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3 Steps to Host a Successful Halloween Costume Contest

Step 1: Decide on a date and location.

The first thing your organization should figure out is the date and location for your costume party. While the event should occur on or around October 31st, ironing out an exact date and time early on can help you better coordinate with your staff, venue, and community. Once the date is finalized, let your supporters know about the event so they can mark their calendars.

In addition to boosting attendance, settling on a date early on can help you figure out logistical details like your venue before it’s crunch time. Because all you really need for a costume contest is a staging area and space for onlookers, there are plenty of venue options available. For example, if you’re seeking low-cost venue options, you can host the contest at a local park or in a school cafeteria or auditorium.

Step 2: Choose how you will fundraise.

Ultimately, your aim for any fundraiser is to raise enough money to recoup event costs and make a profit. Otherwise, your fundraiser doesn’t accomplish its goal of boosting your organization’s revenue. So, what’s the best way to fundraise at a Halloween costume contest?

There are a couple of ways you can ask for donations at your contest, including:

  • Charging an admission fee. Simply ask attendees who are participating in the contest for a small donation to enter. To get a feel for how many contestants you’ll have, ask participants to register online in advance.
  • Charging for votes. Ask for a donation for each vote attendees make. While these donations should be small (think around $1), they can have a big impact on your fundraiser’s revenue by giving attendees who aren’t participating in the contest a way to donate.

Another fundraising option is to use both of these fundraising strategies at once. Be sure to outline your fundraising method early in the process so you can more accurately plan your budget and inform volunteers of when to ask for donations.

Step 3: Decorate your venue.

Infuse your venue with plenty of Halloween spirit by decorating it for the occasion. Hang up spider webs, arrange jack-o-lanterns, and set up ghosts and skeletons to add to the spooky ambiance. To pull the theme together even more, play music and offer Halloween-themed snacks that participants and onlookers can enjoy.

Remember to make your staging area the center of everyone’s focus. Whether your venue has a true stage or not, you can designate any area as the stage for contestants to gather at and show off their costumes. Go all out with decor for this area and be sure to include seating for your audience.

Helpful Hints for Your Costume Contest

Create a theme.

While the Halloween holiday is enough of a theme on its own, you can also come up with a theme more closely related to your cause to guide your contestants’ costume ideas. For example, if you run an animal rescue nonprofit, you could have supporters dress their pets up in Halloween costumes. A theme like this one can help remind attendees what the event is for — furthering the good cause your organization is working toward!

Create categories.

Create different costume categories so you can have many winners, not just one. Not only does this spread the joy of winning a contest to more of your supporters, but it prevents voters from having to compare apples to oranges when it comes to the costumes. For example, it would be hard to choose a winner if your contest’s finalists came down to a little girl in a beautiful princess costume and a stunningly accurate creepy clown.

Creating categories is a great way to get the whole community involved. You can open up the floor to participants of different ages and interests by offering some of these categories in your contest:

  • Scariest Costume
  • Funniest Costume
  • Cutest Costume
  • Most Original Costume
  • Best Couples Costume
  • Most Creative Costume

The possibilities for contest categories are truly endless if you’re willing to get creative! To bring the focus back to your mission, try adding a category or two that relate to your cause.

Offer prizes.

No one wants to attend a costume contest with participants who didn’t put much effort into their costumes. Offering prizes can motivate attendees to put their all into their costumes. Here are some popular prizes you can try at your contest:

  • Gift cards
  • Candy or toy gift baskets
  • Small treat bags
  • Pet treats or toys (for four-legged participants!)

You can adapt prizes to fit your budget and the awards the winners receive. For example, you could award a gift card to a local restaurant to the first place winners of the best couples costume and hand out small bags of candy or homemade treats as participation prizes.

Consider pairing the contest with another event.

There may be opportunities for you to combine your costume contest with other fall fundraisers. Tying two fundraising events together can help your fundraising team save time and money. Rather than plan and execute two completely separate events, you can plan them together and have them take place at the same venue, date, and time. Ideally, you should choose a fundraising idea that complements your costume contest. The idea itself should be relevant to Halloween or adaptable enough that it doesn’t seem totally out of left field. For example, a mini carnival or festival with games and snacks or a cake walk are easy ways to add another exciting fundraising element to your costume contest.

Other Fall Fundraisers to Try

There’s something magical about the crisp autumn air. Take advantage of the cooler weather, cozy vibes, and pumpkin spice everything by putting together other fall-themed fundraisers. Here are some other fall fundraisers for your organization to try:

Fall get-togethers are one of the best parts of the season, whether you’re gathered on a hay ride or around a bonfire. The only thing that can make them better is coming together under a common cause!