When I was 13 I became a part of a FIRST Robotics team, a non-profit organization called Vanden Robotics. The goal of the team is to build a robot from scratch over the course of six weeks that can compete in the game of the year. The cost of building, transporting and competing in FIRST can be astronomical without financial assistance. While our team did raise money through sponsors, car washes, and other more conventional methods, one of our most profitable fundraising events was always our annual raffle.
The key to planning a successful raffle is passion. The volunteers must be passionate about the cause they are fundraising for, the participants must be passionate about winning, and the planning staff must be passionate about the success of the raffle as a whole.
My team was fortunate in the sense that all of our volunteers were deeply tied to the cause we were fundraising for. We knew that all the money we raised would be used to help make our team more successful and competitive. This passion for our cause made us better salespeople, we were comfortable approaching our family, friends, and even strangers to share with them our love of FIRST in the hopes that they would love the idea and want to support it.
Regardless of who is fundraising or what they are raising money for, a sense of passion and a clear knowledge of their project is a major draw to those looking to participate. From my years selling raffle tickets, I can honestly say that for most people the major appeal in purchasing a ticket was in supporting the cause, the prize was just a bonus.
Most people who buy tickets recognize that the odds of winning are not always in their favor, but nothing catches a potential purchasers attention quite like the idea of winning a fantastic prize for the cost of one ticket.
The passion for the prize is what motivates people to purchase one ticket or even multiple tickets if your prize is particularly appealing. In this arena it is important to know to whom you are going to be selling to. In the case of my FIRST team we raffled an iPad, it is a prize that appeals to both the young and older crowds and doesn’t alienate those who are not tech savvy.
On a less glamorous level we appealed to people with a prize of tax deductions, as a 501 (c) 3 organization any donations to our cause (which the purchase of a raffle ticket is considered) are tax deductible.
The most important element of planning a raffle is having a team of planners who are passionate about the success of the project. If those who are responsible for planning the raffle take the appropriate steps to ensure that great prizes are purchased, that their volunteers are hyped about what they are doing, and that the location of ticket sales is appropriate both for their cause and for what they are raffling it is hard to go wrong.
Vanden Robotics was lucky to have a dedicated group of parents and teachers who worked hard to make sure that our raffle was successful, fun and professional. There are a lot of wonderful people out in the world who are just waiting for the right cause to contribute to, and with the right amount of hard work and a lot of passion it is possible to convince them that your raffle is it.
Many people know about 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, but other types of nonprofits are not as commonly known. The IRS established several sections of the Internal Revenue Code that nonprofit organizations can qualify under. An organization desiring to apply for nonprofit status, must apply under the section that fits its purpose. Understanding the types of nonprofits available and the qualifications for each helps you choose the correct section to apply under.
According the IRS, five basic classifications of nonprofit organizations exist under Section 501(c)(3)of the Internal Revenue Code. Classifications include charitable, religious, educational, scientific and literary. A nonprofit organization may fall under one or more classifications. For example, a Christian charity providing food to homeless citizens could fall under charitable and religious classifications. Nonprofits must apply for federal tax-exemption as a 501(c)(3) by completing Form 1023. 501(c)(3)nonprofits can offer tax-exempt donations to individual contributors.
Nonprofit organizations formed to promote social and community welfare can apply for federal tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. To qualify, organizations must provide a benefit to the general public. Organizations catering to a private group of people do not meet eligibility requirements. An example of a 501(c)(4) is an organization that provides social resources to retirees. Charitable, educational and recreational organizations that do not qualify for 501(c)(3) status can apply under this section. Unlike 501(c)(3) nonprofits, 501(c)(4) organizations can participate in lobbying activities. Organizations whose primary business with the public reflects that of a for-profit corporation cannot qualify as a 501(c)(4). Nonprofits must apply for this status by completing Form 1024.
Social clubs formed for nonprofit exempt purposes can apply for federal tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code. Form 1024 is used to apply for a 501(c)(7). To qualify under this section, nonprofits cannot discriminate against citizens based on race, color or religion. However, religious 501(c)(7) organizations can limit its membership to those belonging to a particular religion. 501(c)(7) nonprofits must receive support from memberships fees and dues. Example of nonprofits with this status include college fraternities and sororities, country clubs and homeowners associations that meet for the purpose of preserving its recreation areas and facilities.
501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10) status belongs to nonprofit organizations operating as fraternal societies. Members of the societies must come together to pursue common goals. 501(c)(8) organizations must offer life, health, accident and other insurance benefits to its members. 501(c)(10) nonprofits cannot offer such benefits to members, but can secure third-organizations to offer benefits. 501(c)(8) nonprofits are not required to offer benefits to all members, but most members of the organization must meet eligibility requirements for benefits. Use Form 1024 to apply for 501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10) status.
