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Fundraising Tips

How to do an online raffle: 11 easy steps for fundraisers.

December 20, 2023

Raffles are a great fundraising activity for charities, schools, clubs, and nonprofit groups. They attract new donors, create awareness for your nonprofit, and can quickly raise quite a bit of money.

Traditionally, raffles were held in person at fundraising events, sporting events, fairs, etc. This was partly because it was illegal to run an online raffle and partly because they can attract more attendees and donors to an event.

These days, online raffles are becoming increasingly popular with some local governments even allowing for the sale and drawing of raffle tickets online.

But, before we go any further, let’s defining the differences between a good old fashioned raffle and an online raffle.

What is a raffle?

A raffle is a lottery where people purchase numbered tickets for a chance to win. Winners are randomly drawn from a physical container that holds all of the sold ticket numbers.

What are online raffles?

An online raffle is a lot like a traditional raffle but instead of taking place in person with physical tickets, it happens, you guessed it, online.

In an online raffle, participants purchase electronic tickets through a fundraising platform for a chance to win.

The benefits of selling raffle tickets online are:

How to run an online raffle in 11 easy steps

The best way to conduct a raffle over the internet is to, well, start. But, like most things, the hardest part is figuring out how to start. (And no, it's not with ticket sales.) Luckily, we’re here to help.

Step 1: Get to know the raffle laws in your area.

Before going too far with your raffle planning, we recommend checking out the local laws in your province or state. Most jurisdictions allow nonprofits and charities to hold raffles to raise money for their cause, but not as many allow nonprofits and charities to host a raffle online.

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!)

Or, you can check out US raffle rules by state: Legal guidelines by state for nonprofits and 501(c)3.

Step 2: Make sure your nonprofit is eligible.

In Canada and the US, the provinces and states that allow raffles to be held normally only allow them to be held by registered nonprofits or charities with a 501(c)3, etc. status.

It’s worth checking with your local government to make sure your nonprofit qualifies. But, the legal requirements in most provinces and states say:

Step 3: Choose they type of raffle fundraiser you want to host.

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 a 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.

Step 4: Fill out and submit all the required forms and include any additional information and fees.

There’s not a ton we can add to this section. But, we do recommend reading through the entire application before starting to fill it out. And, if your province or state has one, read or watch their how-to guide.

It’s also a good idea to reach out to your local government if it’s your first time applying. They might be able to give you a few tips or even help you fill out the application form.

Step 5: Wait for your confirmation. (Getting a permit to conduct a raffle can take up to 90 days.)

This one is important. The states that require you to have a license or permit to hold a raffle mean it. So, apply for your license or permit well in advance. Most states require 30 days, some 60 days and a few 90 days.

Whatever the case, don’t host your raffle until you have your license or permit in hand. (And pay special attention to the number, size, and type of raffle your permit or license allows you to hold.

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

To host a successful raffle, you are going to need great sponsors and prizes! We recommend reaching out to current donors and local businesses.

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.‍

Step 7: Make an online raffle website. (A fundraising platform can help.)

There are quite a few paid fundraising platforms out there that can help you host your online raffle.

And, even if your province or state doesn’t allow you to sell raffle tickets online, most can still help you keep track of your tickets sold, send emails and newsletters, display rules and regulations, showcase your prizes, etc.

But, there’s only one, 100% free online raffle platform for nonprofits: Zeffy.

Step 8: Make sure your virtual raffle tickets have the right information on them.

Most provinces and states have minimum requirements for what has to be included on your online tickets. Zeffy’s online raffle solution automatically generates raffle tickets for you that you can easily customize.

In general, it’s a good idea to include:

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

Step 9: Start selling and distributing raffle entries.

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 and sell more raffle 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.

Step 10: Promote your online raffles.

Once you’ve set everything up, you have to find people to participate!

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 about what they did with their raffle prizes and how the money raised from the event was used towards achieving your organization’s mission.

Step 11: Submit your nonprofit’s raffle report after your raffle has ended.

We know, the last thing anyone wants is more paperwork. But, most provinces and states require nonprofits to submit specific record-keeping forms and keep everything raffle-related for at least 3 years.

Most online raffle platforms will help you track ticket sales, names, addresses, prizes, etc. So, even if your state doesn’t allow online raffle ticket sales, it’s still a good idea to equip yourself with a platform to help with your fundraising efforts.

The 3 best online raffle platforms.

There are more than three (3) online raffle platforms out there. We’re going to list our favourite ones here. (Aside from Zeffy, obviously.) Things to keep in mind when choosing your online raffle and ticketing solution:

Zeffy: The only 100% free online raffle solution for nonprofits.

You know we love Zeffy. And really, what’s not to like? It’s 100% free for nonprofits—we even cover the credit card transaction fees. And our raffles and lotteries solution can help your nonprofit plan your online raffle events.

Our raffle features make running your online raffle easy:

Zeffy doesn’t just offer a raffle solution, we are a completely free and complete online fundraising platform that offers:

Givesmart can help inspire and engage your donors.

Givesmart is another great option for nonprofits looking for a complete fundraising platform.

The downside: Givesmart’s pricing isn’t super transparent. They do charge transaction fees (3.5 - 4% + $0.30 / transaction), but their platform and monthly fees are not publicly listed.

Givebutter has helped nonprofits raise over $1 billion.has helped nonprofits raise over $1 billion.

Givebutter has grown quickly over the past couple years. Their list of solutions is impressive and, if your donors are generous, it can end up costing you less than other paid platforms.

The downside: Givebutter claims to be free, but there are some hidden fees that can sneak up on you.

The pricing: If optional tips are enabled, no platform fees. If optional tips are disabled, Givebutter charges:

A real-life example of an online raffle.

Still not convinced that Zeffy’s online raffle solution is right for your nonprofit? Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Thomas-Elgin have been making the most of Zeffy’s raffling solution for just over a year and have already saved $1,791 by not paying any fees.

They’ve been so happy with Zeffy, that they are using more and more of our free fundraising solutions every year.

Frequently asked questions.

How to do an online raffle for free?

There’s only one, 100% free raffling platform for nonprofits: Zeffy.

How to create raffle 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.)

What are the different type of raffles?

There are a few different types of raffles out there. Check the raffle laws in your area to find out which ones are legal.

Keep learning about nonprofit raffles:

How to Do a Raffle: 9 Easy Steps for Fundraisers

US raffle rules by state: Legal guidelines for nonprofits and 501(c)3.

Nonprofit raffle and lottery rules and regulations.