Running A Charity Lottery

Bags. Photo Credit: antjeverena @ Flickr

Running a charity lottery can be an amazing fund raiser for your special cause. But it can also be a bit of a headache, so you need to plan carefully long before you even start.

Even in their simplest form a charity lotto, or even a raffle, can prove effective at raising funds. It's just the human nature of 'incentivised giving'. That is, your supporters are potentially being rewarded for supporting the cause. That sense of winning even something very modest encourages people to donate. But it not only encourages existing supporters, it also greatly breaks down that barrier to gaining support from new people too. It can also increase the level of donation.

Of course, once your have the support of people in a mailing list (you were planning on using your lottery/raffle to collect emails and street addresses weren't you?), they are then far more likely to be receptive to your other fund raising methods.

Setting One Up

To get started can range from simple to fairly complex, mostly depending on the country in which you want to run the draw.

Some countries, such as the UK, make things quite easy for charitable groups. It's the size of the lottery itself and the value of the draw that determine how complex the legal side will be. If you have a few thousand people paying e.g. £1 a week to play, then you only need register with the local authority. This is really cheap and easy to do. Once you get into the region of £250,000 per year then things get more complex and you need to be licensed by the Gambling Commission. The cost is reasonable however, and once you reach this level you will of course have plenty of funds to justify the costs and extra work required.

For other countries things may or may not be a lot more complicated. You will of course need to contact your local authorities to establish the rules and requirements where you live.

Promoting Your Lottery

This is one of the key parts of your plan that need to be well defined before you start. You may be small, but you want your lottery to generate revenue from the start, not be a drain on limited resources!

The best approach is to set the first draw date to be well in the future - months ahead. Then you can start to sign-up your players ready for that first draw. That way you can be 'in profit' from the very first draw, and just continue to grow from there.

Start, of course, by promoting to your existing supporters. Use your newsletters, your email list, your magazine, your Facebook page - whatever communication channels you have. Announce the launch, start getting those supporters signed up. Then keep on promoting to those channels - keep them updated and interested in how your plans are progressing. The more involved people are the more likely they are to want to help and support you.

Share Some Lottery Tips

It might sound strange, but now you have a lottery you want people to be excited about picking their numbers and playing. The big national lottery companies are very good at this, and it has spawned a whole industry of lottery tips and systems.

Make your draw more interesting and exciting - video the numbers being generated (by machine or computer). Let players watch the draw 'live' so they can ticket off their numbers. Regularly send out some fun lottery tips on how to pick numbers. Ask your players to share their tips too. Make things as interactive as possible.

Keep Your Lottery Expanding

Now you have the game up and running, you want to keep that momentum going. So next, get those people who are already playing to help you find more people. Give them tools to make 'telling a friend' as simple as possible. Personal referrals can make for a very effective way to introduce new players. You can even incentivise your supporters by rewarding them in some way - anything from a pin to a t-shirt. Or bonus lottery entries for free!

Of course, when you do start to run your draws, make sure you constantly promote the winners too! It may be every week or only once a month, but get photos and personal stories of your happy winners. Share those stories in your marketing to recruit more players. This can really snowball once it gets underway.

Where to Next?

You can find the best free donation sites, or read about Strategic Philanthropy, or learn more about how to volunteer for a charity organisation.

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