Organizing a successful Trunk-or-Treat can seem like a simple task (and can be) but there are some details that might get overlooked and I wanted to share those ideas with you.
Trunk-or-Treats are a relativity new Halloween event in our area. Over the last few years we have seen more and more groups hosting these events.
The concept is pretty easy. Several people gather together, typically in a parking lot, and each person decorates the trunk of their car. Then children come dressed up for Halloween and trick– or– treat from one trunk to the next.
The first year we did it we only maybe had 10 cars come and join us and if you think about that really how much time does each kid spend at each car? Less than a minute maybe? So I was concerned that the community wouldn’t find the event to be worth wild because it would be over so quickly. So there were a few things that we decided to do to make this more of an event and less of a quick activity for kids. And really these things will not be that much more work on you or your volunteers!
And while these events can be super simple, over the years I have found that there are a number of details that can be overlooked and there are easy ways to step up the event to include more of your community and connected on a deeper level.
Pick the date and location for your trunk-or-treat
For my first trunk-or-treat event Halloween was on the weekend! So we held the event in the early afternoon before trick or treating in town started. Since then we have held our trunk-or-treat on the Saturday before Halloween as an excuse to get the kids out and using their costumes more than once.
Choose a date that works for you and your community’s traditions. If you don’t have a lot of places to go trick-or-treating it might be helpful to have one place for the kids to go. If you live in a more dense community that might not work.
When choosing a location, most organizations will pick the location where they are at. But if you are looking to develop a larger community around the event you might want to find a larger location. Be sure that you speak with the owners of the property and check for any needed permits or insurances if you are not on your own location.
Determine the Activities / Theme for your Trunk-or-Treat
Select a theme
I will confess that this isn’t something that we have done, but it can make things fun (and easier on your volunteers) if you select an overall theme for your trunk-or-treat. Some ideas might be:
- Monster Bash
- Science Laboratory
- Haunted Graveyard
- Witches Brew
Make each trunk about more than the decorations
If all each person does is decorate their car and hand out candy, really how much time will it take for the kids to go through (and how many times will they keep going through to kill time)? So one thing I have found to be successful is to ask folks to create an activity at their car so that the kids will spend a little more time at each trunk.
Some of our favorite ideas have been:
- Decorating your trunk with a twister game board, attach pieces of candy to each spot and have kids spin to pick their candy.
- Create a carnival-type game in your car with three buckets placed at different heights, have kids toss a bean bag into each bucket to get how many pieces they will win (all kids get at least one). This bucket toss game is a cool-alternative to that too.
- Create a photo booth let kids get their pics taken in their costumes
- A musician at one of my events created the “Grateful Dead” and had a dance party with the kids that stopped by (Great way to add music to the event as well!)
- Rubber ducky races – an inflatable “bathtub” was used and kids had to blow the ducks across the pool (be careful adding bubbles….it makes it hard to move the ducks)
- Create a voting booth to have kids vote for their favorite candy/trunk/ costume
- Sensory Trunk – this one brings back memories from childhood haunted house with things like peeled grapes (eyeballs), cold wet spaghetti (intestines) and other fun things that will make the kids imaginations go wild!
Offer more than just candy
I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. On the one hand, I love the decorations and the costumes and the general sense of mystery that comes with the season. On the other hand, I hate that my kids have so much candy afterward. So why not have your trunks offer candy alternatives that day?
And while I know it’s almost impossible to avoid peanut/nut free candy its important to make sure that this event is accessible to everyone. So even if you don’t ask your volunteers to bring an alternative treat it is a good idea to have some on hand so that these kids can participate too (also a great reason for having activities too!)
Some alternatives to candy could be (watch to be sure that these are ok for young children too):
Add other activities
In the past, we have expanded our event by offering up a games section with different carnival type games to play. Another idea would be to add in a craft table so the kids have something to take home with them.
Also because we like to offer our event earlier in the day (typically between 10am – noon), I have even played with the idea of inviting a coffee/donut food truck to the event so we have some warm beverages for the event too! You could also offer this yourself as well, but by partnering with a vendor it will reduce the number of volunteers we need and we can tap into their fans as well for advertising the event.
