30 Festival Game Ideas for Fundraising
Festivals not only build a bridge with your community but are a great fundraising opportunity for your organization. Start planning early by gathering donated prizes, building your game booths and selling tickets that can be redeemed to play these unique games.
Small Prize Game Ideas
- "Boggle" Challenge – Some brain challenges are great fun — especially for a school-hosted festival. Buy small wooden cubes at a dollar store and use a Sharpie to put random letters on each side. Place them inside a reusable square food storage container to create a boggle-style box. Participants shake the box and create as many words out of the block letters that are right-side-up in 30 seconds as they can. You will need pads of paper and pencils and can also create some cubes with free spaces that can be any letter the participant chooses.
- Goofy Golf Game – Attach the top of a golf tee to a two-foot dowel rod and secure firmly in a Styrofoam base. Place plastic golf balls on the tees and have participants try to shoot the balls off the tee with a water gun. For an added challenge, you can cut shallow holes in the base and they can try to shoot the ball off the tee and into a hole. Set up outside or protect the area with plastic drop cloth.
- Red Cup Relay – Another way to use water guns in a competition-style game is to set up two lines of rope with a red plastic cup threaded onto each rope through holes cut in the bottom of the cups. Have a contest to see who can squirt water into the cup to push it down the rope to the end. For an added challenge, have participants return the cup to the other end by squirting the bottom of the cup.
- Pool Noodle Race Track – Cut pool noodles in half and use toothpicks to connect two noodles side-by-side. You can race all kinds of creative toys down these "race tracks" — ping pong balls, small toy cars, bouncy balls or even colorful marbles (which can be the prize for older participants).
- Boat Races – Using two lengths of rain gutters with caps on each end, place a protective cover over a table and fill each gutter with water. Have participants push floating plastic boats down the length of the gutter to the finish line by either blowing through a straw or squirting the boats with a spray bottle or water gun.
- Lucky Lei – Purchase several plastic flower leis and spray one with an invisible paint that is only visible under a black light. Participants choose a lei from the booth and take it to a room or booth where you have set up a black light — available online for low prices — to see if they’re the winner.
Sell tickets in advance and collect money online with a sign up! SAMPLE
- Bath Mat Race – Great for a long smooth-surface hallway or gym floor, this game involves a bathmat turned with the soft side down. Tell participants to scooch themselves along with their bottom and feet both on the mat, trying to get as far as they can in a certain amount of time or racing another person. Put some turns in the course for extra fun.
- Ginormous Dice Game – Using large square boxes, create three large die covered in black duct tape and white duct tape cut-out circles. Put them in a large laundry basket and have participants throw the dice three times to get three of a kind — a "straight flush” — or add up to a designated number. Make sure you have a large open space, and if you are inside, create a backstop out of a vinyl table cloth so they don't get thrown out of your playing area.
- Dart-Free Balloon Game – Make a large and colorful board of wood and attach clothespins to hold your inflated balloons. (To keep them from possibly being hit and releasing the balloon, attach them sideways with a nail through the metal circle.) Hot glue a tack several inches below each clothespin so that when a balloon is hit with a beanbag, it will pop, earning a prize.
- Guess How Many – Fill a large clear jar with M&Ms, jelly beans or other small colorful objects. Participants write their guesses of how many objects are in the jar on a slip of paper. At the end of the carnival or at a set time, announce the winner and give them the jar to take home.
- Up A Creek Plunger Race – Participants race on scooters (seated or on their knees) with a plunger as a "paddle" to help propel them down a "creek" (add a few rocks to navigate around and even squirt participants with a few shots from a water gun to bring the river experience to life). Make it to the “shore” before time runs out to win a prize!
- Pool Noodle Javelin Throw – You’ll need at least seven foam pool noodles. Form six of them into rings by securing the ends together with duct tape, and join them together (three over three). Attach the rings to two upright poles and use another pool noodle as the javelin. Have participants stand at a distance and try to throw the noodle through the rings.
- Ringo the Flamingo – Stand yard flamingos in pots of sand or place them in a grassy area near your festival. Participants can try to throw hula-hoops around the neck of these yard art beauties.
- Buried Treasure – In a small sandbox, bury prizes (or plastic eggs with items like sticker tattoos or candy inside) and give children 30 seconds to dig with a shovel to find their prize hidden in the sand. This is best done outside or with a tarp underneath for protection.
