Ideas to Host Your Very Own Scavenger Hunt Fundraiser

How to Host Your Very Own Scavenger Hunt Fundraiser (with 38+ Nonprofit Scavenger Hunt Ideas)

August 21, 2023
6 minutes
A dark green magnifying glass hovers over a lighter-green coin with a $ sign on it. Behind the magnifying glass is a dotted-line trail with more coins and an X marks the spot.

Who doesn’t love a walk-a-thon? For that matter, who can deny the joy of a bake sale, bike race, or trivia night? But sometimes, you want a fundraising event that’s special. Something that will really bring the whole community together—all ages, all backgrounds. Nonprofiteer, what you need is a scavenger hunt. And right here, we’ve got everything you need to know to host the best darn scavenger hunt fundraising event east of the Mississippi. Or west of it! It’ll be that good.

What is a scavenger hunt fundraiser?

In case you were a very mature child who didn’t have time for silly games, a scavenger hunt is an activity in which participants get a list of items and need to find them all. They’re basically treasure hunts, but rather than finding one big treasure at the end, you search for lots of little items. Add the word “fundraiser” onto it, and this delightful game also raises money for a great cause.

What makes a scavenger hunt the perfect fundraising event?

If you ask us, scavenger hunts are the gift that keeps on giving. They offer a fun challenge, build community, get everyone outside, and foster some healthy competition. In addition, they’re the ideal peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, offering dedicated supporters a prime opportunity to bring their nearest and dearest into the fundraising fold with a day chock full of family-friendly activities and community spirit.

Finally, they give you, nonprofiteer, artistic license when it comes to how you’ll meet your fundraising goals. It’s your scavenger hunt, and you can make it whatever you want! Marsupials-in-knitwear-themed scavenger hunt? Sure. Velveeta-and-balsamic-reduction-themed hunt? We have no idea what that means, but the sky’s the limit.

How to plan a fundraising scavenger hunt in 11 steps

We won’t lie: this is a fundraising event that will require a little effort on your part—but it’ll be fun, and it’ll pay off in the long run. (And speaking as humans that have actually pulled this off, if you take it task by task, it’s our favorite kind of creative organization good time!)

  1. Choose the location, time, and theme
  2. Decide on a hunt format
  3. Plan the hunt route
  4. Set up an event site
  5. Promote your event
  6. Write the rules
  7. Put together items, tasks, and clues
  8. Plan for the unexpected
  9. Organize other hunt elements
  10. Confirm the weather
  11. Arrive early

1. Choose a location, time, and theme.

Your location and theme are crucial to the success of your hunt. Consider the size of your event, likely weather, safety, accessibility, and amenities (you’ll need a bathroom!). Some popular spots for scavenger hunts include neighborhoods, parks, malls, or zoos, but you can always mix things up. Once you have a location in mind, choose a convenient time and a fitting theme.

2. Decide on a format.

Next, you need to decide on the format of your hunt. Is it a no-holds-barred free-for-all, where participants get a list of items and madly race to find the actual items? Or will you provide subtly brilliant clues to lead participants from one item to the next? Are you planning to hide items yourself or direct participants to items, people, or places that already exist?

3. Plan the route.

If you’re writing up clues to lead participants from one location to the next, you’ll need to plan a route. Visit your location of choice and determine where each item will go. If you need locals to answer questions, distribute items, or act as facilitators, get those people in place!

4. Set up an event site.

If you’re planning a large-scale scavenger hunt (so ambitious—we love to see it!), have participants register in advance. Funraise makes it easy, with a suite of event and ticket sales tools that puts everything in one place. Plus, with Funraise’s new Fundraising Registration feature, fundraisers are required to purchase a ticket to register, making it easy-peasy to collect entrance fees.

5. Start promoting your event.

Once you know the basics and have your event site up and running, it’s time to start advertising your amazing fundraising event! Come one, come all!

