Step 6 - Appoint some question writers
or question choosers if you are buying your questions.
Having a group of 2-3 people responsible for the questions seems to work best. Then get these people to work as the marking panel and judges on the night. It's good to have a couple of writers so that you get a mix of questions and also so they can verify the answers. Nothing causes more grief at a trivia night than incorrectly answers or ambiguously worded questions. If you have an experienced host let them write the questions if they volunteer. Their experience should ensure a good mix.
If you decide to buy your questions from a trivia company it is still important to make sure they suit your audience. Try to include some local stuff too about your club, school or sport. Add some cross generational stuff to - don't leave out the older or younger players.
A good rule of thumb for your questions is every team should be able to get 60% right. No one should go home feel stupid. I also prefer mixed rounds to themed rounds so people do not feel left out of whole sets of questions if they know nothing about that particular topic.
Step 7 - Make a timetable for the night
It's important to keep the pace up
Working out timing of the event is probably one of the hardest things to do if you have not been to a successful trivia night yourself. The most important thing is to keep things running... no big lags in-between rounds, quick marking and reporting of results and questions that are repeated 2-3 times (not half a dozen) seem to work best.
Have a set break about halfway through for people to get up and mingle, smoke, stretch their legs and top up their drinks.
A good trivia night usually runs for about 2.5-3 hours. While some of us are happy to play all night most people will be ready to go home by then.
Step 8 - Plan some fun games.
Games are a good way to give the judges some time for marking and get everyone up out of their chairs for a break. They are also an opportunity to raise some more money.
The most common way to do this is charge everyone $1 to join in... They can sit it out if they choose but most usually have a go.. If you have 100 people at your event you can raise an extra $300 doing this. The most common game is a simple Heads or Tails but here a few more ideas. I have used all these at big and small events and they are lots of fun.
5 Games to add some fun to your event - Break up the questions and keep it fun
- The Elimination Game
In this game everyone who wants to play stands up. A series of statements is read and if the statement applies to you then you sit down. This game can be lots of fun and you can shape the questions to your crowd. If it's an sports club - sit down if you have every missed training for a hot date. For a school group - sit down if you were ever suspended in high school. I have a whole list of Sit Down If statements you can download to get you started.
- True or False
Just like is says... get together a group of interesting statements and pose them to the crowd.... are they true or false? If you think they are true - hands on your head. If you think they are false - hands on your rear. Keep going to you have only 1 person standing. Works the same way as heads or tails but it's a bit more fun I think.
- Paper Airplane race
Give each team a piece of paper or two to construct a plane. I limit it to one plane a team so the game does not take too long. Then everyone comes out the front and launches their plane. The one that flies the furthest win.
- Who can bring me
Make sure you have a room with some space to move around for this game to work well, it's amazing how excited a bunch of adults can get with this task. You can approach this two ones... a quick simple "the first person to bring me a (insert item) wins" or for a more elaborate version give each team a small box or container and a list of 10 items.. 1 point for each item they can add to the box. Time limit of 2 minutes usually works well.
- Target practice
Also called a coin toss, this game involved people throwing coins (that you get to keep) at an attractive prize, usually an expensive bottle of alcohol. This works particularly well after people have had a few drinks. There are always one or two very competitive players who throw coin after coin at the item to come out victorious.
Step 9 - Make a running sheet and lists
Check it all the day before.
It's also easy for things to get out of hand when you are not working to a running sheet. Have someone - not the MC - oversee the event.. Make sure things run on time, solve little problems as they come up so the MC can focus on what they are doing and not try to think on the run.
List things you need to do include things like:Printing handouts and answer sheets - you can print out my blank answer sheet here Free answer sheet (edit it for your event)Having a supply of pens for marking and writing up scoresPreparing a float for change for ticket selling.Prizes arranged and delivered to venueA team of enthusiastic volunteers to run around on the night and keep things going smoothlyA list of people you need to thank during the evening for their support
Step 10 - Publicise your event
Posters, facebook, newsletters...
How you spread the word about your event differs depending on who you are raising funds for. If you are raising money for a school or a sporting club you rarely need to look beyond the families in your community. If you are raising money for a charity or an organisation a large spread of publicity is best.
Begin to publish details of your event about 6 weeks before the date. From about 4 weeks send word again and then 1 week before reminders to anyone who has signed up to attend. If you use Facebook set up an event on your page or even your own profile. It's surprising how many people came along to a recent trivia night because they had seen it on a friends facebook.
If it is a school newsletter have it run every week for the preceding weeks - lots of time parents don't get every single newsletter so you might pick up someone who missed it last time. If you are a sporting club make some small handbills to pass out at the games and at training.
For larger events you could approach your local newspaper for their events page and community radio for a brief mention. Don't forget to make use of the internet too... community notice boards and radio station what's on web pages have worked for us.