How to Run a Contest on a Forum? 9 Easy Steps

If you’ve got a forum or online community, hosting a contest can be an awesome way to engage your members and bring in new ones. But, hey, do you know how to run a contest on a forum? Finding resources online to guide you through the process can be a challenge. But fret not because, in this guide, I’ll break down everything you need to know to successfully run a contest on your forum.

how to run a contest on a forum

Can You Run a Contest on Online Forums?

Absolutely, you can run contests on online forums! An online forum is a web application that facilitates the publication of user-generated content in the form of discussions. And running different UGC contests on forums can be a great way to boost engagement.

For instance, consider a “Photo Caption Contest” where members submit amusing or creative captions for a posted image. The entry with the most votes or likes could win a prize. 

Alternatively, consider a “Knowledge-based Quiz” that leverages the shared interest of your community members. For instance, you could organize a literature quiz if your forum is about books. This tests members’ knowledge and sparks discussions about different books and authors. 

Moreover, “Theme-based Story Writing Contests” can also be a big hit. In this contest, you provide a theme, and participants submit short stories based on it. Community members can then vote for their favorite stories.

Each of these contest types fosters engagement and allows members to showcase their creativity and knowledge, thus enriching the overall community experience.

How to Run a Contest on a Forum: 9 Easy Steps

#1. Understand the Guidelines of the Forum Platform

Understanding the guidelines of the forum platform is the first and foremost step before hosting any contest. These guidelines outline the rules and standards the platform sets and ensure your contest doesn’t violate any terms of service. 

For example, if you’re hosting a contest on Reddit, you must adhere to Reddit’s content policy and the specific rules of the subreddit where you’re posting. This may include restrictions on certain types of content, guidelines on ethical behavior, and rules around self-promotion. Violating these rules could lead to your contest post being removed or even a ban from the subreddit or platform.

On the other hand, if you’re running a contest on a platform like Discourse, which allows more control and customization as it is self-hosted, you have more freedom to set your own rules. However, it’s still crucial to establish clear guidelines to maintain fairness and transparency. 

These might include eligibility criteria, start and end dates, how the winner will be chosen and announced, the prize, and any other conditions specific to your contest. By creating a clear and comprehensive set of contest rules, you can ensure all participants understand what’s expected and can participate on equal footing.

#2. Choose the Contest Types

Choosing the type of contest you wish to hold is a vital step in planning. The contest type should align with your forum’s subject matter and members’ interests. Here are a few examples:

Skill-Based Contests

Skill-based contests are competitions where the winner is selected based on their ability to perform a specific task. For instance, a graphic design forum could host a logo design contest, challenging participants to design a logo for an imaginary company. The entries would be judged on creativity, originality, and how well they meet the brief.

Voting Contests

Voting contests give power to the community. Members submit entries and the community votes for their favorite. For example, a photography forum might run a “Best Nature Shot” contest, and the photo with the most votes wins. This contest type often encourages active participation and engagement within the community.

Random Drawing Contests

In random draw contests, winners are selected randomly from all eligible entries. For example, a book discussion forum could hold a contest where members share their favorite book quote, and the winner (chosen randomly) receives a new release from a popular author. This contest type is less about skill and more about participation and increasing activity on the forum.

#3. Set the Contest Rule

Setting up comprehensive rules for your contest is a crucial step. These rules will serve as a guide for your participants and will ensure that the contest runs smoothly. Here’s an example of how to set detailed rules:

Contest Rules for “Best Nature Shot” Photography Contest

  • Eligibility: The contest is open to all registered members of the forum. New members are welcome to participate but must register before submitting their entries.
  • Entry Period: The contest will run from January 1, 2024, to January 31, 2024. Submissions received outside of this period will not be considered.
  • Submission Guidelines: Participants are to submit one high-resolution image that they have taken themselves. The photograph must be related to the theme – Nature. Images can be color-corrected or edited for clarity, but cannot be digitally manipulated to add or subtract major elements.
  • Voting: Voting will commence on February 1, 2024, and continue until February 7, 2024. All forum members are allowed to vote, even those who did not participate in the contest. The image with the most votes at the end of the voting period will be declared the winner.
  • Prize: The winner will be featured on the forum’s homepage for a month and receive a digital certificate of achievement. 
  • Disqualification: Entries will be disqualified if they violate any of the abovementioned rules.
  • Rights: By participating, contestants agree to allow the forum to use their images for promotional purposes, with due credit given to the photographers.

