Thinking of using a murder mystery for fundraising? Read on.

When people think of using a murder mystery as a fundraising event, most people immediately think of the formal sit down dinner theatre style events hosted by most hotels and restaurants. But in reality – these events just aren’t cost effective for fundraising as the overhead costs of hiring the restaurant, paying for the three course meal, the script, the advertising and perhaps the actors as well leaves very little on the ticket price to actually raise funds!

But don’t be deterred… there are a number of ways of running a murder mystery event without a restaurant… read on for our 3 top ideas!

1. Multi-room evenings.

These evenings might be more costly to purchase a script for (though we do have a free game “Fete Accompli” available for fundraisers), but these games are extremely flexible for venue and are very easy to run by total novices who have an ability to learn a speech.

Our best suggestion here, rather than hiring a venue, is to run an evening on a smaller scale by utlilising your own home, a guest-house or other community venue e.g. a church linked-house, community centre or school. (Fete Accompli can even be run on a field with standard fundraising stalls!)

As these style of events don’t need a formal sit down dinner, you can improvise on the food. Running bring and share buffets, hosting a take away dinner, cheese and wine night, or just nibbles. Or depending on the night – no meal at all!

These games are more Cluedo style than typical dinner theatre and rely on guests visiting different rooms during the evening, interrogating suspects and locating physcial prop clues e.g. knives, frying pans, poisons, guns etc. As well as visiting a crime scene.

They are extremely popular events, and although very time consuming preparation for the host, there are no rehearsals required for the actors which makes them easy to arrange. Some actors even do them “script in hand”.


2. Sponsored Mystery marathons!

Rather than hosting one large function, why not arrange several smaller evenings?

Gather a group of willing hosts and have a sponsored murder mystery evening, with 10 guests in each house participating.

The host caters and runs the evening just as you would a standard murder mystery dinner party, but as a group you obtain sponsorship for the “marathon event”. Each host arranges their own night, and each guest sponsors the evening by £5-£10 to cover meal costs (or again you can run them as bring and share dinners) and the entire evening’s events is sponsored by friends, family and associates. How many super slueths can you pack into one village in one evening? Also, how many murders…

It’s a great way to get an entire village involved in murder mystery evenings, without having to hire a hall. It’s so original an idea too, the press are sure to be interested and will run an article to help you raise awareness for your charity.


3. Clue based dinner games.

These are becoming increasingly popular with charitable fundraisers as they give all the fun of a murder mystery evening, without the cost or rehearsal time of the fully scripted games.

You need 1 large hall, with catering facilities, and 7 novice actors who don’t mind hamming it up and learning a short script that will need all of one or two rehearsals (max).

If you have access to a kitchen and are able to self-cater then the easiest option is use a game like “An Italian Job”, and cater in a simple Italian style by purchasing some garlic bread for the first course, Large dishes of lasagne and bags of salad for the main course and boxed desserts e.g. Icee-cream for dessert. Easy catering, a fraction of the price of asking in an outside caterer and you’ll still have a great night!


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Flexible and fun!

We contacted Red-Herring-Games for a party for a special occasion. Why going to restaurants to eat is the preferred activity to mark milestones is beyond me and my friends.   The choice of mystery was obvious, looking at the options from New Zealand on the web Red Herring stuck out from the international options.  A quick look at the site and games showed subtlety as well a range of choices.  The numbers you could have for each evening was important,  Red Herring had scaling options a good range of scenarios but most importantly were Jo and team being flexible, responsive and helpful.

Rachel McWilliam, Arts Development Officer, Lincs Inspire

Thank you Red Herring Games for the marvellous 'Murder!  Cargo Connections?' event that you organised for us as part of Museums at Night at the Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. The whole evening went so well and was brilliant fun.  I know from all the feedback that our visitors had a fantastic time. It was really good working with you and I have no doubt that we will do again in the not too distant future.  

A. Nonymous (council employee)

I would like to thank you and your colleague for helping contribute towards our successful conference last month.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the evening and it was rewarding that so many delegates were able to participate in addition to the main "Actors".  Our conference evaluation froms included the following comments:
  • "Enjoyed the evening entertainment!"
  • The evening entertainment was great and the confusion made it great fun!"
With thanks and best wishes.

Sarah Spencer (Cleethorpes Chronicle)

I had no idea what to expect before purchasing a ticket for Old, New, Borrowed, Blue, which was being staged at a nearby hotel, and feared it might involve taking part in some way. However thankfully for me no acting was necessary, just some amateur sleuthing. "Wedding guests" of which I was one, were called upon to move from room to room in the hotel in groups, questioning a number of possible murderers with the aim of solving the mystery of the dead bridegroom. The interviewees were really fun characters and gave us all some good laughs. Of course they all had motives and it was a case of identifying the shiftiest. The wedding theme was particularly good, as it fitted well with the venue, the buffet that was part of the evening (with a wedding cake in the middle) and the fact that everyone had been able to dress up to fit in without going to the trouble of fancy dress. I didn't think I had enough "evidence" to actually accuse anyone but later regretted not even writing down my first guess as it wouldn't have been too far off the mark. The evening was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it and take part. I would definitely recommend Old, New, Borrowed, Blue as good for getting even reluctant or first-time mystery party-goers involved.  

Alan Young (Personal Touch Mortgages)

What a cracking nights entertainment! We don't get out much nowadays with 2 kids and this was exactly what we were looking for in a good night out. Lots of fun with tongue firmly in cheek and everyone kept guessing whodunnit right to the very end. Would definitely attend another!!!!!  


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