Posted by: Debbie Abrams Kaplan | February 22, 2010

Tricky Tray – and other fundraisers

Moving to a new area, I’m constantly saying “what?” when someone mentions something I’m not familiar with. Or perhaps I’ll say “huh?” Usually I feel like an idiot – like I’m never in on the secret of how life here works. Fundraisers are a good example of this. When your kids are in school and you’re part of a religious institution, fundraising comes up frequently.

So here are two new-to-me fundraisers. I’m not sure if they’re strictly a Jersey thing, or just types I never encountered in California, Arizona or Wisconsin.

Tricky Tray – You put together baskets of items (usually organized by theme, like cooking, art, romance etc). You have a container next to each basket. You buy tickets and put however many tickets you want into the containers next to the prizes you want to win. A winning ticket is randomly chosen – and obviously the more tickets you have in this container, the better your chances.

Now, I’ve participated in this type of fundraiser before, but it wasn’t called “tricky tray.” I’m actually not sure what it was called. Maybe “win a basket” or something equally creative. If someone can explain why it’s called a “tricky tray” I’d be grateful. Because usually the prize isn’t on a tray, and there’s nothing tricky about it. Maybe they could call it “lucky random basket ticket raffle.” Though “tricky tray” does roll off the tongue well. This website provides other names for the fundraiser, like Chinese auction (huh?), brown bag auction, and basket games. None of which are particularly descriptive either. It’s not an auction or a game.  It’s a raffle.

50/50 – buy raffle tickets. A winning ticket is chosen (never my ticket, though). Half the money goes to the winner – half to the organization. Kind of like the lottery.

What unique fundraisers do you have in your area?


  1. We have both the tricky tray and the 50/50 here in PA. To make it more confusing, at Rafi’s school on Bingo night there are BOTH tricky tray AND gift basket auctions. The baskets are themed and each class donates items to make them (two years in a row, the instructions said to “limit your value to $5” in such a vague way that I couldn’t tell if the minimum or maximum cost per item was to be $5!). The tricky tray are more likely to be individual donated items.

    I’ve also seen “Chinese auction” used locally to describe the ticket-in-a-cup approach. Perhaps this is deemed culturally insensitive? (Or perhaps it has nothing to do with being Chinese?)

  2. I thought 50/50 tickets were universal. They are very popular where we live — everybody does them.

    And we called the ticket in the basket a Chinese auction. I don’t know why.

  3. I have never heard of tricky trays but certainly know of the basket fundraisers–we have them all the time around here, usually called “basket raffles,” which at least makes more sense.
    And we have 50/50s here too. I like the name because it’s so up-front about the whole situation.
    My least favorite local fundraiser is the “Moms’ Night Out” which is a thinly veiled direct selling opportunity.

  4. […] Come fall, big arrangements start appearing on doorsteps, around trees, planted in the ground. They’re yet another opportunity for fundraising (along with the infamous 50/50 and tricky tray). […]

  5. […] have bought them to wear at my school’s fundraiser last night. It was a fashion show (and tricky tray and 50/50, and dinner and dancing). The theme was Jaguars on the Catwalk (appropriate since our […]

  6. […] may ask why I put my ticket in for this tricky tray basket (explanation of tricky tray here) when I obviously have no knowledge of basketball, other than recognizing Kim Kardashian’s […]

  7. […] Tricky Tray – and other fundraisers | Letters from New … – Feb 22, 2010  · Tricky Tray – and other fundraisers. … Now, I’ve participated in this type of fundraiser before, but it wasn’t called “tricky tray.” […]

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