How To Hold A Successful Bingo Fundraiser
Have You Just Been Put in Charge of This Year's Bingo Event?
If you have, hopefully this lens will be helpful to you. We have added it here to provide information for the first time bingo chairperson.
Often, volunteers are put in charge of the annual (or more frequent) bingo fundraiser with no idea what to expect. Maybe, if they're lucky, they've been given last year's bingo program which was developed sometime in the 1970s and used each year since then. Still many questions abound:
What bingo paper should be ordered?
What's a bingo book?
How do you construct a bingo program?
How much in prizes should be given away?
If these are the questions you're facing, then this is lens is for you.
How to Hold a Successful Bingo Fundraiser
Bingo Games, Bingo Games, Bingo Supplies & More
Bingo is a popular and fun way for many nonprofit organizations to raise funding for their worthy causes. Many schools, churches, and other groups will hold annual bingo events which raise thousands of dollars each. These bingos can be regular bingos with cash prizes, "Basket Bingos" where gift baskets go to the winners, or a combination of the two. Because of their large fundraising potential, many organizations will hold multiple bingo fundraisers throughout the year.
How Does a Nonprofit Organization Get Started?
Licensing regulations vary from state to state, and so you need to be aware of your state's licensing regulations, if any. Some states require nothing and leave bingo pretty much unregulated. Other states require that you acquire a license, file paperwork, maintain prize jackpots, and follow other rules. Be sure to contact your state's lottery division before you begin. They should be able to answer any regulatory questions about bingo in your state.
Determine Your Expected Bingo Attendance
Like any planned event, it is impossible to know your exact attendance beforehand, but it is important that you have a good idea. So,ask these questions: Have other nonprofit groups in your area held bingos? If so, what was their attendance? Are you spending a lot of time and effort to market your event, or depending on word of mouth? Can your organization depend on regular patronage for your events from some people?
Most successful bingo events will have 100, 200, or even 300 bingo players in attendance. But, bingos with fewer bingo players can still be winners with proper planning. By having a good idea of your future bingo attendance, you can determine what and how much bingo supplies you need to order, the number of bingo prizes, the size of bingo prize payouts, the amount of food, etc.
So, after you've checked out the licensing requirements for bingos in your state and you've got a rough idea of how many bingo players will be attendance. you need to look at building your bingo event's bingo program and determining your bingo prize payouts.
Bingo games can vary on structure and prize payout depending on location, crowd size, and most importantly, the chairperson. Even within the same city, different bingo games can vary tremendously.
Building Your Bingo Program
A typical bingo game structure consists of some early games ("Early Bird"), the main body of games ("Regular Games"), and various jackpot or special games throughout.
Early Bird Games
The early bird games are usually a handful of games (3-5) played before the regular games begin. Often, faster paced than regular games, they are played on separate bingo game books from the regular game books. Payouts are usually modest and roughly the same as standard (non-jackpot) games in the regular game books. It is not essential that you include early bird games in your bingo program.
Regular & Special (Jackpot) Games
The regular & special games begin after the early bird games have finished or at the start of your bingo program (if you have no early bird games). Played on multiple sheet game books, they are the main event of the bingo program, and usually consist of 6-10 games played on 6 or 9 face (faces are individual bingo plays) sheets. The regular game books include bingos of varying payouts, including a number of special (jackpot or higher paying) games.
Note: Some bingos remove the special (or jackpot) games from their regular game bingo books and play them on separate special (or jackpot) bingo books.
Now let's look at determining your bingo prize payouts.
Determining Your Bingo Prize Payouts
For nonprofit groups that have your bingo prizes donated, determining your prize payouts can be easy. You simply take the prizes donated, divide them up in smaller value items for most regular games and bigger value items for the special or jackpot games. However, if you are awarding cash prizes based upon your bingo players' attendance and spending levels, you need to make sure that you are budgeting appropriately.
For instance, if you plan on 100 bingo players attending your bingo event, how much do you expect each player to spend on bingo books? Perhaps, you're limiting sales to one bingo book per player and charging $10.00 per book. This means you can expect $1,000.00 in revenue to pay prizes with.
So, in the above example, if you have a bingo program with 10 regular games and 3 of those are specials (jackpots), you don't want to pay out $100 and $300 for the jackpots (for a total of $1,600.00). Instead, maybe you award say $40 for the regular games and $150 for the specials (for a total of $730).
Your bingo prize payouts should be a delicate balance between the revenue you hope to obtain and prize payouts that will keep your bingo players happy. A good rule of thumb is to try to have bingo prizes totalling 75% of bingo revenue.
Note: In the above example, bingo book prices and bingo prize payouts are not necessarily based in reality. As we said before, bingo games, prices, and prizes can vary dramatically from area to area.
Also, in the above example, some groups limit bingo paper sales to control inventory and keep things equal between players. Limiting sales may or may not be a good thing depending on your crowd. If you have mostly novice bingo players who are there more to support the charity than to play bingo, this may be a good strategy.
