A surefire way to raise extra funds while boosting awareness of your nonprofit is to host a raffle fundraiser. Raffles are thrilling for donors who compete for memorable prizes, and an online raffle is especially easy to pull off—we promise! While online raffles are one of the most popular virtual fundraising ideas, there are still steps to take to make sure it’s an engaging experience for your donors and a successful fundraiser for your organization. In this article, we walk you through everything you need to know about raffles and how you can run your own, step by step!
What are raffles and how do they work?
Raffles are chance-based contests in which participants compete to win exciting prizes. All you need to participate is a ticket with a number on it. After all the tickets are sold, a drawing is held during which tickets are randomly selected. If you happen to have the lucky ticket, then you get the prize! Simple as that. Online raffle fundraisers streamline the process, eliminating the need for paper tickets or booking a venue for the drawing, since it takes place online!
What are the benefits of raffles?
Nonprofits see great success with hosting raffles for the following reasons:
- High engagement. People love to participate in games of chance, especially when they stand to win a big prize, so raffles generate a lot of excitement and support.
- High revenue. If engagement is high, your organization has a good chance of raising some serious cash from ticket sales!
- Low cost. An online raffle costs virtually nothing! Since you won’t have to print physical tickets, book a venue for the drawing, or pay for refreshments, a virtual raffle is the ultimate low-cost fundraiser.
- Relationship building. Raffle prizes are often contributed by local businesses, organizations, or big donors, establishing a tight network of supporters who become personally invested in your cause.
- Just plain fun. Raffles are successful in large part because of their unique energy: nothing gets your donors’ hearts beating like some friendly competition and a great prize.
Types of Raffles
There are dozens of raffle types to choose from! Here are some of the most popular:
- Traditional Raffle. These raffles are exactly what they sound like: ordinary, run-of-the-mill raffles where contestants buy tickets to compete for different prizes.
- Single Prize Raffle. While it’s a lot of fun, a single-prize raffle only makes sense if the prize is something super duper desirable, like a car, a diamond ring, or a week-long vacation in Paris.
- 50/50 Raffle. When prize solicitation is just not on the schedule, why not run a 50/50 raffle? This bad boy grants the big winner 50% of earnings from ticket sales. Yep, it’s that easy!
- Chinese Raffles. When you have more than one showstopper prize, try this: showcase the gifts and invite participants to compete for the specific prize that they want most by buying tickets and dropping it into the bucket associated with each prize (this can be a virtual “bucket,” too!). Then select one winner from each bucket!
- Reverse Raffle. This one’s a bit counter-intuitive, and that’s all part of the fun. Instead of the first ticket drawn being the winner, winners are the ones left standing when all the tickets have been drawn! As you eliminate contestants one by one, the suspense really grows.
- Wine Pull Raffle. Best for in-person events, participants in a wine pull raffle select a (wrapped) bottle of wine from a big basket of fancy, mid-range, and budget wines. This way, everyone who participates wins something, even though only a lucky few walk away with that ‘89 vintage.
- Jar Raffle. Get a bunch of decorative mason jars and hide notes inside which indicate the grand prize, a regular prize, or just a friendly “thanks for playing!” Kind of a like a wine pull, participants get to go home with a little souvenir!
- Online Raffle. Guess what? Most of these raffles can be hosted virtually! All the fun of competing for prizes and counting down winners can be recreated for donors from wherever they are in the world, including their living rooms. Best of all, you won’t need to worry about booking venues, providing refreshments, or fussing with paper tickets. Even a wine pull or jar raffle can be run virtually—simply deliver the selected bottles or gift jars to their lucky owners!
How to Run Your Own Raffle Fundraiser
When you’re ready to run a raffle at your nonprofit, remember that success depends on how well you plan and advertise it! If you want to hit your funding goal, it’s vital to be thoughtful about soliciting incredible prizes, selecting a relevant theme, and promoting your raffle in a way that gets your constituency amped up to buy as many tickets as possible.
In this section, we break down how to run your own raffle fundraiser in 5 steps. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started!
Step #1: Check the laws
The Internal Revenue Service sees little distinction between raffles and gambling. That’s why certain states have specific regulations applying to raffles, requiring you to register your raffle with the government, and some have outlawed raffles altogether. Check your state’s regulations by Googling “raffle laws” and then add the name of your state. For a more general overview, check out this helpful breakdown of rules.
Step #2: Gather the troops and plan
Like any fundraiser, you’ll need a dedicated team to plan it, promote it, and then pull it off on the day! Thankfully, with virtual raffles, you won’t need to worry about an extensive network of volunteers to make your raffle successful. Just two or three recruits are more than enough. As you sit down to brainstorm with your assembled team, make sure you hit the following points:
How many tickets do you hope to sell? 50? 1,000? As you think about your funding goal, decide what the minimum donation for each ticket will be (more on that later).
Most raffles run for at least a month before winners are announced so that people have time to buy tickets while momentum builds. Since your raffle is virtual, the sky’s the limit! You can run your raffle for two, three, or even six months! Just make sure that it doesn’t take too long, or you risk your supporters getting restless and losing interest.
To make a raffle more relevant to your supporters, try to link your prizes with your mission. For instance, if your nonprofit is a school, prizes might include a laptop, fancy pens, or tickets to the museum. If you’re working on behalf of the environment, prizes can range from something as major as a trip to the Galapagos Islands to something as small as a reusable tote bag.
