/ Best Practices

Prize Ideas for Adults

When it comes to increasing participation and attendance at recreational events, we at GooseChase have come to learn from our years of organizing interactive scavenger hunts that players respond more to prizes than promises of bragging rights alone. Regardless of what your most sportsmanlike competitors might tell you about "challenging themselves in the spirit of competition", we all know the truth: sometimes it takes a few carrots to get the donkey moving. Read on as we explore all the different elements you might want to consider when choosing which prizes to give away at your next competitive event.

Increase Event Attendance and Participation with Incentives

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In their best-selling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Authors Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt assert that incentives, both the reward or penalty varieties, are central to driving human behaviour.[1] By including a prize reward for the winners of your competitive event, or those who achieve an alternate goal, you can influence more people to participate and put in their best efforts.

Stephen and Steven classify incentives into three forms: economic, which provide a gain or loss in material; social, which provide a gain or loss in reputation; and moral, which provide a gain or loss in conscience. The Freakonomics model is a good way to start thinking about the types of prizes you may want to award to your competition winners and participants.

Choosing Event Prizes Based on Your Goals

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Similar to the advice we give in our 3-part guide to office scavenger hunts, we recommend you choose prizes to award based on your overall event objectives. For a public engagement event where your goal is simply to attract as many participants as possible, a prize with a direct economic incentive, such as a gift certificate to a popular retailer or a high-value cash prize, can work in your favor to attract the broadest group of people. (Everyone can find something they need off Amazon!)

Setting up social incentives in your prizes can feel like some of the most rewarding for participants involved in team-building, icebreaker, or other friendly competitions. While the glory and bragging rights claimed by winners are usually notable social incentives in themselves, other creative prize strategies can also be explored. When all guests at your event are already familiar with each other, awarding prizes such as large quantities of food and drinks will encourage the winner(s) to immediately share them with other participants, creating positive feelings and further strengthening social bonds. Look no further than fantasy sports leagues for further inspiration for coming up with other ideas for friendly competitive social incentives, such as the losers of a bracket having to wear the other team’s jersey for a day, or the winners being memorialized on a makeshift trophy or plaque.

Depending on what organization you are representing when you plan your event, you might want to tap into your audience’s sense of moral incentives when structuring your prizes. The tried-and-true 50-50 fundraiser format, with half of the entry fees going to a charity of choice and the other half going to winners of a raffle or competition works as both a moral and an economic incentive. Participants will feel more justified paying an entry fee knowing that part of the funds are getting put towards a good cause.

Event Prize Ideas with Strong Economic Incentives

  • Gift certificate for online retailers
  • Electronics/products
  • Tickets to local sports team's next game
  • Gift certificates to local or chain restaurants

Event Prize Ideas with Rewarding Social Incentives

  • Gift certificate to pick up the bill for the next team outing at a local establishment
  • Friendly bets, such as the losing team having to wear outrageous hats of the winning team's choice for a week
  • Name(s) memorialized on a trophy that is awarded yearly

Event Prize Ideas with Rewarding Moral Incentives

  • Donation made toward a charity of winner’s choice
  • Gift certificates to a local restaurant or store that specializes in sustainable or locally-sourced products
  • Branded merchandise in support of sponsoring organizations

Maintaining Participation and Engagement

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Have you ever found yourself the only person left out of a conversation about a popular TV show? You’d love to join in, if not for the need to catch up on 6-seasons of hour long episodes. Having just one grand prize awarded for your entire competition, especially if it’s being run over a longer period such as a convention or festival, where not all players might be in attendance at the same time, can feel the same way for latecomers to your event. Even if your grand prize is out-of-this-world on all three incentive categories, guests might feel discouraged from participating if they feel like they have no shot at all of being in the running.

A good way to compensate for this is to include alternate prizes or spirit awards that are less about an objective first-place winner. This way, incentives remain in place for players who clearly won’t be in contention for the grand prize. Specifically for scavenger hunts run on GooseChase, the ability for organizers to award bonus points to creative or stand-out submissions allows organizers to have the final say on many aspects of the leaderboard. The inclusion of spirit awards remind all participants that the event is not all about winning, and motivates casual competitors to still enjoy taking part.

Celebrating Winners and All Participants

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For triumphant champions and gracious competitors alike, organizers putting on a spectacular closing ceremony will be appreciated by all. If your event requires participants to be active, make sure to have plenty of food and refreshments ready to greet guests as they regroup on the other side of the finish line. In the end, your role as an organizer is successful if you have done your best to leave your guests with positive memories of their experience, whether or not they won the competition. For GooseChase games, we’ve found that putting together a highlight reel creates a bittersweet atmosphere that perfectly wraps up the show while recognizing all who were involved.


Check out the GooseChase blog for additional event planning and scavenger hunt resources. If you're an organizer seeking a tried-and-true competitive activity to integrate into your next group outing, visit the GooseChase how-it-works page to learn more about the platform and trying creating your first game for free!

What is GooseChase?

GooseChase is an online platform that helps organizers create and run digital scavenger hunt experiences for team building, learning, public engagement, or a variety of other events. Sign up and try creating a free recreational game, or contact us to learn more about our enterprise solutions!


  1. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - Speed Summary ↩︎