By providing clear and precise rules, you ensure your contest is fair and protect yourself and your forum from any misunderstandings or disputes.

#4. Select the Prize

Selecting a meaningful prize is crucial to running a successful contest on your forum. The prize should be appealing and valuable enough to motivate your members to participate. It doesn’t always have to be monetary; sometimes, recognition or unique experiences can be even more compelling. Here are a few examples of prizes you might consider:

Physical Prizes

These are tangible items that you send to the winner. For instance, in a photography contest, you might offer a new lens or a photography book as a prize. Make sure to consider the logistics of shipping if your community is international.

Digital Prizes

Digital prizes are easy to distribute and can be highly appealing. For a design contest, you could offer a premium software subscription, online courses, or digital art resources.


Recognition can be a powerful motivator. Having one’s work featured prominently on the forum, in a newsletter, or social media can be very appealing. In our “Best Nature Shot” contest example, the winner’s photo could be featured on the forum’s homepage.


Experiences can make for unique and memorable prizes. For instance, a cooking forum might offer a virtual cooking class with a renowned chef as a prize.

Cash Prize

For some contests, a cash prize might be the most appropriate option. This could be in the form of a gift card or a direct monetary reward. Just consider any legal and tax implications before offering a cash prize.

#5. Promote Your Forum Contest

Promoting your forum contest is pivotal to maximizing participation and engagement. A well-promoted contest can attract new members, boost activity, and foster community spirit. Here are some strategies you can use:

Forum Announcement

Make a dedicated announcement in a prominent location on your forum. Provide all contest details, and make it engaging and eye-catching. For instance, “Get your cameras ready! Our ‘Best Nature Shot’ contest starts on January 1, 2024. Show off your photography skills and stand a chance to be featured on our homepage!”

Email Newsletter

Send an email newsletter to all registered members announcing the contest, with a link to the contest thread. Keep the email concise, engaging, and direct. It could be something like, “Are you our next top photographer? Enter our ‘Best Nature Shot’ contest and win amazing prizes!”

Social Media

Leverage your forum’s social media pages to promote the contest. Regular updates, reminders about deadlines, and sneak peeks of prizes can keep the excitement up. For instance, post a teaser about the contest a few days before it starts, “Something exciting is coming to our forum. Stay tuned!”

Community Partners

Reach out to any partners, related forums, or communities and see if they’d be willing to help spread the word. In return, they offer to promote their events or contests in the future.

Member Incentives

Encourage your current members to spread the word about the contest. Offer them incentives like extra entries for every new participant they refer.

Remember, the key is to keep the communication consistent and engaging. This will ensure maximum participation and make your contest a resounding success.

#6. Select the Winner

Selecting the winner fairly and transparently is crucial to maintaining trust in your contest. Your selection process should be outlined clearly in the contest rules, and you should follow it strictly. 

Public Voting

In some contests, winners might be selected through public voting. All entries could be displayed in a dedicated thread or gallery, with forum members voting for their favorite entry. 

For instance, in our “Best Nature Shot” contest, members could vote for the photo they think best captures the beauty of nature. The entry with the most votes at the end of the voting period is declared the winner.

Jury Selection

For other contests, you might prefer to have a panel of experts or forum admins select the winner. This can be useful for more technical contests, where expert knowledge might be needed to assess the entries. 

For example, in a coding contest, a panel of experienced programmers could review each submission for quality, efficiency, and creativity.

Hybrid Approach

A hybrid approach can also be effective. This could involve a public vote to select a shortlist, followed by a jury selection to choose the final winner. 

For instance, in a writing contest, forum members could vote for their favorite stories, with the top five going to a panel of authors for the final decision.

#7. Announce the Winner:

Announcing the winner of your contest is a momentous occasion that deserves fanfare. It’s the culmination of all the anticipation built up during the contest period, and thus, it requires careful planning and execution. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Prepare the Announcement

Before publicizing the winner, ensure everything is in order. Confirm the winner’s eligibility based on your contest rules, and get their consent for the announcement. 

Craft a Compelling Announcement

The winner’s announcement should be celebratory and engaging. It should state the winner’s name and highlight their achievement. 

For instance, discuss what made the winning photo stand out if the contest was for the best nature shot. You could say, “Our ‘Best Nature Shot’ contest winner captured a breathtaking moment of a sunrise over the mountains, showcasing exceptional skill in lighting and composition.”

Present the Winner

When announcing the winner, make it a spectacle. You could create a dedicated post on your forum, send an email newsletter, and share the news on your social media platforms. The announcement should include the winner’s username, their winning entry, and a few words from them, if possible.