If linking prizes to your nonprofit isn’t an option, aim for a seasonal angle: if it’s winter, a prize might be a ski trip, and if it’s summer, a beach getaway.
Obviously, the prizes for your raffle aren’t just going to drop from the sky. Make a list of potential contributors—vendors, local businesses, major donors, board members—and decide which member of your team will contact them and when. Aim for a balance of 3 potential contributors for each prize. For example, if you intend to have 10 prizes, draw up a list of 30 possible donors to contact. While that number sounds high, it’s better to cover your bases when it’s not guaranteed that people will agree to contribute. Worst case scenario: you’ll have prizes left over for next year’s raffle!
Method of selecting winners
The most eagerly anticipated part of a raffle is the drawing. Will you have specially designed software on a fundraising platform randomly select winners? You can also hold a live drawing and livestream the event, so all of your supporters can tune in!
Step #3: Gather Gifts
If you have spectacular gifts, they will come. Let’s be honest: a raffle is only as good as its prizes. If you’re offering up mediocre stuff that doesn’t generate enthusiasm, you won’t sell a lot of tickets!
Even the most cash-strapped organization can find a way to have a few showstoppers if they team up with local businesses, vendors, major donors, or foundations. Approach the managers of restaurants, shops, gyms, hotels, spas, salons, and art galleries in your region and ask for specific donations. Grab their attention by explaining the philanthropic nature of your mission, their chance to give back to the community, and the extra exposure their business will receive, especially on social media. Big donors and board members are already incentivized to support your cause and are often happy to supply at least 1 or 2 impressive gifts.
Raffle Prize Ideas
When coming up with raffle prize ideas, shoot for either experiences or tangible prizes, and be wary about getting too specific. For instance, if you know that your constituency is made up of music aficionados, go ahead and add instruments or symphony tickets to your list. If your supporter base is more widely distributed, however, plan to have more general prizes.
Experience-based raffle prize ideas
- Hotel stay + dinner for 2
- Month of kickboxing classes
- A cooking class
- A spa day
- Museum, concert, or theatre tickets
Tangible raffle prize ideas that anyone would be thrilled to win
- Cash or gift cards
- Audio equipment (noise-cancelling headphones are having a moment)
- Home décor (think champagne flutes, vases, silverware sets)
- Electronics (smartwatches, fitness trackers, PCs, tablets, etc. are all popular)
- Gift baskets (think fruit preserves, wines, gourmet cheeses or chocolate)
Step #4: Sell tickets and advertise your raffle
Now that you have a good haul of phenomenal prizes, it’s time to get the word out about the opportunity to win one of them!
- Create a raffle page. It’s important to craft a fun and easy-to-use raffle page on an online fundraising platform so supporters can buy tickets, explore prizes, and keep track of updates. Introduce your organization’s mission and include all the raffle info, like rules, when the drawing will be held, and how winners will be announced. With RallyUp, for example, you can create a fully-branded raffle page that will randomly select a winner or gives you the option to host a live streamed drawing—all for free!
- Add quality images. For your supporters to be inspired to buy tickets, they’ll have to see images of prizes that look sensational! In a virtual raffle, donors can’t approach tables laden with gifts and examine the objects up close, which means you’ll have to post high-resolution images that take the place of the real thing. If you’re offering services or experiences, then include pictures of the hotel, restaurant, salon, or destination on offer. The point is to post compelling images that generate interest.
- Promote on social media. Post about your raffle across all your social media channels and be sure to include all those slick images you created! The more re-postable, re-tweetable, and shareable your ad, the more engagement you’ll see. Add a ticket sales widget and keep the description snappy and fresh, since nobody is going to repost paragraphs of laborious commentary. To get more shares on Instagram and Twitter, think up a catchy hashtag, like #raffe4good2022 or #winforcharity. Consider promoting with videos, since seeing your pretty face establishes a more personal and authentic connection with donors.
- Leverage events. If anyone on your raffle committee is attending a social engagement that draws crowds—children’s sporting events, conferences, community meetings—take the opportunity to talk about your virtual raffle and the thrilling prizes on offer.
- Provide alternatives. Since not everyone will be able to participate in your raffle, give supporters the option to donate without buying a ticket. Add Donate Now buttons to all your promotional content.
Step #5: Announce winners and follow up
How did your raffle committee decide to announce winners? If you’re broadcasting a live video and posting it on your raffle page, be sure it’s entertaining and upbeat. If you’d rather draw winners using an algorithm, share the good news on social media using your special hashtag. Don’t forget to thank ALL of your supporters and post a few personal shoutouts to any participants who bought a big batch of tickets—the more valued and seen your donors feel, the more involved they’ll be!
Just because your raffle ended doesn’t mean the show is over! Take advantage of the momentum your raffle has generated by continuing to post updates about how the winners received their gifts, how you met or exceeded your funding goals, and your excitement for next year’s prizes. Send an email newsletter to your supporters summarizing the raffle, the prizes, and the list of lucky winners.
From Raffles to Even More Exciting Fundraisers!
Raffles are great fun, and they give you the opportunity to experiment for yourself with how well virtual fundraisers can work for your organization. We at RallyUp understand that every fundraiser is an important and one-of-a-kind component of your overall mission. That’s why we provide seamless and easy-to-use tools to take you from raffles to sales to auctions to a-thons in no time. And best of all, it’s all totally FREE for you to use! So, let’s get fundraising together!