- Toilet Paper Toss – Purchase a toilet seat that can be mounted to a wood crate (with some type of backstop) and purchase several rolls of toilet paper that are wrapped in paper or duct tape to keep them from unrolling. Participants stand at a distance and try to launch as many rolls of paper into the toilet seat in an allotted amount of time. If you can get a full-size toilet donated (no water inside), it takes the fun level of this game up even more.
Gather donations for a raffle prize basket with a sign up! SAMPLE
Donated Prize Game Ideas
- Book Walk – Before your carnival, solicit book donations from your school, church or community. Offer them as prizes for a unique alternative to a cake walk.
- Wheel of Chocolate – Make a spinning wheel with candy bar wrappers attached to the different sections. Ask organization members to donate boxes of fun-size candy and participants can spin the wheel to win a candy bar.
- Pouch Pitch – Harness someone's artistic skills to create fabric pouches on animals painted onto plywood such as a koala or seahorse. Participants will stand back and try to toss “baby bean bags” into the pouches. Award donated stuffed animals to those with the most successful pitches.
- Frisbee Frenzy – Purchase a few small Frisbees (available at most craft or dollar stores), and have kids and grownups toss them toward donated prizes laid out on the ground at varying distances. (The better the prize, the farther away it is from the throwing line.) If the Frisbee lands on a prize, the prize is theirs to keep!
- Key to Success Game – Purchase an inexpensive treasure chest with a lock on it. Fill it with one donated prize at a time. Get one to three keys that will unlock the chest and 20 to 30 others that won't unlock it. Have participants exchange a ticket and pick a key to see if it is the key to success.
- Pop Toss – Ask organization members to donate two-liter bottles of soda, juice, sparkling water and other popular beverages. Set up an area where participants can try to toss rings over a bottle of their favorite beverage. Do this in a darkened room with glow-in-the-dark rings to add to the fun.
- Dress-Your-Bear Fashion Contest – Have participants pay a small entry fee to bring their teddy bears to the carnival for a “Best Dressed Teddy” fashion contest. Offer additional prizes for categories like “fan favorite” and “best character costume” so that there are lots of opportunities for winners.
- Hayride Alternatives – If your venue won't allow for a tractor and wagon, think outside the box and enlist the help of an experienced golf cart driver and give neighborhood golf cart tours with a brief local history lesson. You can also offer golf cart rides from off-site parking to the venue for a small “free will” donation.
Have group members sign up to donate baked goods to sell! SAMPLE
- Hair, Nail and Face Painting – Before your festival, design four or five easy-to-draw face painting designs for a simple and fun money-maker. Other variations of this might be quick-drying manicures and/or hair-painting with colored hair spray (remember to be careful on blonde or colored hair since it doesn’t wash out as easily).
- Baking/Cooking Contest – If you charge a small fee for submitting a baked good and keep the prize simple (e.g., a bragging rights ribbon), you can earn some money for your organization. To make it an extra challenge, ask the bakers to incorporate a flavor like peppermint or a special ingredient like cilantro.
- Photo Booth – Search online for an affordable photo booth option, or enlist a creative volunteer who can make a photo booth with face cut-outs on plywood with funny bodies and holes for faces. Offer to take Polaroid photos or digital pictures that you can send to email addresses.
- Line Dancing Lessons – Get an experienced volunteer (or professional for an hour or so), and offer line dance lessons that cost a ticket or two per lesson. Another option is to have a skilled volunteer learn the choreography for a few eight counts of a favorite music video and teach to small groups.
- Kissing Booth – If a member of your organization has a dog famous for its licking power, have a pooch kissing booth where participants can trade a ticket for a “kiss” from a friendly canine.
- Hobby Shop – Have any members with easy-to-teach hobbies? Consider charging attendees of your festival for a mini-workshop that can include ideas like planting a starter garden, learning an easy yoga routine to a popular song or decorating their bedroom on a budget.
- Dunk Tank – There will be a cost for renting the booth and filling with water, but the prize is getting someone well-known in your organization or community to go down into the water! If you can rent two dunk tanks, you can have a competition at the end of the night to see who gets dunked the most.
With a great mix of booths, vendors and games, your fundraising festival can easily become an annual event. The key is to mix it up every year so people look forward to coming back to see what’s new. Use these ideas as a starting point for planning your next fundraiser.
Julie David lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and three daughters. She is a former teacher.