Jul 28, 2022

How to organize a penny social

penny social

Charitable donations increased by 2.7% in 2021 and continue to rise. Capitalizing on donor generosity and finding ways to raise more money for your cause is important. If your nonprofit organization is looking for a fun and simple fundraiser idea, consider hosting a penny social. These events are effective and relatively easy to put together. 

Before hosting a penny social, your organization should consider a few factors to maximize your fundraising efforts and make the most of your event. Learn more about how to organize a penny social. 

What is a penny social?

A penny social is a type of fundraising event that incorporates different elements from silent auctions and raffles. You may have heard them called by one of the following names:

  • Penny raffle
  • Penny party fundraiser
  • Penny auction
  • Tricky trays
  • Penny sales
  • Lucky number dinners
  • Chance auctions

These events are a simple, effective way to collect donations that benefit your organization and your donors.

How a penny raffle works

Standard penny auctions involve the following steps:

  1. Fundraiser participants purchase event tickets similar to how they would buy raffle tickets.
  2. Participants explore the available prizes and place bids by leaving tickets with their favorite items. Most events allow people to submit as many tickets as they want for each prize.
  3. Once all the participants involved in the event have spent their tickets on potential prizes, an emcee will choose a ticket randomly for each prize. 
  4. Winners collect their prizes at the event or shortly after in the following weeks. 

Why host a penny social

There are a few different reasons your nonprofit organization may want to host a penny social, including the following:

penny raffles

Easy planning

Penny raffles are relatively simple to organize and host for nonprofits. When hosting one of these events, the most challenging duties are collecting prizes from donors and getting the word out about the fundraiser to participants. As long as your team prepares and you begin planning weeks in advance, bringing together one of these events is pretty straightforward from start to finish. 

Suitable for small organizations 

These fundraisers are easy to plan and ideal for small nonprofit organizations looking for something they can tackle with limited resources and assistance. 

You can host a penny raffle in person in a simple event space with a few tables and light refreshments. And if you are uninterested in finding a physical venue or your donors are not local, you can opt to host a virtual event. 

Engaging and casual

Another reason to try out a penny social is that they are very engaging for guests and may even encourage more people to check out your nonprofit’s mission. People enjoy getting something in return for their donations and playing games of chance, making this type of fundraiser fun and enthralling. Your donors will also appreciate how casual and easy-going these events can be. 


Your organization can make the most of a penny social fundraising event by customizing its rules and adding unique, playful elements like:

  • Having a theme
  • Serving food and drinks
  • Offering a grand prize

How to plan a penny social

Use these easy-to-follow steps to plan an effective penny party fundraiser for your nonprofit organization:

1. Set a goal and create your budget

The first step in planning a penny social is identifying your end goal and what you wish to gain from hosting this event. Don’t be afraid to set major goals — charitable giving reached $484.85 billion in 2021 and continues to grow in the United States. 

Once you set a fundraising goal, you should create a budget encompassing the event’s details, including any of the following:

  • Venue costs
  • Supplies
  • Decor
  • Food and drink
  • Fundraising software

2. Decide who will help

Your organization needs to make some important decisions about who will put the event together and help it run smoothly. Choose between an in-person and virtual event or a hybrid of both. If you go with an in-person event, it can be helpful to find a dedicated emcee to keep your donors engaged and your fundraiser on schedule on the day of the event. 

3. Choose an event date

It is important to choose a specific time and date for your event as soon as possible in the planning process. Consider the following when choosing an event time:

  • Venue availability
  • Holidays
  • Other local events
  • Participants’ availability

4. Choose a theme and gather your prizes

Once you know when and where your penny social will take place, decide if you want to go with a specific theme. Some organizations choose to offer prizes that go along with the theme. Others give the venue a fun theme but allow donors to give whatever prizes they wish. 

It can be beneficial to ask for big-ticket items from local businesses, especially if your organization wants to give out a grand prize. 

5. Share event details 

As soon as your nonprofit works out all the details, be sure to share them with the local community and previous participants. Advertise what prizes attendees could win and any other perks of participating in the event. Don’t forget to share it on your organization’s website and social media pages. 

6. Sell raffle tickets 

By choosing to sell your penny social’s raffle tickets online with the help of fundraising and donor management software, you can streamline this step of the event planning process.

Whether your organization opts for digital or physical tickets, the best way to approach selling raffle tickets is by staying organized and keeping track of every ticket sold. 

7. Host your fundraising event 

Now, it is time for the fun! The last step of the planning process is getting ready to host your event on the day of. For in-person events, be sure to account for preparation and cleanup times. Hosting will be even simpler if you choose a hybrid or virtual event! The key to throwing a great penny raffle is organization and transparent instructions for your guests. 

How to sell tickets

Let’s dive into how to sell tickets to your guests. There are a few ways you can do this. You can use fundraising software to offer ticket packages online before the event if you choose to go digital.

If you decide to go with traditional physical tickets, your participants can buy these at the penny social. Be sure to keep close track of ticket sales when selling in person.

penny social

Request a demo from GiveSmart today!

GiveSmart mobile bidding and silent auction software give nonprofit and charity organizations the tools they need for effective fundraising events. We design our products to help our customers raise more money for their causes with less stress. Whether you want to host a raffle or sports tournament, we have the tools to help facilitate all kinds of exciting events. 

Are you interested in learning more about our industry-leading fundraising software? Request a demo from GiveSmart today!


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The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

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Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County