How-to Host a Penny Wars

On April 10-11, from 5pm-3am, Old Dominion University will be hosting Relay for Life, an overnight walk-a-thon to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Many campus organizations are already signed up and are raising money, including my organization the Residence Hall Association (RHA). This month we are raising money by hosting a Penny Wars competition amongst the residence halls.

A Penny Wars is a coin collecting contest where teams try to have as many points as possible, points, not money. Depending on your scoring system coins such as pennies can equal positive points and silver coins can equal negative points. A team in the contest wants a jar filled with pennies and will sabotage other teams by putting silver coins or dollars in their jar to offset the amount pennies they have. If your school or organization needs to raise money for a cause this is a good method to use, and all you have to do is follow these steps.


Set a scoring system: My organization set the scoring system as pennies equals positive points and silver coins/dollars equals negative points. This is the system I learned in high school, but it can be set up however you prefer. Below is the assigned points for each coin or bill, and you can decide which will be negative or positive.

  • Penny = 1 point
  • Nickel = 5 points
  • Dime = 10 points
  • Quarter = 25 points
  • $1 = 100 points
  • $5 = 500 points
  • $10 = 1000 points
  • $20 = 2000 points
  • $50 = 5000 points

Prepare a large jar or container to collect coins in: I would recommend buying a 2-3 QT container for each partcipating team. The containers should be placed in very visible areas, places that participants can easily access. It is also good to place a flier on them to advertise the contest and explain the scoring system. RHA placed our jars on the front desk of each residence hall, and there are fliers on the jars and large posters in the lobby area to advertise.

Penny Wars Jar          Penny Wars Poster

Create a schedule to collect coins: RHA started Penny Wars on March 1 and it will lead up to the big Relay for Life event on April 10-11. We plan to collect and count coins once a week so we can send out a current score posting to all ODU residents. This helps increase participation as residents realize how many points they do or do not have after each collection.

Buy a coin counter: The RHA did a Penny Wars once before for a different cause and we really wish we had a coin counter. The volume of coins increased significantly as the contest progressed and having a coin counter would have saved us time. Not to mention that dirty coins will start to stain your fingers after counting them for a few hours. You can buy a coin counter from Amazon or Walmart.

Offer a prize: Prizes are always a good way to motivate participants in a contest. For a Penny Wars you can even do a 1st and 2nd place prize. RHA is offering the 1st place prize to the winner with the most points, and the 2nd place prize will go the hall that raised the most money overall.


If you stay organized and follow these steps you too can have a successful Penny Wars. Go to the Relay for Life page to find out other ways you can raise money, or if you are interested go to the RHA team page and make a donation. Happy counting!

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