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In the realm of fundraising events, few are as intriguing and captivating as tricky trays. Also known as Chinese auctions, penny auctions, or pick-a-prize, tricky trays have gained immense popularity in recent years as an entertaining and effective way for organizations to raise funds for various causes. This article delves into the enigmatic world of tricky trays, exploring their origin, mechanics, and the thrill they bring to participants and organizers alike.

The Origins of Tricky Trays

Tricky trays trace their roots back to the 1960s in the United States. Originally organized by churches and community groups, these events were a way to engage members and support charitable endeavors. Over the years, tricky trays have evolved and expanded beyond their humble beginnings, becoming a staple in fundraising efforts for schools, charities, nonprofit organizations, and community projects.

How Tricky Trays Work

The allure of tricky trays lies in the combination of an exciting auction and a raffle, creating a unique and thrilling experience for attendees. Here's how they work:

1. The Setup: When attendees arrive at a tricky tray event, they purchase sheets of tickets or tickets in individual quantities. These tickets are then placed into containers or bags corresponding to the various prizes available for bidding.

2. The Prize Display: Before the auction begins, the prizes are artfully displayed for all to see. The prizes typically range from small, inexpensive items to larger, more valuable ones. Attendees are often drawn to the event by the promise of winning something they desire.

3. Placing Tickets: Participants can choose which prizes they wish to win and allocate their tickets accordingly. To increase their chances of winning a specific prize, they may place multiple tickets in the corresponding container.

4. The Auction: Once all the tickets have been placed, the auctioneer or event organizer begins the drawing. They randomly select tickets from the containers, announcing the winning ticket numbers and the corresponding prizes.

5. Claiming Prizes: As a winning ticket is announced, the holder of that ticket is entitled to claim the prize. The winner's excitement adds to the event's atmosphere, creating a contagious sense of anticipation.

The Excitement and Strategy

Tricky trays captivate attendees with an electrifying atmosphere. The element of chance and the possibility of winning coveted prizes create an air of excitement and camaraderie among participants. Unlike traditional auctions, where only the highest bidder wins, tricky trays offer an equal chance to everyone, leveling the playing field and heightening the thrill of the game.

In addition to the luck factor, attendees often employ a strategic approach when distributing their tickets. They may choose to spread their tickets across various prizes or concentrate them on a few highly desired items. This strategic decision-making adds an element of skill to the mix, making the event more engaging for participants.

Benefits for Fundraising Organizations

Tricky trays offer several advantages for fundraising organizations:

1. Enhanced Engagement: Tricky trays draw in a diverse crowd, attracting both loyal supporters and new attendees. The lively and interactive nature of the event ensures that participants are actively involved in the fundraising process.

2. Broadened Reach: As word spreads about the event's entertainment value, more people are likely to attend. This increased attendance can lead to greater exposure for the organization and its cause.

3. Diverse Fundraising: Tricky trays allow organizations to feature a wide variety of prizes, catering to different interests and preferences. This diversity helps attract a broader audience, increasing ticket sales and overall revenue.

4. Community Building: The event fosters a sense of community and belonging among attendees who come together to support a common cause. This camaraderie often extends beyond the event, cultivating lasting connections with the organization.


Tricky trays have undoubtedly become a staple in the world of fundraising, captivating participants and organizers alike with their electrifying energy and potential for generating funds. By combining elements of both auctions and raffles, these events have managed to create a unique and unforgettable experience for all involved.

The thrill of tricky trays lies not only in the possibility of winning exciting prizes but also in the shared sense of purpose and community spirit that they inspire. As these events continue to evolve and adapt to the changing fundraising landscape, one thing remains certain: tricky trays will continue to be a cherished tradition, uniting communities and empowering organizations to make a meaningful difference in the world.


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