Find the Trunks for your Trunk-or-Treat
For me, this can be the most unnerving part. You want to get enough trunks to make the event worth wild for people to come (and want to come again next year). But if trunk-or-treat events are new to your area or they have never attended one, volunteers can get nervous about joining and decorating. Some things I you can do to help people want to join:
- Provide suggestions for ways to decorate their trunks
- Have pictures to share so they can see how it works
- Decorate your own trunk and have it available to see
Include local businesses
If you are looking to add more trunks and are ok with a little advertising by the business, invite local businesses to join in the fun! They still need to bring a trunk and participate, but they can advertise for their business and hand out information to the adults. What kinds of businesses like this sort of event?
- Insurance Reps
- Direct Sales Representatives
- Local artisans
You can always ask for other volunteers as well. Someone to man your welcome table, to be at games or crafts, or parking attendants. We have also paired families, where one family wants to decorate their car but can’t be there for the event with someone who doesn’t want to decorate but will hand out candy!
Advertise your Trunk-or-Treat
Nothing is worse than planning an event and not having anyone show up. So take the time to advertise and be sure that your trunk-or-treat is full. Here are some ways to advertise:
- Add an event to your Facebook page – be sure to add in any business as co-hosts so that the event will be added to their calendars for their audiences to see as well.
- Share that event with your audience
- If you belong to local Facebook groups share the event with them as well
- Pay to boost your event to a local audience
- Reach out to the local newspaper to add to the community news sections.
- If you have a local online paper for kids (like MacaroniKid.com or HulaFrog) let them know about your events
Plan the Final Details for your Trunk-or-Treat Event
When it comes to planning your event there is so much to consider and think about. And as the coordinator people are going to be looking to you to make your Trunk-or-treat a success. Try some of these ideas to help involve more of your community and even turn your event into a fundraiser.
Turn the event into a Fundraiser
Trunk-or-treats are typically free to attend, so why not take the opportunity to raise money for a local charity or larger mission? Believe it or not parents want to give something when their kids get to attend an event for free, and having that money support a charity makes it even more appreciated to give. We typically like to partner with Trick or Treat for UNICEF program, but you could easily work with a local food pantry, local organization that helps children or other groups.
The key to making this successful comes in advertising. Let people know when you share information about the event (through Facebook or Flyers) that the event is free to attend and that you will be taking up donations for this event (bonus points if you can clearly explain how the money will be used!)
Get visitors information
In today’s world we are all looking to grow our programs and our reach and one of the best ways to do that is to have a way to contact your visitors again. One way to do this is to offer some kind of raffle item – I love a Halloween themed gift basket that people can enter for a chance to win.
When you do this be sure you are clear on their raffle ticket that by providing you with their contact information they are giving you permission to add their information to your databases and they have the ability to remove themselves at any time. Then make sure you have a plan for how to follow up with this visitors so that maybe they will return again another time.
Where to put this?? Well there are a number of ways you can organize this at your event. One might be to have someone man a trunk just for donations – maybe at one for a photo booth? I also typically have an information table(s) that are at the entry/exit points to my event. Which reminds me…
Have a planned traffic flow for your Trunk-or-Treat
Since these events are typically held in a parking lot controlling traffic (both vehicle and foot) are important. You can use something as simple as traffic cones or balloons, but you want to create a clear pathway to keep everyone safe and moving along.
If you can get some volunteers to control the flow of traffic.
Prepare for the unexpected at your Trunk-or-Treat
There are a few areas that I have run into problems with when coordinating these events that you should be prepared for.
- Not enough trunks – every year this gets me. One of the things I have done to help combat this is to ask families that are already coming if they would want to include more than one car. The other thing we would do is let families leave a car (decorated of course) and not have it manned. Then if I have extra hands I can assign them to those cars.
- Not enough candy – This happened our first year because we had no idea how many kids to expect. As coordinator, I typically buy a couple of extra bags of candy so I can help supply if I need to. This is also another great way to get people in your organization involved. Since not everyone will want to have a trunk in the event they can help by donating candy (or non-candy) treats to be used.
- Have extra bags on hand – there will always be one or two kids who forget to bring bags with them, have something on hand at your welcome table to give them.
- Bad weather plan – last year I forgot about this (every year we have had such great weather) but it is a must. You could host on an alternate date (if your volunteers are willing) or another great idea I saw – if you have access to a building (like a church or school) have the volunteers take their decorations and decorate doorways to rooms and let kids go from room to room.
Do you have any more tips for running a successful event? Share it in the comments below to help others!