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You're planning your next fundraising event, and find yourself searching for a fun activity to excite your supporters. You toy with charity runs, golf outings, and a community carnival when suddenly a raffle game finds a place at the top of your list.
At first glance, selling raffle tickets sounds like an excellent fundraising idea. A raffle can be hosted at an in-person or virtual event and local businesses can donate prizes to keep your costs low. Sounds like the perfect fit, right?
Not so fast.
Before you start planning your event, you need to look up your state laws regarding raffles.
Below, we offer a few unique raffle games to excite supporters, and explain why you need to check your state laws before launching your campaign.
Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice.
Before you start: Know your state laws for raffle games
While raffles may sound like they're all fun and games, planning one can be a compliance headache.
Here's why: Raffles fall under the loose umbrella of lotteries and are, therefore, heavily regulated. Before you start planning your fundraising campaign, you need to check your state laws regarding raffles.
Many states have anti-gambling laws, but make exceptions for nonprofit raffles. Even so, there are plenty of states—including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina , Texas, Washington, and West Virginia—where online raffles are prohibited (translation: You can’t sell raffle tickets on the internet).
In Utah, all raffles are prohibited (not just those conducted online). Finally, there are certain states that have strict laws about how you can sell raffle tickets—in Indiana and Montana, for instance, you cannot purchase raffle tickets with a credit card.
Even if your state allows you to host a raffle fundraising event, there will be plenty of paperwork to weed through beforehand. The IRS has strict reporting requirements for raffle prizes, which will need to be explained to prize donors and raffle winners alike. In addition, you'll need to navigate the gambling laws in your state.
For example, in Washington, DC, you need to apply for a Charitable Games License, show proof of federal tax exemption, and be in good standing with the DC Consumer & Regulatory Affairs office. In Iowa, you need to apply for a Charitable Gambling License, pay a fee (of up to $150), and have your application approved at least 30 days prior to your event.
Long story long, you should hire an attorney to help you navigate the gambling laws in your state before you plan a raffle.
If you don't have the budget to seek legal advice or the process seems like too much of a headache, you may want to choose a different fundraising idea. (Spoiler alert: The Butter Blog is stacked with fun fundraising tips and ideas!)
8 fun raffle game ideas for your next fundraising event
If you decide to forge ahead with a raffle fundraiser, there are plenty of fun ways to entice supporters. Below, we offer a number of DIY raffle games your supporters will love.
1. Build a wall of wine 🍷
Want to liven up any raffle? Offer booze as a prize.
The wall of wine raffle is simple (and fairly low-cost to execute if budget is an issue). Have supporters donate a bottle of wine, preferably of different price points and countries of origins. Place a sticker with a raffle ticket number on the bottom of each bottle. Whichever supporter purchases that ticket, goes home with the respective bottle of wine.
2. Play bingo 🎉
Note: Sometimes bingo falls under the category of online gambling, so be sure to check your state laws before hosting a bingo night.
There are multiple ways to transform good-old-fashioned bingo into a raffle game. Each ticket purchased will be good for one bingo card (in other words, additional ticket purchases will increase the supporter's chance of winning a prize).
Supporters can win by getting five squares across, vertically, diagonal, or landing within all four corners—depending on the rules you set. Or, you can print special bingo cards that have a single square marked as the winner.
3. Host a 50/50 raffle 🎫
One easy way to increase ticket sales is to offer a 50/50 raffle. In a 50/50 raffle, your nonprofit organization will keep half of the earnings, while one lucky supporter will keep the other half. For example, if your organization sells $500 worth of raffle tickets, then one lucky winner will get to keep $250. The remaining $250 will be donated to your organization.
4. Create a board game night 🎲
Want to host a game night?
You can make a traditional raffle more interactive by combining it with various party games.
For example, if you host a Scrabble tournament, the purchase of one raffle ticket could allow a player to sneak a peek at a dictionary. Or, if you're playing Monopoly, two raffle tickets would allow a supporter to purchase a piece of property.
5. Plan a hidden reveal 🎩
Want to increase the level of mystery for your raffle game? Have local restaurants, bars, or shops donate gift cards to their establishment. Then, place each gift certificate in a plain, white envelope and hide each one inside a mason jar, champagne flute, or potted plant. Each raffle ticket holder gets to go home with a prize, but they won't know what they won until they get home.
6. Go for double-or-nothing 🙅
Want to encourage supporters to increase the number of tickets purchased? After drawing a raffle ticket, ask the winner if they'd like to go "double or nothing," with the purchase of an additional ticket.
If the supporter purchases an additional ticket, they'll enter a game of chance (such as drawing a card or flipping a coin). If they win, they get to go home with a second raffle prize. However, if they lose, the raffle prize goes back to the organization, to be raffled off to another supporter.
7. Host a reverse raffle 🏆
Want to prolong the excitement of your raffle night? With a reverse raffle, you'll announce smaller prizes first and save the grand prize for last, thereby holding your supporters' attention throughout the event. For example, if your grand prize is a giveaway for a romantic weekend for two in Aspen, you'll announce that giveaway last to get people to stay for the whole event.
8. Launch a peer-to-peer fundraiser 👯
Lastly, you can leverage your raffle to start a peer-to-peer nonprofit fundraiser amongst your loyal supporters. Rather than simply have supporters purchase tickets for a set dollar amount, you can offer additional tickets in exchange for free publicity. For example, offer an additional raffle ticket if a supporter shares the event on their social media account, brings two (or more) guests to your event, or gets five new supporters to sign up for your email list.
Build excitement for your cause with raffle games
Hosting a charitable raffle is a fun way to raise funds for your good cause. However, before you start planning, you'll need to check your state's gambling laws.
There are plenty of compliance laws surrounding raffles, even when hosted by a nonprofit. Therefore, partner with an attorney who can help navigate these laws prior to your event. From there, you can start applying for any special licenses or filling out a charitable gaming application.
Hopefully, this post gave you plenty of great raffle game ideas to help you plan your event. Next, check out this post for amazing raffle prize ideas to help launch your fundraiser.
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