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Fundraising Tips

How to run a charity raffle online.

September 19, 2023

With raffle rules and regulations changing depending on where you live, hosting a raffle or lottery for your nonprofit can seem pretty challenging. Luckily, at Zeffy we’re here to help your nonprofit figure out how to host a raffle fundraiser.

With so many amazing nonprofit organizations in North America, it’s important to create new ways to stand out and engage with donors. This means getting creative with your fundraising campaigns and events—and one way to do that is by hosting a charitable raffle or lottery.

We know, charitable raffles and lotteries are nothing new but, they are a great way to attract donors and increase your nonprofit’s revenue. That being said, running a successful raffle or lottery for your nonprofit organization can seem daunting due to the various local regulations.

At Zeffy, we don’t want these rules and regulations to dissuade you from taking this opportunity to grow your nonprofit’s community! So, we’ve made our raffles and lotteries forms customizable and are working on a toolkit to help your nonprofit wade through the various raffle and lottery rules and regulations!

Why host an online raffle fundraiser?

Raffles and lotteries for nonprofit organizations are different from ordinary fundraising campaigns and events because they give anyone who bought a ticket the chance to win a reward. And, that chance really motivates people. So much so that 50-70% of raffle ticket buyers are motivated by the prizes, not necessarily your nonprofit organization’s mission.1 At first glance, this info. might come across as not so great, but really, it’s an opportunity to attract new donors and participants who wouldn’t normally be inclined to donating to your cause.

Surveys undertaken by various charities have found that the cause represents 30% to 50% of the reason potential purchasers would buy a ticket. That leaves 50% to 70% buying to win…1
- Charity Village

These donors may not contribute to your nonprofit the way your more engaged donors do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be converted or at least contacted every time you have host a raffle.

So, how does a nonprofit host a raffle fundraiser?

1. Get to know the raffle rules and regulations.

Before going too far with your raffle planning, we recommending checking out the rules and regulations in your province or state. We’ve started a series of articles that deep dive into the raffle and lottery rules and regulations in every province in Canada and every state in the USA. (It’s a work in progress! If you’re province or state isn’t there, let us know and we will get to work!)

2. Choose they type of online raffle fundraiser you want to host.

When your nonprofit hosts a raffle or lottery, you are raising money by selling numbered tickets that will be randomly drawn and associated to a winner according to their unique ticket number.

There are a few different types of lotteries but, the most relevant for small to medium sized nonprofits are:

For raffles and 50/50 draws you sell individual, numbered tickets. In the case of a raffle winners will receive a prize; for a 50/50 draw, winners will receive 50% of the money raised from ticket sales.

As a nonprofit organization, you can choose your fundraising strategy depending on your audience. If people know your mission well, you may want to maximize the income you can make in order to further your mission, so choosing a raffle might be  best. If you want to reach people motivated mainly by the prize, hosting 50-50 might be better!

For bingo, you will need to sell bingo cards, which can be paper or electronic (depending on the rules and regulations where you live). Bingo is often held as an in-person event , so if you are looking to host a raffle or lottery that takes place mostly online, a bingo game probably isn’t the best option.

3. Create your raffle tickets. (Zeffy can help!)

Next up, you need to create your raffle or lottery tickets. Most rules and regulations require tickets to display certain information such as your nonprofit organization’s name, the prizes, the date of the draw, ticket price, etc. We’ve created a list that covers most rules and regulations, but we recommend checking our articles specific to your province or state or contacting your local government.

What to include on most raffle or lottery tickets:

This template is a great example of what your tickets should look like. Feel free to use it as a guide to make your own. (We recommend using Canva for nonprofits.)

4. Apply for a nonprofit raffle permit or license. (If you need one.)

After reading up on the rules and regulations, choosing a raffle or lottery type, laying out your ticket, and just generally planning your nonprofit raffle, you will need to contact your province or state’s gaming regulatory body to apply for a license or permit to host a raffle of lottery.

Normally, this needs to be done before announcing the raffle or lottery to the public. (There are multiple criteria your nonprofit organization needs to meet in order to get a license.)

