Winter Fundraisers Series: Bowling Fundraiser

Fundraising is often done through outdoor events.  Races and golf tournaments raise money for worthy causes.  However, as the cold months roll in, warm clothes and coats get brought out.  During these chilly times, event fundraisers still need to go on.  What can you do for a fundraising event in the winter?

That’s the focus of our Winter Fundraiser Series — fundraisers that can be done in chillier climates.  One event fundraiser you might not have considered is bowling!

Bowling has Wide Appeal

During the cold, winter months, bowling is a great sport to keep people active, and it is comfortable and fun for all ages. The entire family can participate in a bowling night fundraising activity.

It also appeals to athletes and those with a competitive spirit regardless of their ability level.  Bowling provides the friendly competition that they love with bragging rights for the winner.

Done correctly, a bowling fundraiser becomes a great way for everyone to have fun and feel like a winner while raising the necessary funds for your group!

Preparation for the Bowling Fundraiser Event

Organizing a bowling fundraiser is much easier than it may seem.  It doesn’t matter whether your group is large or small.  You simply plan for the number of bowling lanes that you need.

Prepare the Bowling Alley

Contact your local bowling alley and get the rates and available times for your tournament. Many bowling alleys offer hourly rates as well as per game rates.  If your group is large enough, they may offer group discounts based on the number of lanes needed.

Also, ask the bowling alley if they have a room that you can use for a few minutes for the awards ceremony at the end of the event.

Once you have completed your participant registration (see below), be sure to call and reserve the lanes you need.

Set the Registration Price & Prizes for the Winners

Determine the Prizes Offered

Prizes are important.  They are great motivators.  If participants have fun, they will want to do this again, so be sure to have lots of winners.  That is easily done by having many different categories for the prizes.  For example:

  • Highest individual score & highest team score
  • Lowest individual score & lowest team score
  • Most individual gutter balls & most team gutter balls
  • Funniest bowling style / Best professional bowler style
  • Most individual strikes (or spares) / Most team strikes (or spares)
  • Most encouraging person to others
  • Best non-offensive trash talker

Choose what you will offer as a prize for each category.  You might consider bags of candy, inexpensive trophies, homemade trophies, baked prizes, etc.  Get the idea?  The event is meant to be fun, so have fun prizes.  They don’t have to be costly.  Just make sure they don’t look “cheap.”

Be sure to ask individuals as well as local businesses for donations as prizes.  A free pizza from the local restaurant or a free coffee from the local Starbucks makes a great prize.  You can even ask the bowling alley if they will give coupons for free games to use as prizes.  Be inventive.  The less you have in prize cost, the more potential you have for greater profit.

Bowling Prizes
This is a picture a group took of their bowling prizes and sent to TFN. The person in charge of prizes collected old plaques that people were going to throw away. He designed the front of them on his computer and printed them on cardstock. He then pasted the cardstock to the front of the plaque.

Set the Registration Price

Estimate how many people you expect to sign up.  Figure an approximate cost for the prizes and the bowling lanes.  Determine the amount of money that you want to raise from this event.  Now figure out your registration price.

Number of Registrants * Registration Fee = Total Income

Total Income – Bowling Expenses – Prize Cost = Fundraiser Profit

Example for a Small Bowling Group:

Partipants expected:  25 (5 lanes with 5 bowlers each)

Fundraising Goal:  $200
Bowling Alley:  $16 per lane per hour * 5 lanes needed = $80/hour
Prizes:  $50

If you plan to bowl for 2 hours, here’s how it works out.

$160 (alley) + $50 (prizes) = $210 total cost

$200 (goal) + $210 (cost) = $410 minimum amount of money needed to be made

$410 / 25 participants = $17 per bowler for registration fee.

$17 * 25 bowlers = $420 revenue

$425 revenue – $210 cost = $215 profit
(or increase your profit by $75 if you charge a $20 registration fee)

Example for a Large Bowling Group:

Partipants expected:  75 (15 lanes with 5 bowlers each)

Fundraising Goal:  $1000
Bowling Alley:  $16 per lane per hour * 15 lanes = $240/hour
Prizes:  $150

If you plan to bowl for 2 hours, here’s how it works out.

$480 (alley) + $150 (prizes) = $630 total cost

$1000 (goal) + $630 (cost) = $1630 minimum amount of money needed to be made

$1630 / 75 participants = $22 per bowler for registration fee.

$22 * 75 bowlers = $1650 revenue

$1650 revenue – $630 cost = $1020 profit

Start Promoting 4-6 Weeks Before the Event

Set a sign-up deadline and then start promoting.  Whatever you do, make sure that each announcement sounds fun and inviting.

Online Promotions. Send out invitations via email and on social media.  Set up your event on Facebook.  You might also promote it on your web site if you have one.  In each of these cases, include a link to a registration form.

Group Meetings.  If you have group meetings, be sure to announce the bowling fundraiser at each meeting in the 4-6 weeks prior to the event. Have a sign-up sheet at the meeting and let people know where it is.

Register Your Participants & Reserve Your Lanes

Getting your participant count is very important.  Based on the headcount, you will know whether you need to reserve an entire bowling alley or just a few lanes.  You will also know which costs less: reserving the bowling alley per lane or per game.  (The lower the cost, the greater the profits.)

Encourage people to sign up in teams of 5.  (Most lanes will hold 5 bowlers.) Have them choose their own team name.

About 7-14 days before the event, do a final push for sign-ups with a final registration deadline.  Get your final participant count and reserve your lanes at the bowling alley.

Have the Event


On the day of the event, everyone shows up at the bowling alley and has lots of fun.  Later, you will need lots of pictures with people having fun.  (See below.)  When you are shooting the pics, include participants bowling, smiling and enjoying themselves.

Here are tips to make coordinating the prizes easier.

– Be sure to have judges (preferably people who are not bowling) who record individual and team scores as the bowling is happening.  Each judge should be able to cover two lanes (since the lanes are side by side).

– If you are bowling by the hour, let everyone know how many games will  count towards prizes.  For example, if you are bowling 2 hours, some teams might be focused and bowl 4 games while others may only bowl 2.  Tell everyone that they can bowl as many games as possible in the 2 hours, but that only the first 2 games (or however many games you choose) will count toward prizes.

– Have a designated “Scoremaster” to whom all the judges turn in the winners in each of the categories for the lanes they were watching.  The judges list should also include the actual scores.

Have the Awards Ceremony

Once the bowling is finished, quickly gather everyone into the side room.  (See “Prepare the Bowling Alley” above.)  The Scoremaster should quickly tally all the results to determine the winners in each category.  In as fun a way as possible, announce each winner and give them their award.

After the Event

Go through your pictures and choose a large number of the best ones.  Post them to your web site or social media.  Be sure to include a list of the winners and say something about how much fun it was.

And remember:  If you do this event well, you might have created an annual fundraising event for your organization. The more fun people have and the more enjoyable memories they create, the better chance they will want to do it again next year!