However, if you're crowd consists of many regular bingo players, then you will be better off not limiting spending, both from a sales standpoint and from a bingo player satisfaction standpoint. Regular bingo players do not want to be limited on the number of bingo books they can play.
How to Hold a Successful Bingo Fundraiser, Continued...
Now, let's take a look at the revenue generators for your bingo.
Bingo Books & Admission
Many bingos will sell an admission package to each bingo player when they arrive. This package usually sells for around $20 and includes entry to the event, a bingo book with bingo sheets for each game in the bingo program, and perhaps an added bonus such as a free dauber or an extra bingo sheet for a jackpot game.
If you have early bird games (a handful of games before your main bingo program), you should sell bingo books for them for around $3-$5. Additionally, extra bingo books should be sold (usually for $5-$15 each) at a discount to the admission price. Finally, it's a good idea to sell extra single bingo sheets for the larger prize (jackpot) games.
If you choose not to have an admission package, you can simply sell bingo books for a set price once the bingo players have entered.
Raffles are a great way to earn additional funds during your bingo event. During the night, have a friendly person walk around selling with a smile. If possible, it's a good idea to advertise and presell the raffle tickets beforehand.
You can have 50/50 raffles (where 50% of the proceeds go to the prize), or raffle off one or more prizes. Your prizes should be good quality and have obvious value. Don't be cheap!
Be careful, raffles, like bingos, can also fall under state regulation. Be sure you find out your state's policy on raffles beforehand.
Like raffle tickets, pulltabs (charity tickets) are a great way to increase sales and revenues during a bingo. A pulltab is a similar to a scratch off lottery ticket, but instead it has a number of "windows" that are peeled open to reveal a possible prize. Each box of pulltabs contains a set amount of prizes (usually around 75% of the take). Therefore, each box (once sold) is guaranteed a certain profit.
Pulltabs come in a variety of games and styles. If you decide to sell pulltabs, make sure you know how each game is played beforehand.
Be warned! Pulltabs are even more heavily regulated than bingos. Be sure that they are legal in your state. And, if they are legal, make sure that you are properly licensed to sell them.
Bingo supplies, especially bingo paper, can be a little confusing. If you are unfamiliar with bingo, ordering the proper bingo books can be difficult. We recommend you read How to Order Bingo Paper for a quick overview, or check out WholesaleBingo Supplies-Bingo Cards/Paper for some idea what cuts and sizes bingo paper can come in.
Make sure you order your bingo supplies in advance to give yourself some time. You'll likely need the following, bingo books, additional bingo sheets for jackpot games, bingo daubers (markers for the players), and raffle tickets and pulltabs (if legal in your area). If you're unsure of what bingo supplies you need, visit Wholesale Bingo Supplies
If you plan on hosting bingos on a regular basis, you might even consider purchasing an advanced bingo console and bingo equipment. But, this can get pricey. For an annual bingo, it's best to find bingo equipment you can borrow. Also, you can get by purchasing a low-cost, quality, bingo cage.
If at all possible, find an experienced bingo caller. You don't want some novice person calling bingo who has trouble handling the equipment (dropping bingo balls in the middle of a game can be a disaster) or lacks confidence in front of people. If you can't find an experienced caller, then find someone who is comfortable with crowds and have them practice with the equipment ahead of time. Go over your bingo program step-by-step.
Whether experienced or not, you want your bingo callers to call numbers at a regular pace. We recommend that bingo numbers be called about every 20 seconds for commercial bingo hall environments where seasoned bingo players play. However, this speed should be adjusted to fit your crowd and the number of bingo faces in play. Hopefully, your bingo equipment will have a timer which will alert your caller when to call. However, if no timer is available, use a watch or clock as best you can to call at a regular pace.
Cash vs Baskets or Other Prizes
It doesn't make a lot of difference if you give away cash or prizes or a mixture of both at your bingo fundraiser. The important thing is to make sure that whatever you give, you are giving something with value.
Make your bingo prizes worth the effort for your bingo players. If you give bingo baskets, fill them with quality products. If you give cash, make sure you give away some big jackpots. When your bingo players win a bingo, they want win something and they want to win something good.
Your bingo event will usually last from 3-5 hours, with the actual bingo program taking about 3 hours to play. Therefore, it is important to have refreshments and food available if possible. Bingo players are not robots. They will get hungry and thirsty.
Make sure that the food you serve is good quality and keep your prices reasonable. We believe it's smart business to have your bingo concession be a draw for your bingo event and not a profit center. Let your bingo games make the money while your concession keeps them well-nourished and happy.
A bingo fundraiser requires planning. You'll need to assemble a team of volunteers, find a qualified bingo caller, acquire prize donations, locate a site, advertise, and more. Make sure you give yourself at least a month or two to prepare.
Good luck and happy fundraising! If you follow our advice, we're sure your next bingo fundraiser will be a success.
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Article on the positives of using bingo handhelds at your bingo (for regular weekly bingos).
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