6. Devise a set of rules.

For a successful event, you’ll need to set some ground rules—and in addition to the guidelines below, we've also provided a template in this article. Here are some questions to ask when setting rules:

  • Is there a time limit or not?
  • How will you decide on a winner? Or is this an everyone-is-a-winner situation?
  • Are any areas off-limits? Places where phones aren’t allowed? Locations where the participants will have to buy something or pay an entry fee?
  • Are all items worth the same amount or do they have different point values?
  • Does “finding” some items result in taking pictures or learning a fact? If so, to whom will participants send those pictures or facts?

Once the rules are set, send them to every participant in advance, so they know exactly what to expect. And print ‘em out on the day or provide the rules via a QR-accessible webpage.

7. Create a list of items and accompanying clues.

With the rules in place, it’s time to flex your creative muscles in the form of creating a list of items and writing a set of clues. First, write down all those must-find items for all your friendly hunters. Then, jot down some clever clues to tell participants how to find the items on your list. You can write rhymes, songs, or haikus, or have them solve puzzles, answer riddles, or interpret drawings.

Don’t forget that “finding an item” can also mean performing tasks! Talk to the barista at a neighborhood cafe, get a picture with a local statue, or count how many licks it takes to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop that you’ll get by doing a jig for the cashier at the corner store.

8. Plan for the unexpected.

If it rains, will your clues get drenched? Put them in plastic baggies. If you’re hiding edible treats, will a squirrel find them first? Tupperware is your friend.

9. Organize any other aspects of the event.

Do you want to encourage friendly competition with a grand prize or keep things casual with little prizes along the way? Perhaps you’ll give out goodie bags to all the participants? What about food and drinks for your hungry hunters? Pizza and soda’s cheap and popular, but if you have a theme, you can get creative.

Better yet, make nourishment part of the hunt! Fold in a slice and a soda to the cost of the entry and give hunters a break before they venture out for more action.

10. The night before, check the weather.

Do you need to enact that rain/hail/carnivorous pig-bats plan?

11. The morning of, get up early.

Have your judges at the ready, your clues hidden (if you’re hiding them), your food piping hot (or refreshingly cold), and your rah-rah spirit raring to go! Get ready, because scavenger hunt excitement is contagious!

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Get your own Scavenger Hunt Fundraiser Template
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Charity scavenger hunt template

Whew, that was a lot of steps! How are you supposed to remember it all? Why, with our handy template, of course. Simply fill in all the blanks to ensure you have all the information you need for a successful scavenger hunt challenge. We’ve added some example rules to get you started. (And if you click the "Download" button above, it's already in Google doc form for you!)

Scavenger Hunt Template




Start time/End time:

Approx. number of participants:

**Remember to bring sunscreen, a light jacket, a sunhat, and good walking shoes!


  • The goal is to complete as many items on the list as possible in 90 minutes. DO NOT take any items without a clear okay.
  • Everything is located outside. Private yards are off limits. You will not need to climb any trees to find items.
  • You are not allowed to purchase any of the items on the list. (Or maybe participants will need a maximum of $X to fulfill the entire list.)
  • Team members can split up, but for items that you need to photograph, at least two team members must be in the photo.
  • If you ask for help from another team, you’ll lose 5 points.
  • For a $5 donation, you can get a hint.
  • For a $20 donation, you can get a 5-minute head start.
  • Etc.

Item checklist:

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D

15 charitable scavenger hunt fundraising ideas

Need some creative fundraising ideas for your hunt? We’ve got you covered, along with to-do and to-find examples.

1. Formal scavenger hunt

Picture it: a gala theme hunt. So meta, so unconventional. Everyone dons their eveningwear and then runs into the night, flashlights in hand, to find as many plastic monkeys as possible.

2. Hybrid scavenger hunt event

Can’t decide between an in-person event and a virtual one? Go hybrid! With this hunt, there’s an in-person component for the locals and a virtual one for anyone else. Make sure your post-event celebration also works for everyone.

3. Family feud

Form teams of family members to make your hunt into a family affair, hosting an event that requires families to search their homes high and low—and maybe ask each other a few embarrassing questions over dinnertime. It’ll all be worth it when everyone gets in some quality family bonding time.

4. Egg hunt

This spring, have supporters scavenge for eggs! It works for Passover, too, if you just stuff a few of them with salted parsley.

