Spelling Bee—Getting the Word Out

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G B-E-E! Doesn’t this childhood competition take you back?

Anyone who participated in a spelling bee as a kid knows how thrilling a competition it can be. Well, there’s no reason why, as an adult, you can’t find yourself in the spelling bee spotlight once again. That’s right—an adult spelling bee.

Plus, everyone loves a hearty competition, making a spelling bee the perfect theme for your next fundraising event!


Spelling bees are a fun day of competition, and other than some marketing efforts, they are very profitable fundraisers that require very little overhead or work. All you need to find are spellers for your competition.

Considering all the attention the word game applications get on Facebook, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding willing adult volunteers to show off their spelling abilities.

Next, collect entry fees from each competitive speller to raise money. You can also charge an admission fee for the audience members. This fundraiser is profitable at three or four levels:

  1. Entrance fees paid by each spelling bee team or individual competitor
  2. Donations and individual sponsorships from businesses
  3. Admission ticket sales to audience members attending the event
  4. Extra fundraising dollars through audience spelling sponsors. Members of the audience can donate a certain dollar amount to help the team of their choice spell a word they’re stuck on

Planning a spelling bee charity event will be where the most work is required. You will need to gather your volunteers to participate in the actual bee, and set up the guidelines for the competition.

We recommend the following:

Set Strict Competition Guidelines

Use official spelling bee rules, and make sure every participant has a copy before the competition. The official spelling bee rules ensure the competition is structured and fair.

  • Each competitor must spell the word, and then use it in a sentence.
  • The contest should begin with easier words for the first few rounds and progress to harder words in the later rounds.
  • As each competitor takes his or her turn, if they misspell the word, the next competitor has a chance to steal the word.
  • Spelling teams can be comprised of three or four participants so individual contestants are not singled out.
  • When a team misses two words, they are disqualified from that round.
  • Getting a list of spelling bee words from the dictionary or via an online dictionary ensures there is no cost to you.
  • Remember, and this is important—distribute the list of words to the emcee and judges so they are well prepared for the competition.
  • Two winning teams go on to the finals.
  • The last team standing wins the spelling bee.

Publicize the fundraiser via the Internet, and contact local media outlets to help you spread the word. Also, get the word out to schools and community centers by using print advertising. You can also ask for sponsorship donations from local businesses and provide a batch of free tickets in exchange to fill up your audience.

Next, secure a location for the spelling bee. To keep overhead costs low, research free venues to reserve for an evening such as community centers, church recreational facilities, and to really take your guests back, high school gymnasiums. Your venue will require plenty of chairs on the day of the bee for audience seating, so try to find a location that already has chairs on site.

Have a concession stand on site to sell snacks and drinks to audience members and hungry spellers. This will help earn extra money for your charity.

You could have volunteers make letter-shaped cookies, or you could sell boxes of alphabet crackers as a fun treat.

Be sure to have an award ready to present to the top speller. It’s also a nice idea to have something to give all participants, such as a contestant certificate or individual dictionaries. You can also get some fun prizes lined up by approaching community sponsors. A couple of options are gift cards, and movie theater tickets. This will entice more people to sign up as spelling bee contestants.

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