Adult Spelling Bee Fundraiser

Have some fun and raise funds while your friends spell and squirm!

With Hollywood movies, championship television coverage, and best-selling books, the spelling bee craze is sweeping the nation! Why not take advantage of this enthusiasm for a new and exciting kind of religious fundraiser -- an adult spelling bee! This can be a great way to raise moneys for your church, while staging an entertaining and community-building event for your congregation and neighborhood at large.

How an Adult Spelling Bee Fundraiser Works
Adult spelling bees are a bit different than the ones you might remember from elementary school, or have recently seen on TV. Rather than individuals competing against one another, adult spelling bees are often team competitions, with the members of the team consulting with one another before submitting the spelling they think is correct. This allows a greater sense of fun and community, and also saves adults the embarrassment of being wrong all by their lonesome!

Also, rather than one team at a time having to spell a word, all teams in a particular round must spell it, often writing their versions on a chalkboard or whiteboard which can be erased for the upcoming word. This makes the competition go faster, and keeps it interesting for the audience.

Often, the teams are divided into groups for preliminary rounds. As winners emerge from each round, they advance to a championship round.

The general word calling format of the competition, however, remains the same. An M.C. reads a word to be spelled, gives a definition, uses the word in a sentence, and repeats the word again. Teams then have a set time in which to confer and spell their word.

So how do you turn this idea into a fundraiser? There are a couple of easy ways to do so. The first involves charging an entry fee per team, which can be a great way to involve other churches, religious groups, and local businesses. Many are happy to engage in some friendly competition for a good cause, and these organizations are often willing to pay fairly high entrance fees - around $100 per team is not uncommon.

If you secure thirty teams at $100 dollars apiece, your fundraiser will gross $3000, which is a nice take for an afternoon. A variation on this idea lets teams buy back in to the competition if they're eliminated, further increasing your church's profits.

You can also have teams gather sponsorships for the number of words they spell correctly. If each of thirty teams garners a $5 per word sponsor, and averages twenty words spelled correctly, you will again gross $3000 for the day. This way of gathering donations can be a bit trickier, but may see higher returns if it seems your teams are truly enthusiastic about tracking down sponsors.

What You'll Need
Obviously, you'll need a space to hold your spelling bee, preferably with a stage and with plenty of room for a fun-loving audience. Tables and seating arrangements are a must, as are white boards or chalkboards upon which your teams will write their words. You'll also want to have a microphone, so everyone can clearly hear the words to be spelled as they're called. Think about prizes and awards you can give to the winning team, like a championship trophy or a package of gift certificates donated by local businesses.

Additionally, it can be a lot of fun to create "creative" awards, such as "Most Creative Spelling" and "Best Guessers". Devoted volunteers can help you with setup, cleanup, advertising, and the making of these fun awards.

Sample Adult Spelling Bee Rules
The following are a set of sample adult spelling bee rules, which can be customized according to the needs and goals of your religious group.
  • 3 people per team.
  • M.C. pronounces word, gives word definition, uses word in sentence, and pronounces word again. Teams may ask for one additional pronunciation.
  • Each team has 30 seconds to write word on pre-distributed white boards. White boards are held up when time is called. If white board is not held up, word is considered misspelled by team.
  • Two misspelled words in a round results in elimination. Judges are final arbiters in all cases.
  • Round ends when all but one team are eliminated. Winners advance to championship round. In cases where all remaining teams are eliminated by the same word, another word is called until just one team spells it correctly.
  • Championship round format is same as previous rounds, proceeding until all but one team are eliminated, the team surviving being declared champion.
  • Words are taken from the official Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee Paideia Dictionary, available at the National Spelling Bee Website.

With some careful planning, attention to detail, and dedicated volunteers, an Adult Spelling Bee can be an outstanding way to raise funds for your church or religious organization. Get ready to revisit your childhood years in this challenging new form of popular fundraising.

Written by: Bob Robertson