Acknowledge Other Participants

In addition to announcing the winner, thank all participants for their entries. You could feature some honorable mentions, showcasing the diversity and quality of the submissions received. This encourages participants who didn’t win, making them more likely to participate in future contests.

Discuss the Prize

Finally, discuss the prize and its dispatch process. If the prize is digital, let the community know when the winner will receive it. If it’s a physical prize, assure everyone it will be shipped soon. Once the winner receives their prize, ask them to share a photo with the community to wrap up the contest on a high note.

#8. Give the Prize

After announcing the winner, it’s time to give them their prize. This is a crucial step as it’s the final fulfillment of your promise and can leave a lasting impression on the winner and other participants. Here are some tips for giving out prizes:

Communicate with the Winner

Email the winner directly or privately to confirm their shipping address or any other necessary details for prize delivery. Keep them updated on the status of their prize and provide tracking information, if applicable.

Ship Prizes Promptly

If your contest involves physical prizes, ensure they are shipped promptly after the winner is announced. Delays can cause frustration and disappointment among participants, so taking care of this step efficiently is important.

Share Photos of the Prize

With the winner’s permission, share a photo of them with their prize on your forum or social media pages. This showcases that you follow through on promises and creates excitement and buzz for future contests.

#9. Follow Up

The follow-up process after a contest is as important as the contest itself. It helps to keep the momentum going, engage with your community, and prepare for future events. Here are some steps to effectively follow up after a contest:

Gather Feedback

Reach out to your community and ask for feedback on the contest. You can create a short survey asking them about their experience, what they liked or didn’t like, and any suggestions they might have for future contests. This feedback will prove invaluable for improving subsequent events.

Analyze the Results

Take a close look at the results of the contest. How many participants were there? How did people react to the winner’s announcement? What were the most engaged posts or threads? These insights can help you understand what worked and didn’t and inform your strategy for future contests.

Plan for the Next Contest

Based on the feedback and analysis, start planning for your next contest. Determine what you might want to do differently next time—for example, would a different prize attract more participants? Was the contest duration appropriate? Did the participants prefer public voting or jury selection?

Keep the Community Engaged

Finally, keep the momentum going. Discuss the contest in your forum, highlight notable entries, and engage participants in conversations about their submissions. This keeps the community active and interested in participating in future contests.

Read also: 11 Best Forum Contest Ideas

How to Run a Quiz Contest on a Forum?

Running a quiz contest on a forum involves meticulous planning, execution, and follow-up to ensure a smooth and engaging experience for participants. Here’s a detailed guide:

  • Decide the Quiz Topics and Questions: The first step is to decide the quiz topics that align with the interests of your community. Then, craft a set of interesting and challenging questions. The questions can be multiple-choice, true or false, fill in the blanks, or more interactive formats like picture or audio questions.
  • Set the Rules: Clearly define and communicate the rules of the quiz. Specify the start and end time, the scoring system, and the means to submit answers (whether they should be posted in the thread, sent via private message, or through a separate form).
  • Announce the Quiz: Make a dedicated post to announce the quiz on your forum. Provide all relevant details such as rules, timeline, prize information, and where and how to participate.
  • Conduct the Quiz: At the scheduled time, post the quiz questions. Participants should answer according to the rules you’ve set. It’s essential to be available during this time to address any queries or problems.
  • Evaluate the Answers: After the quiz ends, evaluate the answers based on your defined scoring system. If you have many participants, consider using an automated system or a dedicated team to help with this process.
  • Announce the Winner: Once the evaluation is complete, announce the winner following the guidelines for announcing winners in other contests. Ensure that the winner’s correct answers and their score are highlighted.
  • Give the Prize and Follow up: Finally, award the prize to the winner. After the quiz, collect feedback from participants to improve future quizzes, analyze the results, and keep the community engaged by discussing the quiz and its results.

Remember, the success of a quiz contest on a forum depends not only on the quality of questions but also on the transparency of rules, effective communication, and participant engagement throughout the process.

How Do You Handle Fake Entries In a Forum Contest?

