Tips for Running a Halloween Costume Fundraiser

With cute pet costumes lining store shelves, Halloween has become a popular holiday to include beloved furry friends. What is better than a pup dressed as a dino, or a kitty dressed as a shark?

It's natural to think that a pet costume contest would make an excellent donate-to-vote fundraiser, but that's not always the case.

There's a couple reasons for this, which we share below. And be sure to scroll to the bottom for our tips and contest examples!

Reason #1: Too exclusive

The most successful fundraisers are open and inclusive, and have little-to-no barriers to entry (in other words: they make it as easy as possible for someone to participate). 
However, a Halloween costume contest is a contest of exclusion: It excludes anyone that doesn't have a costume for their pet, or maybe has a pet that doesn't tolerate costumes. 

To put it simply: The market for people who dress their pets in Halloween costumes tends to be very narrow.

Reason #2: Prizes are not enticing enough

Everyone wants their pet to be a star, which is why the contests that often bring in the largest fundraising dollars are those that feature the winners on a month in a wall calendar or on a beer label. Both of those prizes give the pet celebrity status, and are considered to be "priceless"- it's difficult to assign a dollar value to them, so the sky is the limit when it comes to their fundraising value.
Since you are probably are not going to create a wall calendar filled just with pets in Halloween costumes, most Halloween contests tend to feature prizes that have a monetary value assigned to them, such as gift certificates to local businesses. While these aren't bad prizes, they do limit how much someone is willing to give. We've found that most entrants vote on their own entries, and they're usually unwilling to donate more than the prize value (it's just human nature!). 

It also might be tempting to offer a cash prize, but in our experience they do not work well with our platform. Frankly, participants do not like to think of their donation going directly towards a cash prize- they would prefer that their money goes to YOU, the organization that is fundraising!

Related: What are appropriate prizes for winners?

Reason #3: Burn out

Halloween lands toward the end of the year, when many of your donors might be reaching the limit of their charitable giving budget. Or, they're setting money aside for the approaching holiday season.

Halloween Contest Tips:

If you're still interested in holding a Halloween  donate-to-vote contest, here are a few tips:
1. Keep expectations in check. It probably won't be your biggest fundraiser of the year, but it can be a great way to involve your community in something light-hearted and fun. The average Halloween contest raises between $500 and $1,000.

2. Make your contest as open and inclusive as possible to encourage the most participation. Consider having an "autumn" theme instead, where those that may not have a Halloween costume can submit a photo in an autumn type setting (for example: next to a pumpkin, or in a pile of colorful leaves).
We recommend not having an entry fee for Halloween contests, but if you do choose to have one, keep it on the lower end (no more than $5).
3. Try to source prizes that offer celebrity status or are priceless. 
Some options to think about:
  • a special feature on a local billboard
  • a spotlight profile in a community magazine or a monthly newsletter
  • a piece of art by a local artist or photographer that features the winner(s)

4. Don't end your Halloween contest on Halloween! Most of your participants will be out trick-or-treating and celebrating the holiday instead of at home, in front of their computers. To capture those last minute entries and donations, try ending on November 1st.

Halloween Contest Examples:

Here are some examples of some successful Halloween contests, to give you ideas when thinking about your own fundraiser.

Southern California Pomeranian Rescue: 
2020 Pom-O-Ween Fall/Halloween Photo Contest 
Belleville Area Humane Society:
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