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


What is a Tricky Tray Auction and How Does it Work?

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

How Do You Run a Tricky Tray Fundraiser?

TTypically, 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 additional 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!

Can You Run Tricky Tray Fundraisers Online? 

Absolutely! In fact, adding a virtual element to your live fundraiser is a great way to increase the overall money raised for your cause. Using a fundraising platform like Eventgroove, you can set up a raffle website populated with multiple prizes. Virtual guests can buy raffle tickets for whichever prizes in your tricky tray event they’d like to bid on. You can even set up bundled raffle tickets at a reduced price. To make things even more exciting for your online tricky tray, try including virtual-only prize baskets and displaying a fundraising thermometer! 

  • A few of the ways our online raffle software makes running an online or hybrid tricky tray easy:
  • Automatically tracks who has bid on what.
  • Provides real-time data on money raised.
  • Enables simple, fast social sharing.
  • Offers peer-to-peer fundraising so supporters can sell tricky tray raffle tickets for your fundraiser.
  • Can automatically draw winners, or you can choose to draw them by hand! (You can even embed a livestream drawing into your raffle website for free!)
  • Packed with features like text-to-give, it integrates with your CRM and more.

Learn more about our fundraising platform or schedule a quick guided tour with our team!

How to Raise More with Tricky Tray Events

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

  • Be sure to offer more tricky tray tickets for sale onsite. 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 red ticket enables you to bid for prizes worth $200-$300. Of course, the red ticket price 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 for your organization through which guests can purchase more sheet tickets right from their mobile device—not everyone carries cash and you don’t want to miss out on a potential sale. While Venmo is handy, virtual event 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 information infinitely more manageable.  

What Sort of Fundraisers Are Ideal for Tricky Trays?

Tricky tray events are perfect for churches, schools, sports teams, or any organization hoping to inspire participation from everyone! 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, people can bid to win up to ten times or go for multiple prizes. Compared to one $25 raffle ticket for a single item, tricky tray events 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, people get to enter to win multiple prizes and thus are more likely to have a winning number! Play up that day-of buzz by holding drawings and introducing new items throughout the penny social gift auction! 

Ready to Add Tricky Trays to your Fundraising Event? 

Check out our article on how to request raffle prizes for companies, explore our powerful fundraising platform, and shop our range of printed tricky tray tickets for in-person attendees.

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