5. Photo scavenger hunt

For a social media-friendly hunt, have everyone snap a photo of each item.

6. Bar crawl scavenger hunt

Hop (or stumble) from bar to bar in the correct order with a bar crawl scavenger hunt, snapping selfies with specific patrons (there’s a person in a tophat at most bars on a Saturday afternoon, right?), following clues, and ordering drinks as you go. Remember to be responsible!

Bonus idea: Get the bar staff involved by asking them to design a specialty cocktail or donation beer for your nonprofit. Give them a secret word or item that hunters will be searching for and tell them they can ask for whatever they want in return.

7. Nature scavenger hunt

Lazy? A nature scavenger hunt is your BFF! Have participants find things that are already scattered around, like twigs, flowers, or a squirrel eating food out of the garbage (aw!). Just remember to take only photos and leave only footprints.

8. Pirate scavenger hunt

Argh, it’s a treasure hunt for the ages, matey! The winning team gets a treasure chest of gold doubloons (made o’ chocolate).

9. Speedy hunt

Make your entire scavenger hunt last 30 minutes to really get the adrenaline pumping. Want to up your fundraising success? Let people buy 30 seconds of extra time with an additional donation or up to 10 minutes with larger donations.

10. Virtual scavenger hunt: online edition

Will you get to clamber up trees and dig holes in the ground? No. Will lots more people be able to participate? Yes. A virtual scavenger hunt takes place in the wilds of the internet, with everyone trying to find items on the world wide web.

11. Virtual scavenger hunt: at-home edition

Another spin on a digital hunt: have supporters participate virtually from wherever they live. Bonus: you can make everything really easy on yourself by using a scavenger hunt app! There are many options out there, so the heaviest lift will be deciding which to use. Simply direct participants to download the app in advance for a stress-free digital experience.

12. Magical renaissance Game of Thrones fantasy hunt

Listen, we don’t know why everyone seems to think fantasy = dragons and ladies in billowing skirts and bustiers, but why not have fun with the theme and hide tiny magical creatures all over the local park for your participants to discover? Encourage everyone to dress on theme, and include lots of biodegradable glitter to create a bit of fundraising magic.

13. Video game hunt

Everyone searches for power-ups and prizes related to their favorite video games. Just don’t actually eat that one-up mushroom unless you want a very different kind of experience.

14. Pajama party

Host a night-time scavenger hunt with the added challenge of finding items by torchlight—and the add-est comfort of wearing your favorite matching pajama set. Don’t forget to serve hot chocolate to warm everyone up.

15. Alphabet hunt

Make the planning really easy on yourself by asking each team to find 26 items: one for each letter in the alphabet.

Tips and ideas to spice up your (scavenger hunt) life

You’re already on the path to scavenging greatness, but why stop there? You can make your already-awesome hunt into a one-of-the-kind event by mixing things up and offering extra challenges and/or incentives. Here are a few ideas.

  • Photography challenge. If you’re having folks snap photos of the must-find items, add an extra layer by giving extra points to the best photos. Black-and-white shot of a teddy bear on the beach? So much beauty. Plus, you can publish all the winning shots on social media for ongoing fundraising opportunities.
  • Get sponsors for certain items and clues. If you’re doing an all-out, drop-everything, come-one-come-all scavenger hunt, consider asking your favorite businesses or people to sponsor certain items and clues. If Top Chef can name-drop ranch dressing in a molecular gastronomy challenge, your expert hunt writers can incorporate the local credit union into a clue or two.
  • Include other forms of transportation. Everyone loves a twist, so throw one in to make your hunt a truly memorable occasion! Maybe your clues lead to the river, and once everyone arrives, they hop on a boat to get the next clue? Or perhaps they need to take the 75 bus three stops for clue #7? Just make sure any public transit comes regularly, or your hunters are gonna get real bored real fast.
  • Use your phones. While a scavenger hunt can be a nice excuse to unplug and connect IRL, a little tech can also take your event to the next level. Take inspiration from geocaching by using GPS coordinates or have everyone download a scavenger hunt app to cross “write 75 clues” off your to-do list.
  • End with a celebration. After all that hunting, your supporters deserve something special to wrap things up—especially if the game got a little competitive. Hold a dance party, host an ice cream sundae bar, or do a round of soothing goat yoga to bring everyone together—and bring in a few more donations.

