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How To Run a Tricky Tray or Penny Social Fundraiser

How To Run a Tricky Tray or Penny Social Fundraiser

Tricky Trays (or Penny Socials) are popular fundraising events with schools, community organizations, and donors, as they’re so much fun and more informal than a typical charity auction. Tricky trays are relatively easy for small groups and organizations to host and attract supporters who like socializing and friendly competition. Tricky Trays are also a great add-on to other fundraising events like a charity cocktail evening or a school carnival fundraiser. Online and hybrid options of Tricky Trays also work great for everyone’s convenience. 

Read on to learn more about tricky trays and how to host a successful event for your organization.

What Is a Tricky Tray Fundraiser?

Tricky Trays, also known as Penny Socials, Penny Sales, Lucky Number Dinners, Chance Auctions, and Chinese Auctions, combine aspects of fundraising raffles and silent auctions. Supporters buy tickets to participate in the charitable event, and each ticket is equivalent to one bid. Attendees can bid on auction items and prizes with these tickets, but the winning ticket is drawn randomly. The person that placed the winning ticket takes the prize or auction item home.

How Does A Tricky Tray or Penny Social Work?

So that you can get the most out of your Penny fundraising campaign, we’ve listed several tips to successfully launch your event. Follow our simple steps below to help you plan a fun and engaging Penny Social fundraiser and start raising money for a good cause.

Tricky trays are relatively uncomplicated and use the same planning strategies as a charity raffle or silent auction. Convenient for everyone, they can be run as face-to-face, completely online, or hybrid events. A Penny Social or tricky tray can also be carried out as the main fundraising event or an extra attraction at another fundraising event to get more people to donate to your cause.

Who Can Successfully Run a Tricky Tray Fundraiser?

Tricky tray and penny social events are ideal for churches, schools, sports teams, and organizations that want to encourage community and widespread participation from supporters. They are inclusive events that allow almost everyone to participate.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Tricky Tray Planning Committee

Don’t try to go it alone. Start by getting a Penny Social committee together to handle the various planning tasks, determine your fundraising goals, and create a roadmap to get there. Start with an event date and possibly a theme. A Winter Wonderland idea around the Christmas season, a spooky theme around Halloween, a French-themed Parisian event, or a sports-inspired concept are all fun ideas to get your attendees more excited about participating in your Penny Social and raising as much money for your fundraiser as possible. 

Focus on the Tricky Tray Prizes

Next, source your prizes. Remember that Penny Social prizes should represent excellent value for money, with an actual value far exceeding the ticket cost. You can ask local businesses to donate prizes or vouchers to raffle off. Use our raffle prize donation letter template to get started. Also, look to your team members for support with procuring prizes. Often, you will find that not only will some of your team members know who to contact for the benefit of a Penny Social, but they are also local business people who work in offices or businesses where they can ask for donations. Be sure to include your Board of Directors in lottery procurement strategies. Give yourself plenty of time to source your items, as you don’t want to be hurting for prizes, as the host calls the winning draws.

Tricky Tray vacation packages

While your organization will certainly want to get as many items as possible from corporate event sponsors and local businesses, don’t limit yourself to only donated items. Consider purchasing a large item, such as one of these unique vacation packages.

Here are a few of the most popular Penny Social and Tricky Tray prize ideas:

  • Electronics – Everyone wants to update their electronic devices with the latest version, which is why they are so popular as prizes. Echo Devices, Kindles, Smart TVs and watches, and new phones are all in-demand products and will attract people of all ages to buy your Penny Social tickets.
  • Holidays and Vacation Getaways – Whether a luxury all-inclusive trip or a weekend getaway, everyone enjoys a little R&R, especially nowadays. Make this prize even more desirable by throwing in a couple of spa treatments.
  • Experiences – Cross some activities off your bucket list by offering these once-in-a-lifetime experiences as Penny Social prizes. Skydiving, a hot air balloon ride, or VIP backstage tickets to a famous pop star’s concert is a sure way to attract interest in your campaign.
  • Classes and Courses – Give people the gift of learning something new and having fun doing it. Prizes could include a cooking course with a celebrity chef or golf classes with a pro.
  • Gift Baskets – A big favorite among Penny Social attendees, Gift Baskets are often a cost-effective and diverse prize option. You can personalize them or create a theme.

See our list of the best raffle prize ideas to plan what to offer at your next Penny Sale.

Tricky Tray Basket Ideas

Gift Baskets for penny socials

One of the most popular items for penny socials is themed baskets. Themed baskets allow your organization to solicit smaller items around a central purpose or theme and package them as a single prize. This is an easy way to boost the appeal of each item and draw more interest in the items. 

