How to Organize a Community Trick-or-Treat Event with Other Small Businesses

This safe, kid-friendly alternative to traditional trick-or-treating is a great way for your small business to give back, among other benefits.
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Halloween events can be a great way to get your brand seen and interact with your local community. (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

If you’re lucky enough to own a small business in a walkable, pedestrian-occupied part of town, getting involved in community Halloween events is a great way to get your brand seen and interact with potential customers.

But the benefits reach far beyond the participating businesses; customers love them, too. Parents often prefer these organized, contained events, often called “trunk or treat,” as a safer alternative to traditional trick or treating.

Costumed kids can collect candy or other knickknacks from small businesses as they stroll down a well-lit, populated street, with parents not far behind. These events also tend to include costume contests, pumpkin decorating, haunted house tours and other activities that both parents, children and other townspeople can enjoy.

But all this fun and games does take a little planning and forethought. If your city or town doesn’t already have a trick-or-treat or Halloween-inspired event, you might consider organizing one yourself. Here’s how:

1. Gauge participation and interest

Contact other small businesses that line the street or block where you’d like to hold the event. Ask them if they’d be interested in participating in an event like this. From there you’ll get a rough idea of the scope of your event and how many people will be involved.

2. Start planning early

Many community Halloween events do not take place on the exact date of Halloween. That’s because most families want the opportunity to participate in both your event and their neighborhood’s already scheduled trick or treat (also known as Beggar’s Night). So don’t wait until a month or two before the date to start planning, in case you have to hold the event several weeks before Halloween.

Related: 7 Tips for Throwing the Ultimate Halloween Bar Party

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Organize volunteers and delegate tasks to other local businesses that want to participate in the event. (Photo: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock)

3. Make it a fundraiser

Rieva Lesonsky, CEO and president of GrowBiz Media, said adding a fundraising component to your event offers participants another compelling reason to get involved.

“Offer customers treats in return for ‘treating’ those in need by bringing in canned goods, gently used toys or clothing, or whatever the local charity of your choice is looking for,” she said.

4. Get the word out in advance

Email marketing, press release, social media blasts … whatever you can do to trumpet your event to the community, now’s the time to do it. Ideally, the publicity will land you on one of those “What to do for Halloween” lists that local media outlets compile that are being published right about now.

Related: 6 Last-minute Ways Your Business Can Capitalize on Halloween

5. Assign tasks or donations

Use a task-organizing app like SignUp Genius to list tasks, donations, volunteers and other items needed for the event, including people to man activity tables (perhaps one of your artsy colleagues can run a pumpkin decorating table) and people to bring candy or snacks to hand out. Participants can check off which tasks they’re willing to take on, and you get a pat on the back as a master delegator.

6. Get with the Chamber

If you’re not already in touch with the Chamber of Commerce in your business’s location, give them a call and tell them what you’re planning. You might need to get a permit from your city to hold the event; you might need police to direct traffic; you might need help with advertising or marketing materials. Your Chamber can help with that, and more.

Related: Should Your Restaurant Staff Dress Up for Halloween?

7. Make activities relevant to your business

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Your community Halloween event can include a variety of fun activities that parents, children and other townspeople can enjoy. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

If you hold a contest prior to the event, announce the winners at the event.

“A pet store could hold a best pet costume contest; an interior decorator can have a contest for the most elaborate home or front door decor; a craft store could hold a poster-coloring contest for kids,” Lesonsky said.

8. Don’t forget to dress up your shop

And encourage other small businesses to do so, too.

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