Perhaps one of the easiest events you can hold, the bingo night is a well-known school favourite. Keep it simple or adapt it to suit the occasion with delightful décor and perfect prizes. Funds are raised by selling tickets to attend (which might include a number of bingo game tickets), both in advance or on the door. Boost profits by hosting interval games, running a raffle and by offering a hot dinner and/or refreshments.
- Two months before: Agree the date and book the hall. Speak to the school to agree a date for the mufti day for donations of prizes, if necessary. If serving food, choose a supplier and check prices with them to decide what you want to charge parents.
- Four to five weeks before: Send out letters and booking forms (for tickets and food) in pupils' book bags or via email. Post the event on your PTA's Facebook page if you have one. Order bingo books and dabbers in bulk - find suppliers in our directory.
- Two to three weeks before: Send out a request to parents and local businesses for prize donations. Post reminders on Facebook as the date gets nearer. Ensure you have enough helpers, collect donations and sort out prizes. Check you have all the equipment you need - a PA system is a useful way to make sure numbers are heard above the noise of the crowd!
- One week before: Prepare your prizes, labelling them up into categories such as 'one line' or 'full house'. Buy cups and refreshments. Ensure you have enough people to set up tables and chairs, serve refreshments and to help clear away. If serving food, contact your supplier to confirm your order and the delivery arrangements on the night. Order change for floats from the bank.
- On the day: Collect floats from the bank. Arrive early to set up tables and chairs and prepare the bar or heat up the tea urn. Set up the bingo calling system, PA equipment, etc.
- After the event: Have a post-event debrief to discuss what worked well and what may need tweaking for next time. Thank your volunteers after the event and ask for feedback. Give details about how much the event raised and how this will be spent.
Tips and advice
- Licensing: You don't need a gambling licence for a fundraising bingo event as it falls under the terms of 'non-commercial prize gaming'. Admission charges mustn't exceed £8 per person and prizes must not exceed £600. Go to gamblingcommission.gov.uk for more details. If selling or supplying alcohol, you will need a TEN (England and Wales). Submit an application to your local council at least ten days before your event. If planning a music bingo event, i.e. through Rock and Roll Bingo (rockandrollbingo.co.uk), you will need PRS for Music and PPL licences - check with the school to see if their licences cover you for events held on school premises.
- Prizes: Hold a mufti day where children bring in a prize in exchange for being able to wear their own clothes. Ask local businesses and supermarkets for donations to boost the prizes on offer or request a prize for a raffle to be held on the night. Have a big prize for 'house' and smaller ones for a line, for each game. Read our guide on how to write letters to businesses.
- Boost profits: Select some of the better prize donations and use them in a raffle. Sell tickets on the door and in the interval, drawing winners at the end of the evening. What food and refreshments are you going to offer? Soft drinks or a licensed bar? Snacks or a hot meal? Including food in the ticket price means you can charge slightly more. If providing a full meal, take orders in advance via forms in book bags. Ask around local businesses to see if they can do you a deal in exchange for advertising at the event. If you're approaching companies with raffle prize requests, see if they would also like to sponsor a bingo game, announcing them at the start of that round!
- Equipment: Consider whether you're going to go down the traditional route of a cage and numbered balls, or go high-tech with a bingo caller app or digital machine. You may not have a cage handy, but could anyone on your committee download a free caller app onto their laptop? Or can you borrow equipment from another PTA or community groups such as Rotary or Lions Clubs? Bingo cards and dabbers can be bought in bulk online. Find bingo equipment suppliers in our directory.
- Theme it: Upcoming spring celebrations include Valentine's Day and Easter, so why not theme your event accordingly? Think about the décor and prizes, as well as themed interval games.
- Charging: Are you going to charge for the whole night, or game by game? Will food be included in the price? Most PTAs charge around £1 for four games, or £5 entry per family, which includes eight games as well as a snack and soft drinks.
- Timings: Allow 15-20 minutes to play each full-house game, which includes time to award a separate prize for a line.
- Rhyming calls: Calls can vary by region. Remember to call numbers out like a pro: 'six and three, sixty-three'!
'We have been running an Easter chocolate bingo night for the past three years - it's a really successful event that doesn't take much organising.
We gather prizes through a mufti day where we ask for donations of chocolate. We then put together hampers using small supermarket veg boxes, which are also donated. We have a spare prize bag in case two people win at the same time, and small eggs are saved to give to the children who attend.
We bulk-buy tickets and dabbers from Amazon at about £16 for 750 books of bingo tickets (enough for two events) and 30p each for bingo dabbers, which we sell for £1 on the night. A couple of parents volunteer as callers and they use an online bingo number generator.
To boost profits, we hold a raffle with some of the better chocolate donations, selling tickets both on the door and in the interval. We also make up around five extra hampers to raffle off for families who couldn't attend. We do this the week after the event and draw the winners in the school playground in front of a large crowd.
At our last event, we had 180 people attend, which is the maximum we can fit in the school hall. We sold tickets in advance, charging £1 for a bingo game ticket, and sold out well before the event! On the night, we offered extra game tickets for £1 a game or six games for £5. We made a total of £1,183 from our last bingo night!
It's such a popular event, but because of space restrictions we have to limit numbers, so we're planning to hold a Christmas bingo night this year, too.'
Lisa Philogene-Jones, PTFA Chair, Hill View Primary School, Bournemouth (660 pupils)
'The purpose of our bingo night was to introduce new people to the school. Because of this we wanted to run an event that was affordable for everyone. We charged £5 per family, as some parents have up to three children at the school. We boosted profits by charging separately for a fish-and-chip supper, supplied by a local shop and sold on for a profit, and running a bar.
For the prizes, we took advantage of items left over from other events. We used wine from the summer fair as the prize for the adults, and sweets from the Halloween party for the children. This was key to ensuring we could keep costs low for the families, while still making a profit. We bought everything else wholesale, including colouring books as extra prizes for the children, and bingo cards and dabbers, which were all included in the price of the ticket.
Because we had to place orders for food, we sold tickets in advance. We had around 50 families attend. The event lasted for an hour and a half, including a half-hour interval for food. It was a fun and relaxed evening where everyone could get to know each other and the community came together. And we were able to raise £345.64 for the school!'
Richard Nurse, PTA Social Media Manager, Norris Bank Primary School, Heaton Norris, Stockport (399 pupils)
The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.