Trivia Night: Big Funds, Bigger Fun

Most of us are familiar with the standard fundraising event. Check-in, maybe a silent auction, entertainment, speakers and awards, live auction and/or raffle, check-out. But we don’t want your event to just be standard, we want it to be the hit of the fundraising season!

Of course, raising money is your number one priority, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little extra fun to the mix. Stepping outside the box with a few fun tools – like a trivia night – will keep your constituents coming back for more.

We recently sat down with Nancy Simmons, a nonprofit database management consultant specializing in Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge CRM, to learn more about introducing a trivia night to your event repertoire. This crowd favorite is a great way to interact with guests while supplementing your larger fundraising efforts.

You may be familiar with the standard setup of a trivia night, but Nancy also provides some great tips to ensure it is truly one-heck-of-a party.

For those who may be unfamiliar, the basics of a trivia night are as follows:

  1. Typical entry fee is $20-$30 per person. This can either be incorporated into the price of the table sponsorship, or the individual tickets purchased by guests at each table.
  2. Each guest table (8-10 people) acts as a single team.
  3. The simplest format is ten rounds of ten questions each.
  4. Questions should be displayed on a screen or two for a visual reference.
  5. Give the teams some time to discuss each question and write down their answer.

Now that we have the framework for your trivia night in order, let’s talk about those personal touches and extra tips that will really make your event stand out.

  • Come up with a theme!
    For example, each answer may start with the same letter, or maybe the theme is “famous dogs” for an event supporting animal rescue. If you really want to take things to the next level and become a memorable experience in the community, consider making it a themed COSTUME party (PJs, tacky prom night, superhero, etc.). Don’t be afraid to get a little quirky; people are there to have fun after all!
  • Make everyone a winner.
    Make sure to include questions of varying subjects and difficulty to ensure everyone feels like they’re contributing.
  • Tiebreaker tip.
    Before turning in the answer sheets, ask your guests to write down how many of the 100 questions they think they answered correctly. If it comes to it, whomever guessed more closely to the actual number of correct answers wins.
  • Keep things focused.
    Don’t interrupt the trivia with other components of the night. Maintain your guests’ excitement from the competition that is sure to be heating up.

  • A chance to raise a little extra cash.
    As we mentioned, trivia night is a great money-making supplement, and there are a few additional fundraising opportunities here:

    1. Offer guests the opportunity to purchase “mulligans.” These can be something simple like a sticker sold for $10-$20 each. Guests can use one mulligan per round to pass on a question.
    2. Play a game of Truth or Lie. Guests throw in $1-$5 to answer true-false questions. Only those who answer correctly are left standing.
    3. Include a 50/50 raffle. Guests buy a raffle ticket and the winner takes home half the money raised by raffle ticket sales, while the other half goes to your organization.
    4. And of course, as we mentioned, silent and oral auctions can be BIG money makers throughout the evening, especially if there’s a weekend getaway or other big-ticket item up for grabs.

While fun is certainly important, don’t let that hinder your vigilance when it comes to gathering and organizing the data from guests – name, email, phone, industry, interest, etc. Because what’s a great party if you’re unable to follow through and communicate with guests later?

  • Get organized early.
    Organizing all this data you’ve gathered during Trivia Night (or any fundraising event) is a huge headache when your resources are stretched. But if you’re able to designate even one person at the event to start inputting data to your database while everything else is going on, then you’ll be one step ahead in the office the next day.
    Extra organizing tip: Use a program that allows you to tag your data or use keywords in order to more easily search the database.
  • Utilize those volunteers.
    Don’t forget to track volunteer hours as in-kind donations. You can never have too much data or too many constituents. If it makes sense, consider having a small team of volunteers dedicated to data manipulation so you can always have easy access to exactly the data you need.
  • Utilize those donors.
    The more data you have on your donors, the more excuse you have to reach out, and the more they can help you. If you have data telling you one of your donors is a social media guru or an Excel master, reach out to them and see if they’re interested in volunteering their expertise for the cause.
  • Cross check your following.
    Every once in a while, cross check your social media followers with your donor database. There’s likely a group who follow you but are inactive as donors. They’ve opted in and are staying involved by choice, so there’s a good chance you can turn them into future donors with a little outreach.
  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    You can never thank people enough. Donors are your life’s blood in the nonprofit world, so you need to reach out and cultivate these relationships. Newsletters and email communication are the easy first step, but don’t be shy with physical thank-you notes. People love being thanked, and it allows you to stay in touch.

Thank you to Nancy Simmons for taking the time to share these wonderful insights with us.
Nancy may be reached at nancy@yourdataworks.com