Question: Keeping track of carnival tickets?

Our PTO’s biggest fundraiser during the year is a carnival where we presell tickets two weeks before and at the door. The tickets are used for food, inflatables, drinks, raffles, etc. We need to “audit” these tickets and tie them in to our total receipts. Do you have any suggestions for the best and most efficient way to do this?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Elly loves a carnival, but she knows how much work it can be! She still feels the burn in her wrists and fingers from splitting more than 8,000 tickets into groups of 10 at her school’s 2004 spring carnival. Things have gotten easier since then thanks to ideas borrowed from some crafty parent group leaders around the country.

First, there are options besides tickets. Some groups presell family passes for an all-inclusive fee that covers food and games; the pass and a lanyard are issued in advance to each family member. Elly likes the lanyard system best because it gives your event a Disney theme park feel, and kids (usually) won’t lose them as easily as tickets. The good news for your group, of course, is that you eliminate the whole process of splitting and counting tickets altogether—not to mention you have less to clean up! Your financial records would simply be the paid family participant list matched against all moneys taken in.

Other groups have used wristbands with success. You should decide whether you need to offer multiple wristbands—one for food and another for inflatables, for example.

If you do use tickets, sell them only at one central location to minimize the number of people handling cash. Try to sell as many as you can in advance to avoid long lines at your carnival. If you’re determined to see how tickets were redeemed, place a shoebox with a slit in the cover at each location. Label each box ahead of time, and tape it shut so tickets can go in but can’t come out.

Here’s a carnival tip: Elly’s friends with the Parsons Elementary Booster Club in Decatur, Ill., award free game tickets to students based on reading points they’ve earned during the year. Elly thinks this is a great idea! If you issue free incentive tickets, make them a different color. That way, they won’t be accidentally added to your total cash receipts.

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