Online Fundraising
September 21, 2021

A Nonprofit’s Guide to Setting Up an Online Raffle with Ease

Virtual fundraising events such as raffles and sweepstakes are a fun and exciting way to raise money for a cause. For many nonprofits, the pandemic was a key catalyst in the adoption of gaming-based fundraising events. Other prime contributing factors are evolving donor behavior patterns, increased penetration of the internet and mobile devices, and technological advances.  

Getting started with organizing and implementing an online charity raffle involves many tasks that need to be accomplished simultaneously. In this article, you will learn all about setting up an online raffle like 50/50 or Catch the Ace in a stepwise, easy-to-understand way.  

Related: An Introduction to Online Gaming-based Fundraising for Nonprofits

Steps to set up an online raffle  

1. Check regulatory requirements

Charitable raffles and lotteries are regulated events in most jurisdictions across the United States and Canada, which means you must apply for a license to be able to run them. In the U.S., many states allow online raffles in some form, with a couple of states such as Utah and Hawaii having strict laws. Rules and requirements vary by state; you can check with your state’s Attorney General's office for the latest regulations. In Canada, it is illegal to run a raffle without a license and only religious or charitable organizations can apply for one. Rules vary by province; the provincial Alcohol and Gaming Commission websites are good starting points for research on the rules, regulations, and application process.

Before you submit your application for a license, you should have definitive information on the type of raffle you intend to run (such as 50/50 or Catch the Ace), the price of the ticket, prize to be awarded to the winner, raffle schedule, and the technology solutions provider.  

Related: Regulatory Guidance for U.S. States and Canadian Provinces and Territories

2. Find a raffle solutions provider

Depending on how involved you want to be in the raffle implementation and execution, a solutions provider like Ascend Fundraising Solutions (versus a technology supplier) might be a better fit. Ascend provides a world-class platform and technology solution along with full-lifecycle service offerings (such as marketing, promotions, licensing, analytics, and much more) and end-to-end program execution for online charitable gaming events such as 50/50, Catch the Ace and Sweepstakes.

For those that need even more help, Ascend can help with running the entire programs end-to-end as a fully outsourced partner. Ascend is the only provider with the ability to provide a full turnkey solution for any nonprofit, charity or foundation looking to run an online raffle or lottery.

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3. Set your fundraising objective or goal

Raising money for an organization can be challenging. Clearly defining the goal and objectives of the fundraiser will ensure that all your decisions align with the expected outcome and benefit your cause.  

4. Define your target audience

Planning and marketing your fundraiser is easier when you know your target audience—their demographics, media consumption habits, location, interests, etc. Defining your target audience will enable you to craft the best strategy for fundraising and outline an effective marketing plan.  

5. Set budgets and timelines

Budgets and timelines are essential ingredients to a successful fundraising campaign. Therefore, ensure you have an itemized breakdown of expenses for each task/activity, mapped out against specific dates. If there are certain cost categories that you are unsure about, include them anyway. And remember to set aside some money as contingency funds. Virtual fundraisers typically have low overheads, meaning you can raise more with minimal investment.

6. Plan raffle format and duration, and set ticket prices

A successful fundraiser can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. However, the key is finding a balance between simplicity and donor engagement.

Online gaming-based fundraisers are fun, easy to plan and implement, especially when you have a trusted and full-service partner like Ascend. With over a decade of experience in the field, Ascend offers the technology and expertise to successfully implement raffles such as 50/50 and Catch the Ace. Whether you need help with marketing, promotions, pricing, or licensing, the Ascend team can assist you every step of the way, throughout your implementation journey.  

7. Implement the tech platform and event page

A successful virtual fundraiser needs a well-functioning technology platform that is supported by an engaging event page and a strong marketing plan. Event automation can make running an event more fun and less stressful. It also enables analytics and detailed tracking which can be extremely helpful in decision-making for future events.

8. Plan marketing and promotions

Do plan sufficient time for marketing, advertising, and promoting your event online on various social media platforms as well as through email, print, digital, and radio. Be sure to choose channels and formats that you know work best with your audience. A/B test subject lines and ad copy to learn which ones stick and yield maximum returns.  

Related: 8 Email Marketing Tips for Nonprofits to Inspire Giving and Attract Donors

9. Define success metrics

Success metrics can help you measure performance against earlier campaigns as well as against industry benchmarks. That’s why it’s essential to define them before you start promotions ad launch your fundraiser. Depending on the type of your online event, metrics such as ticket sales, social media mentions, online traffic/clicks, engagement rate, conversion rate, return on investment (ROI), etc. may be helpful.

Related: How to Use Social Media to Maximize Return on Investment (ROI) from Fundraisers

10. Promote your event

Once you have all the elements in place, it’s time to start promotions as per key dates and timelines outlined in your campaign. Emails and social media are known to be the most effective in marketing raffles; depending on your budget, TV, radio and print advertising can also be considered. Keep a close eye on ad performance and social engagement; test different campaigns and learn from the outcomes, iterate, and promote until the event timeline.

Related: 5 Tips for Running Successful Online Charity Raffles

11. Go live!

Technology for online fundraisers makes it easy to launch the event and go live—all, by the click of a button. Unlike an in-person event, it involves less effort and is a stress-free way to raise money.

12. Choose a winner

When you run an online raffle, winner selection is automated with the help of technology and can be done at the press of a button. Winners are chosen based on a randomized draw.  

13. Say “thank you”!

As with all formats of fundraisers, it is essential to acknowledge, thank your donors, and ask for feedback after the event. Donor recognition through personalized emails/mails, social media tags, or ‘shout-outs’ on your website can be extremely effective in building long-lasting relationships and in humanizing the giving experience.  

Launching an online raffle involves many moving parts. Partnering with the right solutions provider can help you ease the burden and make the launch an enjoyable, efficient, and smooth process.

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