What’s a Tricky Tray Fundraiser, and Can It Work for You?


What is a Tricky Tray?

Also known as a basket raffle, penny sale, or dark horse auction, a tricky tray is like if a silent auction and raffle had a baby.  You display fun prizes with a container (like a jar, envelope, hat, or whatever) beside each. Instead of bidding as one might in a traditional silent auction, participants drop a ticket into the associated jar. 

How Does a Tricky Tray Work?

Typically, fundraiser attendees receive tickets as part of the cost of admission—for example, you might charge $20 for entry, which would include a sheet of ten tickets.  Alternatively, you can simply sell sheets of tickets prior to your tricky tray in person or through a virtual sales fundraiser.  This brings us to the brilliant thing about tricky tray fundraisers. 

Pro tip: Be sure to have the capacity to sell more sheet tickets on-site!

Tricky Trays Offer More Opportunities to Raise Funds

When attendees peep the terrific prizes and start entering to win, they’re going to burn through their tricky tray tickets. Here’s how to capitalize on that:

  • Be sure to offer more tricky tray tickets for sale on-site. If you don’t, you’re missing out! 
  • Introduce different colored sheet tickets  (also known as Chinese Auction tickets) to correlate with what sort of prizes people can try to win. For instance, a white ticket equals an entry to win any prize that’s $50 or less, while a pink ticket enables you to drop your ticket for prizes worth $200-$300. Of course, the purchase price of a sheet of red tickets would be a bit higher—perhaps $15 instead of $5. (Browse our array of affordable, in-stock Tricky Tray-ready Chinese Auction sheet tickets!)
  • To the above points, set up an online sales fundraiser page through which guests can purchase more sheet tickets right from their mobile device. Not everyone carries cash (thanks, COVID), and you don’t want to miss out on a potential sale. While Venmo is handy, virtual sale fundraiser software like ours processes sales online (or in-person) and tracks sales and donor data for you, all of which makes bookkeeping and gathering donor data infinitely more manageable.  

What Sort of Fundraisers Are Ideal for Tricky Trays?

Tricky trays are perfect for churches, schools, sports teams, or any nonprofit hoping to inspire participation from everyone! Tricky tray tickets are less expensive, offer more bang for the buck, and, as far as winning goes, often have (or seem to have) better odds. Using a sheet of ten tickets, attendees can enter to win up to ten times or go for multiple prizes. Compared to one $25 raffle ticket or bidding on a single auction item, tricky trays are accessible to all your donors, including those with less money to spend. 

Plus, like most games of chance, tricky trays are fun. They help level the playing field of winning prizes and keep the excitement high. After all, attendees get to enter to win multiple prizes! Play up that day-of buzz by holding drawings and introducing new items throughout the event. 

Back to blog Back to top