Popular basket ideas include:

  • Spa packages with lotions, creams, and spa gift certificates
  • Wine packages with a variety of wine and foods that pair with wine
  • Spirits packages, especially local or top shelf
  • Food from around the world – French or Italian baskets with pasta, sauces, jams, gourmet cookies
  • Chocolate baskets with a variety of deluxe chocolate and treats
  • Tea or coffee baskets that include mugs, gift certificates, and kettles
  • Lego baskets for kids
  • Pampered chef baskets with kitchen gadgets
  • Golf baskets with golf balls and custom golf tees
  • Activity and family baskets, such as family BBQ baskets or a basket of sports 
  • Board games
  • Mystery boxes – these are a really fun idea. Wrap up the mystery items and place a value on the box. The mystery box won’t be opened until after the winner is announced.

Promote the Penny Social

Promote Tricky Trays through Social Media

Maximize your outreach and promote your Penny Social campaign through as many mediums as possible. Set up your campaign website with our free, easy-to-use software and send it to everyone. Use social media channels to engage with your supporters and tell the story behind your charity fundraiser. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great tools to achieve this. Also, be sure to email your constituents regularly.

How to Sell Tricky Tray Tickets

Setting your Penny Social tickets at the right price for your constituents and your campaign is vital. As the name implies, Penny Sales and Tricky Trays are not high-roller events. Don’t go too expensive on ticket sales, as you may not sell enough tickets to reach your fundraising goals, but don’t go so cheap that you’re out of pocket at the end of the event.

Remember that incentive pricing works well for Tricky Trays and Penny Socials. Offer 2-for-1 ticket deals to attract more people to buy more tickets, adding to the excitement and overall sense of competition of your fundraising event.

Consider these elements and try to find the right balance for your organization’s constituents:

  • The cost of the event – venue, refreshments, supplies, marketing, software
  • Your fundraising goals for the Penny Social
  • The value of the prize items
  • What your audience can afford

Tiered pricing works especially well for penny socials. Tiered pricing means that you price entry into the drawing so that increased purchase amounts have a lower per-entry cost. This incentivizes donors to participate at higher levels by purchasing more tickets. For example, buying ten entries for $10 equates to $1 per entry. The per-entry cost is much lower if you offer 30 entries for $25 and 75 entries for $50. People are often willing to participate at a higher level to gain additional entries at a lower per-entry cost.

Our raffle platform provides flexibility to structure your Tricky Tray or Penny Social fundraising campaign to optimize donations. Your organization can create as many entry levels as you like and customize the number of entries associated with each price.

Run Your Online Penny Social or Tricky Tray with Our Raffle Websites

Tricky Tray online fundraisers

Many organizations seek ways to raise money online and with virtual events. Can a Penny Social be run online? Sure thing! Penny socials can be run entirely online with our raffle fundraising software.

Our raffle fundraising websites have all the features you need for Penny Socials and Tricky Trays. Software features include:

  • Fundraising thermometer to track online fundraising progress
  • Live Stream video platform for virtual fundraising events
  • Sponsor and in-kind prize donation promotion via sponsor logos and links to website and social media
  • Ability to incorporate peer-to-peer fundraising, where fundraisers sell penny social tickets via personal fundraising pages
  • The system can automatically draw winners from all entries, or the administrator can draw winners
  • Include Social Media sharing options to reward supporters who share links and bring in other donors with more raffle entries
  • Text to Give and mobile giving features to make promoting the raffle easy
  • Pricing flexibility – pay a percentage of credit card sales or use the platform for free with our optional tipping model
Raffle Fundraising Software works for penny socials

Social Distancing Considerations for Tricky Trays 

Tricky tray fundraisers can draw a crowd. If you are hosting a live event, make sure that you follow COVID social distance guidelines by carefully labeling each bowl or basket clearly and spreading them out so you don’t get too many crowds around the displays. This will help with traffic flow and provide participants with a more enjoyable experience. Consider hosting a hybrid or online event if necessary. 

Thank Your Donors and Supporters

Thank your penny social supporters

Don’t forget to thank your donors for their generosity. Remember that besides the fact that they have kindly provided prizes for your Penny Social, they have also helped to optimize your outreach by promoting the event to their employees, customers, and partners. Following up with sponsors after the event is vital by including facts and figures such as event attendance, money raised for the cause, traffic to your charity website, media coverage, and so on. Include this brief report in the thank you letter.

Evaluating the success of your fundraising campaign is always important. Send post-event emails or questionnaires to ensure your prize winners and participants were satisfied with the event and ask for any feedback they may want to share.

Remember, if your raffle sponsors are happy with the results, they will likely want to sponsor another fundraising campaign. This is a great opportunity to form strong links to local businesses and maximize your charitable donations and outreach.

Ready to Start an Online Tricky Tray?

Sarah Bender

About Sarah Bender

Originally from Surrey, UK, Sarah has worked remotely in various online fields for the last 8 years. Currently, she is focusing on writing blogs on online fundraising and special events for a UK audience. When she is not spending her days researching and writing, you can find her running around after her two highly active young sons which constitutes a serious workout program!

See other posts from Sarah Bender

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