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How to Organize a Trivia Quiz Fundraiser Night

Paula has been a librarian, trivia host, photographer, and travel guide.

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 relatively 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 ten 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.

1. Decide on Your Audience

Family-friendly or adults-only? There are two schools of thought on this one. Do you have an event where people bring their whole family, or do you plan an adults-only night where people can let their hair down and have a few drinks? Personally, I prefer the latter. People tend to spend more on 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.

2. Choose a Time That Works for Your Audience

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 the year like Christmas, the start of the school year or tax time.

Don't start too early or too late. For a family event, 6 p.m. on a Saturday is probably best, and for an adults-only night, 7.30 p.m. works better. Avoid weeknights, other than Friday; while great for a local pub quiz night, weeknights are rarely successful for fundraisers.

3. Find a Suitable Venue

The aim here is to raise funds, so spend some time trying to find a free venue. Ask around; it can be a case of who you know. 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 ten 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 on 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.

4. Organise a Prize Committee

You are going to need prizes, so get yourself a prize committee or at least a donations coordinator. If you are working with a school or sporting club, a letter to all families requesting donations, 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 lollipop, a packet of "Smarties" or even a wooden spoon.

Ideas for Prizes

These are some of the ways we have found prizes for our trivia nights.

  1. 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 businesses 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 find regular customers among your group to do the asking.
  2. Write a good donation request letter, and then 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 worst they can do is say no.
  3. 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 brought 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.
  4. Look for autographed items. 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.
  5. Try 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. The 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 one event we asked for bottles as prizes: 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.
  6. Buy gift cards. 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.

5. Publicise Your Event

Posters, Facebook, you spread the word about your event may depend 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 six weeks before the date. From about four weeks send word again, and then one week before sending reminders to anyone who has signed up to attend. If you use Facebook, set up an event on your page or even on your own profile. It's surprising how many people came along to a recent trivia night because they had seen it on a friend's Facebook.

If it is a school newsletter, have your announcement run every week for the preceding weeks; lots of times, 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 notice boards and radio station announcements have worked for us.

6. 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 two people to co-host 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 drawn-out event.

Give the host the questions a few days before, and include pronunciation guides if there are any difficult words.

7. Appoint Some Question Writers

Having a group of two to three people responsible for the questions seems to work best. Then get these people to work as the marking panel and judges for the night. It's good to have a couple of writers so that you get a mix of questions and also so they can help each other verify the answers. Nothing causes more grief at a trivia night than incorrect answers or ambiguously worded questions. If you have an experienced host volunteering for you, let them write the questions. 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. Appoint some question choosers to vet them. Try to include some local stuff too about your club, school or sport. Add some cross-generational stuff too; don't leave out the older or younger players.

A good rule of thumb for your questions is that every team should be able to get 60% right. No one should go home feeling 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.

8. Make a Timetable for the Night

It's important to keep the pace up. Working out the 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, with no big lags in between rounds. Quick marking and reporting of results and questions that are repeated two or three 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 two and a half to three hours. While some of us are happy to play all night, most people will be ready to go home by then.

9. 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 to 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 are a few more ideas. I have used all these at big and small events and they are lots of fun.

5 Games to Break up the Questions and Add Some Fun to Your Event

  1. 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 a sports club - sit down if you have ever 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.
  2. True or False. Just like it 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 until you have only one person standing. Works the same way as heads or tails, but it's a bit more fun I think.
  3. 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 wins.
  4. 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.
  5. Target Practice. Also called a coin toss, this game involves 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.

10. Make a Running Sheet and Lists

And 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
  • Having a supply of pens for marking and writing up scores
  • Preparing a float for change for ticket selling.
  • Prizes arranged and delivered to the venue
  • A team of enthusiastic volunteers to run around on the night and keep things going smoothly
  • A list of people you need to thank during the evening for their support

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.