We’ve started a series of articles that deep dive into the raffle and lottery rules and regulations in every province in Canada and every state in the USA. (It’s a work in progress! If you’re province or state isn’t there, let us know and we will get to work!)

Good to know:

If you would like to perform your raffle in a way that is not outlined by your regulatory body’s licenses, contact them directly to discuss your options.

5. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Zeffy’s 100% free online raffle and lottery forms can help!

Regardless of whether or not your province or state allows nonprofits to actually sell raffle tickets online (some only allow the sale of raffle tickets in person), Zeffy can help your nonprofit:

6. Reach out to local business to ask for prizes and sponsors.

To host a successful raffle or lottery, you are going to need great sponsors and prizes! We recommend reaching out to current donors and local businesses that have shown interest in supporting your cause or that you think would be a great fit.

When you are reaching out, present the opportunity as a collaboration by emphasizing what’s in it for them. You are providing free advertising for the company, they just need to offer a prize!

Not all prizes have to be merchandise—they could include services, experiences, or gift cards. It’s important to get creative and use your entire community when looking for prizes—the more exciting they are, the more people will want to participate.‍

7. Start selling and distributing tickets for your nonprofit’s raffle or lottery.

Next step: how do you plan on selling your raffle or lottery tickets?

These days, using both online and in person sales is a great way to get the word out. (Just keep in mind that every ticket needs its own serial number, meaning if you want to have a lottery with a mix of online and paper ticketing, they need to be numbered in a sequence.)

Zeffy offers easy and 100% free raffle and lottery ticketing forms, that allow you to customize the sale of your tickets. Using the Zeffy platform will allow you to create a custom ticketing form for online ticket sales and/or separate printed tickets. You can also integrate the buyer data you collect from in person sales and connect your Zeffy profile to other apps or services you are using.

Depending on the rules set out by your regulatory body, you may be permitted to sell your tickets solely online, both online and offline or in some cases, only offline. Zeffy can help you with all of these options! We can generate and send tickets to participants, or you can simply use the platform to make the transactions. It will all depend on the regulations in your province and the type of raffle you are running.

8. Promote your nonprofit’s raffle or lottery.

Once you’ve set everything up, you have to find people to buy your raffle or lottery tickets! This is where you can flex your fundraising skills.

The good news it: you are now providing entertainment and not just asking for donations, so selling tickets will be a lot easier. Reach out to current and past donors. Target groups within your community that you think might be interested in getting more involved in your cause. Contact local businesses to sell your tickets. Share the raffle on social media.

And, as always, real stories go a long way. So, if you have hosted raffles or lotteries in the past, get people excited by sharing past winners’ stories! Post online about what they did with their prizes and how the money raised from the event was used towards achieving your organization’s mission.

That’s it! Good luck and, as always, if you’ve got any questions, we’re here to help!

Nonprofit raffle and lottery rules and regulations in the United States.

In the United States, each state has its own set of definitions and laws that dictate what is considered a raffle, which organizations are permitted to host a raffle, and what is required to legally host a raffle. We’ve broken them down for you and done our best to explain a few of the trickier parts.

Nonprofit raffle laws in California.

Nonprofit raffle laws in Colorado.

Nonprofit raffle laws in Connecticut.

Nonprofit raffle laws in Florida.

Nonprofit raffle laws in New York.

Nonprofit raffle laws in Texas.

Nonprofit raffle laws in Washington State.

Nonprofit raffle and lottery rules and regulations in Canada.

Every province or territory in Canada, has its own set of rules and regulations governing lotteries for charity. We’ve broken them down for you and done our best to explain a few of the trickier parts.

Charitable Lottery Regulations in Alberta

Charitable Lottery Regulations in British Columbia

Charitable Lottery Regulations in Manitoba

Charitable Lottery Regulations in New Brunswick

Charitable Lottery Regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador

Charitable Lottery Regulations in Nova Scotia

Charitable lottery regulations in Ontario.

Charitable Lottery Regulations in PEI

Charitable Lottery Regulations in Quebec

Charitable Lottery Regulations in Saskatchewan

Keep learning (our sources):

1. Are Lotteries Right for Your Organization?