What is a Penny Social or Tricky Tray?

No matter what your organization calls it: Penny Social or Tricky Tray, the goal is to engage your supporters, create excitement, and raise funds at the same time!

Anyone can “bid” or participate because each ticket has typically a low-cost entry; fun builds as entries fills, and many people get a chance to win.

These fundraising activities can stand on their own, or be a part of any charity auction or virtual fundraising event.

How Does It Work?

A combination part Penny Social (raffle) and part silent auction, supporters purchase tickets and drop them in buckets (or virtual buckets) for items they wish to win in the drawing. Each ticket equals one “bid,” and the more tickets a bidder drops in, the higher the chance of winning.

Offer inexpensive tickets ($5 or $10 a ticket) and bundle ticket purchases (think of the visual of a “sleeve” of tickets for $50)

Build excitement and promote the items up for “bid” in advance with emails, social media posts, and a preview on your Giving Center.

What Items Should We Offer?

Prize Baskets are most popular – build a theme around each raffle basket. Surefire winners include:

  • Summer activities
  • Staycation
  • Chef’s table
  • Date night
  • Stock the bar
  • Fall sports
  • Movie Night
  • Raffle tickets (always a hit!).

You can even create a whole-themed penny social with all baskets related to the theme – Paris, Hawaiian luau, sports, and maybe a “escape the house” theme that would resonate in your community now!

You don’t have to offer baskets, of course –enticing items can stand on their own.

Why Is This Fundraiser Perfect For Flexibility?

Times have changed (for now) and nonprofits need easy, fun, and virtual ways to engage supporters.

Hosting a casual, low-cost fundraiser provides those connected with your cause an easy way to get involved, without having to donate larger amounts this year.

  1. Setup your raffles with your silent auction software.
  2. Bidders buy their raffle tickets online through your Giving Center.
  3. Enter their contact information and credit card.
  4. Purchase a ticket online and get automatically entered in your drawing.
  5. Instant payment, instant information collected, easy fundraising!

Options for local and state restrictions

Depending on the restrictions in your state, you have a few options for the “bidding” part.

Option 1: Ask board members or key ambassadors to host their own penny socials, and you provide 5-10 baskets and the raffle tickets. The host can even create a theme, solicit basket items and invite friends to participate.

Option 2: Prior to your virtual event, host an in-person VIP party with a Chinese auction. VIPs can buy their tickets onsite from a volunteer. Since the number of bidders would be more limited here, you might consider increasing the ticket price slightly.

Option 3: Virtual only: Buyers submit their basket choices with a form added to your Giving Center, and your staff fills out the tickets and drops them in the buckets.

Option 4: Virtual only: Each item or basket becomes its own Chinese auction. Create each prize as its own fixed price package and offer the same inexpensive ticket prices with bundles.

If you Invite all bidders to join you in a live streaming drawing – even though they won’t be there in person, they can be there virtually!

Guest Author:
Laura Thomson

Laura Thomson
Consulting Manager