Fake entries can undermine the integrity of a forum contest and create an unfair environment for participants. Therefore, it’s essential to tackle them effectively. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to handle fake entries in a forum contest:

  1. Set Clear Rules: The first step in preventing fake entries is establishing clear rules and guidelines for the contest. Specify that only one entry per person is allowed; any attempt to submit fraudulent entries will lead to disqualification.
  2. Verify Participants: Implement a verification process to ensure each participant is real. This could involve confirming email addresses at registration or using CAPTCHA tests to prevent automated bot entries.
  3. Monitor Entries: Regularly monitor contest entries for any signs of fraudulent activity. This could include multiple entries from the same IP address, entries with similar content, or suspiciously rapid submission of entries.
  4. Investigate Suspected Fake Entries: If you suspect an entry to be fake, investigate it further. This might include contacting the participant for confirmation, checking their activity on the forum, or verifying their identity through other means.
  5. Take Action: If an entry is confirmed to be fake, take appropriate action. This could range from disqualifying the entry to banning the participant from future contests, depending on the severity of the infraction.
  6. Communicate Decisions Transparently: It’s important to communicate your decisions transparently to maintain trust with your community. Let your participants know if a fake entry was discovered and reassure them that measures are in place to ensure a fair contest.

By taking these proactive measures, you can mitigate the impact of fake entries, maintain the integrity of your forum contest, and ensure a fair and enjoyable experience for all participants.

FAQs on How to Run a Contest on a Forum

How long should you run a forum contest?

The duration of a forum contest depends on several factors, such as the complexity of the task, the number of participants expected, and the prize at stake. Generally, running a contest for at least two weeks is recommended to give enough time for participation and promotion.

Read also: How long should a giveaway last?

Can you run a contest on Quora?

Yes, you can run a contest on Quora, but it requires a different approach due to the platform’s unique format and community guidelines. For instance, instead of hosting a traditional contest, you could create a question related to your interest or industry and incentivize quality answers.

For example, if you represent a tech company, you might ask, “What are the most innovative uses of our product that you have seen or can imagine?” You could then reward the most upvoted answer or the answer your team finds most innovative. 

Remember that all contests must adhere to Quora’s policies and guidelines. Directly soliciting for upvotes is prohibited, so the contest must encourage genuine, quality responses, not just voting manipulation. Additionally, providing a prize may need to be done off the platform, as Quora does not have built-in mechanisms for prize delivery. 

In every step, transparency is crucial. Ensure that the Quora community knows a reward is being offered, why, and how the winner will be chosen. This way, you can run a successful and engaging contest that respects the Quora community and adheres to its guidelines.

Which types of contests are best to host on Reddit?

Reddit is a highly diverse platform with many communities, making it suitable for various contests. Here are a few examples:

  1. Creative Contests: Subreddits related to arts, writing, photography, or music provide the perfect space for creative contests. You could ask participants to submit original artwork, short stories, photos, or songs. For instance, in the subreddit r/Art, you could host a contest for the best original artwork on a specific theme.
  2. Knowledge-Based Contests: You can also host contests that test participants’ knowledge on specific topics. For example, in a subreddit like r/history, you might host a history quiz with a reward for the first person to answer all questions correctly. 
  3. Caption Contests: These are popular on subreddits with a humorous or casual tone. You provide an image, and participants suggest amusing captions. For instance, in r/funny, you might post a funny picture and ask Redditors to create the wittiest caption.
  4. Community Engagement Contests: These contests aim to build and enhance the subreddit community. For example, in a subreddit for a specific city or region (like r/SanFrancisco), you might host a contest for the best local tip or hidden gem.

Remember, every subreddit has its rules and community guidelines, often including contest regulations. Always review these rules and obtain any necessary permissions before hosting a contest.

Can I create my own forum site to run contests?

Yes, you can create your own forum site to run a contest, but it requires significant time and effort. You will need to set up the forum platform, design the website, and promote it to attract participants. 

Additionally, you will need to establish rules and guidelines for the contest and implement measures to prevent fake entries.

Alternatively, you could also partner with an existing forum site that aligns with your industry or target audience. This way, you can leverage their existing community and resources to run a successful contest with less effort.

Whichever route you choose, always prioritize transparency, fairness, and communication in your contests to maintain trust and engagement with your participants.

To learn how to create a discussion forum website, check out the below video.


Now, you have all the tools and tips for planning, organizing, and executing a successful contest on your forum. With careful planning, effective communication, and engaging content, you can create an exciting and memorable experience for your community. Remember to follow up after the contest to gather feedback and plan future events.

Julia Nancy
Julia Nancy

I have vast experience arranging online voting contests for hundreds of clients worldwide in the last 8 years. I also helped countless clients to win their online competitions. Here, on, I am just sharing knowledge from my experiences. If you need any help regarding the online contest, email me at