A time-honored tradition for many families at Christmas is making a gingerbread house. Turn the tables on this tradition, and create a gingerbread DOGhouse building competition that allows people of all ages to work together to create a masterpiece fit for judging! Think of a Food Network competition, but with a pet twist. Whether you turn this competition into an exclusive event all its own, or pair it with another holiday festival or charity auction, a gingerbread house building competition can bring great exposure for your nonprofit group while raising money for rescued animals!
This type of fundraiser brings in some much needed funding for your group, but the more important part is that it highlights your group’s mission, your need for donated doghouses (or Kuranda beds), it reminds people to keep their animals warm in the winter months, and keeps your group’s name out in the public during the all-important ‘giving’ season.
The basics of this fundraiser involves getting people to sign up to submit a completed gingerbread creation for a judging competition. You can charge a nominal fee for entry, which can cover the cost of award ribbons and the promotion of the event. This also ensures you’ll have entries to judge, since most people will not back out of the competition if they’ve already paid a $10 entry fee. The registration time period should be at least one month in advance, and end one week in advance of your competition. Provide each participant with a small goody bag from a local bakery or pet bakery. Allow people to pick up forms from various locations around town, including animal friendly stores, as well as downloading the form at your group’s website.
Where to Host
The event should be hosted somewhere prominent during the holidays, such as at a local mall, a holiday festival/ carnival, a prominent pet supply store, or at a major arena already hosting holiday events. The mall would love another attention-gathering event at their location, designed to bring in entire families a week before Christmas for some extra shopping, or after Christmas to catch the sales!
This event does NOT have to be held before Christmas, and could be a great item to host in between Christmas and New Years, or on into the month of January if time permits. This gives people time over the holidays to work on their creations, and avoid the overcrowding events on everyone’s calendar with Christmas parties and school events.
You can create judging levels based on age, as well as experience. You may also want to separate the entries into categories based on theme, such as gingerbread cottages, nontraditional creations, gingerbread doghouse or other pet themes, and replicas of famous locations or monuments.
Most contests have age levels for 12 and under, teens (13 to 18), adults, and groups, which could include both adults and children. This last category is great, allowing any Scout groups, elementary school classrooms, art classes, families or just multiple people to compete. You may also want to separate professional bakers into a different judging category, which will both encourage the non-pros to compete, and bring in more pros for their own private judging!
The prizes can vary from tickets to an upcoming event, gift cards from mall vendors or a gift basket of baker supplies, donated by local shops. Many local Chamber of Commerce organizations offer special tickets to area charities as a giveaway prize in auctions or raffles. You can also contact your favorite media stations to ask for help in securing special event tickets or passes, since these stations partner with entertainment and event opportunities in the area as part of their promotions.
For most events, people are excited enough to get honors and a ribbon, along with their picture in the paper! If you can get an underwriting sponsor for this event, you can provide a monetary prize for the grand prize as well. Keep in mind that many companies are willing to underwrite a prize package since it gives them exposure to a different demographic than their current customers.
Make it Bigger and Better!
If you’d like to turn this gingerbread house competition into a major event for you area, here are a few things you can use to create a large gathering at your event:
- Add a vendor section with handcrafted gifts from local artisans
- Bring in a children’s chorus- this provides entertainment and brings in their parents!
- Host a gingerbread building demonstration or workshop by a local baker
- Host an auction of pre-decorated mini Christmas trees
- Bring celebrity chefs to your event to showcase their own gingerbread creation!
- Host a cookie decorating station for kids to make their own creations; charge $3
- Take pictures with Santa or even the Grinch!
- Set up tables for fellow rescues to promote adoptions or Q&A booths for vets
- Sell the structures created by the participants or by a local pastry chef as part of an auction or raffle
If you’d like to add on another fundraiser that will allow you to increase your profits for this fundraiser, you can piggyback on to several major holiday based events already being hosted by your group or around town! Combine this gingerbread house building competition with:
- photos with Santa
- a pancake breakfast with Santa
- belgian waffle breakfast with Santa
- a memorial ornament tree at the center court area of your local mall
- your group’s wish list tree
- at a cookie walk
- Why limit it to the winter months?? Use this for a Haunted Halloween cookie house, a St. Patrick’s Day Leprachaun hideout, or an Easter Bunny cottage! You can also partner this gingerbread idea with a dog house building competition, giving the younger kids and bakers something to do instead of pounding a hammer.
Plan well in advance, securing your location 6 months out, and creating your fliers and sign-up sheets for download at least 2 months prior to the event. Trade volunteers with another organization for the day, making your workload lighter on the day of your event, and helping them on one of their future fundraisers. However you decide to host your event, be it large or small, be sure to publicize your heart out, raising awareness for homeless animals in your community!