Clues, riddles, and puzzles: 20+ examples to get started

As you can see, planning a scavenger hunt is a lot like planning other events. But then there’s the clues. When it comes to clues, you can get down with your most creative self and do whatever the heck you want. Here are a few places to start.

Word find puzzle.

Hide the names of the various items in a word search puzzle. You can make your own puzzle here, adjusting the difficulty level based on your audience.

Rhyming clues.

Order a cappuccino, don your favorite beret, and spend an afternoon writing clever rhymes to lead participants to the final prize. And if you’ve got writer’s block, never fear: this is just the type of writing assignment that AI does with aplomb. In fact, we asked it to write a few! Here ya go:

  • Local bookstore or library:

I'm full of stories, truth or lies,

With covers that hold endless skies.

On bookshelves tall or tucked away,

Seek me where imagination's at play.

  • Typewriter or keyboard

I have keys, but I don't lock,

I display letters around the clock.

Find me where words come to life,

Where tales are written, free from strife.

  • Jigsaw puzzle:

I'm a puzzle of pieces, scattered and small,

Put me together to form a grand hall.

Find me where logic and patience blend,

A challenge to solve, an adventure to send.

Okay, we wouldn’t use “puzzle” to describe a … puzzle. So, like always, be sure to edit! But those are pretty cute, huh?

Find someone who…

For community nonprofits, a scavenger hunt that requires everyone to talk to different people in the neighborhood is on fleek and on brand. For example, you can ask people to find someone who:

  • Has lived in the neighborhood for their whole life.
  • Has a pet that isn’t a dog or cat.
  • Speaks more than three languages.
  • Has been to more than 25 countries.
  • Has read the Silmarillion in its entirety.


If you want to make your participants work it, frame each item or location as a head-scratching riddle.

  • I go all around the world but stay in the corner. (Find a stamp.)
  • I have 13 hearts but no other organs. (Find a deck of cards.)
  • I get wet while I’m drying. (Find a towel.)
  • I’m easy to pick up but hard to throw. (Find a feather.)

Photos clues.

Give participants a stack of photos leading to each clue, but give it a tricky twist.

  • Each photo is super zoomed-in so that it’s hard to tell what it is.
  • Cut up the photos into mini-puzzles that folks have to put together.


There are plenty of ways to boost the challenge factor by having participants do some good old fashioned word games.

  • Unscramble letters for the clue.
  • Fill in the blank, with key letters left out.
  • Write the clue backwards.
  • Make up a secret code.

Get fancy.

Have some fun by taking your clues in unexpected and slightly over-the-top directions.

  • Write in invisible ink. Buy it or DIY it (it’s just lemon juice and water!), then write clues that only show up under special circumstances. So tricky!
  • Make a map. Hire an artist to make a keepsake map to lead participants from one item to the next.
  • Work for it. Hide the clues in water and freeze them.
  • Balloons for all. Hide the clues in balloons, blow them up, and tie them all over for an event that really pops.

With this knowledge in hand, we hope you feel ready to embark on an epic scavenger hunt adventure, whether it’s on the high seas, the low seas, or the seas of your nearest public park. Now, gather your team, follow the trail, and unlock the treasure (i.e., donations) before you!

Scavenger hunt fundraiser: Key takeaways

  • A scavenger hunt fundraiser is a fun activity where participants find or complete a list of items to raise money for a worthy cause.
  • Scavenger hunts not only offer a fun challenge and foster community but also provide flexibility in terms of brainstorming creative themes and fundraising strategies so you can hit your financial goals.
  • A fundraising scavenger hunt challenge requires careful planning and a lot of decisions for the nonprofit, starting with choosing a location and theme, deciding on the format, setting up an event site for registration and ticket sales, promoting the event, and establishing rules.
  • At the same time, scavenger hunts give you room to be creative when you choose items and write clues.
  • Scavenger hunts can be in-person, online, or hybrid. You can also choose from numerous themes and structure your clues and items accordingly.
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