One buys a ticket, perhaps two or more, the precise amount being proportional to the strength of one’s conscience, of one’s desire for a prize, of a volunteer’s badgering, or a combination thereof, and one later waits in eager anticipation whilst the tickets are drawn, earnestly hoping that the numbers selected will match those of the ticket(s) bought so that one can be a lucky winner of one of the lovely incentives X organization has decided to offer in order to raise funds for its charitable services.
On one level, one wins or one loses, but either way, the organization wins in gaining money for its various needs, and the customer of the raffle ticket(s) wins the privilege of going home with the moral satisfaction that he or she gave to a noble cause, possibly also with the satisfaction of winning a prize that draws the envy of the neighbors. The organization raises hundreds of dollars, and everyone is happy. That’s how a raffle works… So goes the ideal, at least. Unfortunately, in reality, raffles often suffer certain shortcomings that detract from their functioning smoothly and effectively.
One very common mistake that groups like youth organizations make in holding raffles is not giving them enough visibility. The ability of a raffle to attract attention is key — successful raffles are advertised well and boldly; they should be at the forefront of attention. Booths should not be placed in an inaccessible corner of a room, and more active advertising (i.e. having volunteers post fliers around town) is also definitely a good idea. As one might easily intuit, people need to be aware of the raffle if even the possibility of raising money is to exist.
By extension, the more people are aware of the raffle, the more potential there is for funds to be raised. Further, the significance of visibility also applies to prizes. Buyers should be made clearly aware of raffle prizes. If the raffle has a physical booth, then having prizes displayed attractively near it may be a good idea, if feasible. People are more likely to enter a raffle if they are well enticed.
However, in informing potential customers about the raffle, it is also important to emphasize and remind them of the benevolence of the cause to which they are contributing.
In fact, it is important to remind buyers of the fact that they are contributing to a worthy cause at all. Raffles that make the frequent mistake of placing emphasis only on their prizes don’t reach their full potential. Remember that people who buy raffle tickets generally are not buying them only to win a prize — that is only part of the picture. They realize their ticket only gives them a chance at winning material incentives. If the prize was really all they wanted, they would simply go and purchase the item on their own. People typically buy raffle tickets, at least in part, to support organizations; thus, it is important not to neglect underscoring this aspect when marketing raffle tickets to potential buyers.
To motivate volunteers to do a good job at advertising and selling raffle tickets in the first place, though, it is helpful to offer them incentives of their own. Many catalog-based fundraisers offer participants prizes in exchange for their selling certain amounts of merchandise. Such prizes range from candy to toys. This principle could easily be adapted for volunteers of raffle fundraisers.
Certainly, the age of the volunteers should be a factor to consider for this, as well as the budget of the organization in question. Nonetheless, it is helpful to award volunteers in some way for their work and motivate them to work even harder. Incentives for volunteers can even encompass gift cards, special parties, and raises in rank, if there is a hierarchy in place. It is also important, more generally, to foster a sense of community and personal involvement amongst volunteers. This can be done through frequent communication. The opinions of volunteers should honestly be considered, and their feedback should be taken seriously. This all owes to the simple rule that volunteers who are personally invested in their work are bound to put more into their efforts than volunteers who work halfheartedly.
As far as prizes go, another tip that helps in creating a successful raffle is to keep incentives appealing to as many people possible in the target audience. For instance, if customers of raffle tickets are likely to be of any gender, as they usually are, find prizes that make gender irrelevant. Items like a basket of toiletries would therefore probably not be optimal for such a demographic. Age is also another consideration — if targeting the raffle towards people who are or have children, it is a good idea to include prizes like children’s art supplies or stuffed animals. Simply stated, the key is to match prizes to customers of raffle tickets. People often avoid buying tickets for raffles in which prizes are useless or unappealing to them, which makes sense — who would want to win such a raffle and have to hoard something, whether it was basically free or not, only to see it collect dust and re-gift it to an unfortunate friend or family member?
Nevertheless, there are certain prizes that are a safe bet for any group. Electronics like music players, laptops, and tablets appeal to a wide range of people. They are utilitarian and can find a place in almost anyone’s life, so they are likely to draw in more participation. Another widely appealing prize is an automobile, if the budget of the organization allows. A new, better means of transport is a welcome thing for many families and individuals. A less expensive yet also popular prize is food. Homemade desserts, well-cooked main dishes, even a basket of snack foods are all choices that appeal to many people, as there is, of course, not a single person who does not eat. Specifics aside, however, the simple key is to increase appeal.