For decades, raffles have been a popular way for charities to make money and for businesses to promote themselves. The more interesting the raffle and the more fun the prizes, the more publicity you can expect to get for your raffle from word of mouth and, in many cases, local media.
If you're running a raffle as a fundraiser, make sure that your planned ticket sales will leave you with a profit after the cost of the prizes. Unsold tickets, of course, won't bring in any money, so you should also make sure to give ticket sellers enough time to sell all of your tickets before holding the draw.
Fun Raffle Games
A basic charity raffle involves selling tickets for prizes. There are usually two tickets for each person: one the person holds and one that is put in a box to be drawn. However, this isn't the only kind of raffle you can do. Some alternative fun ways to raffle prizes include:
- 50/50 draw: The winning ticket splits the total amount contributed with the charity. The more tickets sold, the more money the winner and the charity will get.
- Limited-ticket raffle: This is a variation of the 50/50 raffle, with a limited number of tickets offered, such as 50, 100 or 200, which are sold for a high price.
- Reverse raffle: Best used with a limited-ticket raffle, instead of drawing the winning ticket, tickets are removed until only one (the winner) is left.
- Classic wine pull: Get an assortment of cheap wines and a few expensive ones. Allow each entrant or a small group of winning ticket holders to pull a bottle in the hopes of getting one of the good wines.
- Guessing-game raffle: Fill a jar with candy and have every entrant guess how many there are. The closest guess wins the prize. If you're giving away a large prize like a car, you can use a variation of this by filling the prize with items like balloons or ping-pong balls.
- Treasure hunt: Put up a map of your state or city and have each entrant place a pin (with their number attached) on the map to guess where the imaginary treasure is hidden. The closest guess wins the prize.
- Field of dreams: Square off a large field and sell a ticket for each square. Then, on the big day, have a helicopter or a drone drop the prize (or a less-fragile representative of the prize) in the field.
- Rubber-duck race: For each ticket, write a number on a rubber duck, and on the big day, drop the ducks in a creek or river. The first duck to cross the finish line is the winner. You may need permission from your local government for this one before you can drop a couple thousand rubber ducks in the water.
- Chinese auction: This is a great idea when you have several prizes. Allow people to buy several tickets and then place the tickets in a bowl beside the prize they most hope to win.
Raffles and State Laws
Before planning your raffle, check the laws in your state to determine the requirements. In the United States, each state has strict gambling laws, and only nonprofits are allowed to sell raffle tickets. Individuals and businesses are prohibited from raising money in a raffle, even if they are giving the money to charity.
Some states have laws regarding how the tickets are printed, how they must be signed and who is allowed to collect money and manage the raffle. For small raffles, you won't always need a permit depending on the state. However, even with a permit, there will usually be limitations in the ticket prices and the value of the prizes.
If your nonprofit is in Massachusetts, for example, you'll need to get a permit from the town clerk's office in your community regardless of the size of the raffle. Your nonprofit needs to be actively functioning in Massachusetts for at least two years before you can apply. Ten days after the raffle, you'll be required to pay a 5% tax on gross ticket sales to the state's lottery commission.
Alternatives to Money-Based Raffles
Even if it was legal, selling raffle tickets wouldn't really be a good business model for a legitimate company. Fortunately, there are some things that are just as valuable as money to a growing business: attention and leads.
Instead of paying for advertising, raffles can help keep your business in the public eye, either in person or online. Restaurants have been using this approach ever since the business card was invented. Drop your business card in the bowl and once a week, a name is drawn for a free lunch.
Other businesses use this same approach at trade shows to raffle off prizes. Instead of buying tickets, entrants put their business cards in a bowl. Everyone entering in such a contest generally understands that they will be contacted for a sales pitch whether they win the prize or not.
Facebook Raffle Ideas
As a general rule, contests involving money are forbidden on Facebook as well as asking people to share posts on timelines or to tag their friends in a post. Facebook has a habit of changing rules occasionally and implementing further restrictions to contests, so it's important to take a look at Facebook's rules before launching any raffle.
Some great ways to get people to enter your raffle include:
- Ask them to like the post. Every like gives that person a chance to win, which is great for small prizes or fast contests that expire soon.
- Ask them to comment on the post. This requires more engagement from people and can boost your page's visibility.
- Ask them to like other comments on the post. This is known as voting by liking.
- Post a message on your page's timeline.
- Send a message to your page.
- Post a photo on your page or in the comments. You could, for example, ask them to send photos of themselves using your product.
Because you may be attracting people to your contest from all over the world, you will need to figure out how you will get the prize to the winner.
Fun Raffle Prize Ideas
The better the prizes, the more fun a raffle will be for everyone. If you're running a charity raffle, talk to local businesses about prize ideas. Even if a company isn't willing to give you an item for free, you can always ask for it at its cost.
- Luxury items: A new car, motorcycle or electric scooter. Some organizations even raffle off brand-new dream homes with new furnishings included.
- Sports getaways: Tickets, hotel and airfare to a major sporting event outside of your city.
- Vacation getaways: All-expenses-paid luxury cruises or a retreat to a tropical island.
- Themed gift baskets: Sure, include some fruit and chocolate, but throw in lots of extras like event tickets or beauty products.
- The latest gadgets: Just about everyone gets excited when the new iPhone is launching. Televisions, tablets and smart watches are great ideas too.
- Gift certificates and gift cards: Not only are these great prizes but they can also be a great way to support local businesses.
- Night on the town: Dinner, theater or concert tickets and a suite at a five-star hotel.
- GiveSmart: Games for Fundraising Events
- Mass.gov: Guidance on Raffles
- Washington State Gambling Commission: Raffles
- Hootsuite: How to Run a Successful Facebook Contest: Ideas, Tips and Examples
- Facebook: Pages, Groups and Events Policies
- Winspire: 14 Raffle Prize Ideas to Raise Money for Charity (Without Breaking a Sweat)
- Rewarding Fundraising Ideas: 12 Creative & Profitable Raffle Ideas for Fundraising
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.