Bingo Fund Raiser

Church Bingo Can Be an Entertaining Way to Raise Money for Those In Need

church bingo fundraiser
"Under the I, twenty-three...under the I, twenty-three!"

In churches, schools, and fire halls across the English-speaking world, bingo is one of today's most popular fundraisers. With affordable start-up costs, easy revenue, and low-key fun, this classic game is the perfect way for your church or religious group to collect a steady stream of charitable income for social services, repairs, and capital for larger fundraising projects.

Why Bingo?
If your church is low on funds, bingo is an excellent choice for a fundraiser. Start small, then build big! For a little bit of investment, you can see great returns. In addition to a large room and tables on which to play, all you'll need is a bingo set containing:
  • Numbered balls.
  • Scorecards (including a master scorecard).
  • A way to randomize the balls (such as a shaker or a ball roller).
  • "Dabbers", small markers with which players can cover their cards as the numbers are called.
  • If you're tech-savvy, there are even free software programs like Bingoware to help you print scorecards and number tokens yourself, reducing costs even further.

Rules and Calling Numbers
In the game of bingo, a non-player known as the "caller" is responsible for making sure the cards are properly distributed to players. How you choose to distribute your cards is up to you, of course, but in large part it will be dependent on your players. If they're elderly, consider making the rounds at the table to sell them their cards as a courtesy. If they're younger, having them stand in line to buy may be a great way to calm them down!

The caller is also responsible for making the rules and expectations clear to the players from the beginning. Be sure to say how many games will be played over the course of the evening and whether tickets will be sold just once or throughout the night. In general, the rules of bingo are as follows:
  • Cards on which a five by five grid of numbers are printed are distributed to players. The numbers 1-15 appear in the "B" column, the numbers 16-30 in the "I" column, and so on, up to "O"- 75.
  • Players mark the middle "free" space on their card at the start of every game.
  • The caller selects a bingo ball and calls the number. Players mark their cards when their numbers correspond to the numbers called.
  • A "bingo" happens when five numbers in a straight line are covered. Players must call their bingo before the next number is called.
  • Multiple bingos on the same call result in a split prize.

Additionally, there are lots of variations on how a bingo can be made, including:
  • Outside Squares
  • "X"
  • Cross
  • Four Corners
  • Postage Stamp
  • Full Card
Sometimes, in a particular game, combinations of the above can be specified for multiple winners. The caller can state that there will be one winner for a normal bingo, one for a cross, and one for a full card, for example.

Callers should remember to go slowly and speak clearly -- it's important that everyone hears and understands the numbers as they're called. Every once in awhile, he or she should give the numbers a good shake, to remind people that the balls are randomized. If two consecutive numbers are called, the caller can shrug or smile to deflect comments of a "fixed" game. The caller can also make the calls lively with rhymes and lilting speech, like "B-11, we're going to heaven," or "B-5, better look alive!"

Advertising and Money Matters
As with any fundraising event, you want people to know about it! Advertise with flyers telling who it's for, why it's being held, and where and when the event will be. Consider including a map, if you're hoping to get people from the community at large to attend.

It's up to you how you'd like to price your bingo event -- some churches like to charge a flat fee for the night, while others sell cards individually to players. In either case, the church generally keeps a percentage of the take, using the rest as prize money for players. Sometimes, prizes are donated by the congregation, and the church keeps all of the money raised, or at least a large majority of the funds. The last card of the night is often a jackpot, with a higher or more attractive prize.

If you're looking to make your bingo night more lucrative, consider selling refreshments during and after the event. People are often eager for a cup of coffee or some delicious chocolate chip cookies to go along with their gaming conversation and socializing, and this can be a great way to pad your church's fundraising profits.

Written by: Bob Robertson