A nonprofit fundraising campaign is a tight-rope act. You have to achieve your goal while keeping expenses to a minimum. Grabbing the attention of potential donors is not easy — it requires an engaging pitch and sustainable marketing, which can get expensive in the long run.
This is why historically, some of the more popular (and effective) fundraising ideas tend to be short-term affairs. Think gala nights, charity auctions, matching gifts, awareness campaigns, phone-a-thons/telethons, or donation drives. In running terms, they are akin to sprints instead of marathons — short, high-energy affairs to raise funds for an emergency or a specific project. But what if your organization’s funding needs are a bit more long-term?
In 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 posed many challenges for nonprofits. Due to the pandemic restrictions, many organizations were compelled to adopt imaginative solutions and shift their focus on online fundraising, an unfamiliar landscape for many. Many nonprofits quickly pivoted, capitalized on evolving trends and emerged as winners.
The outcomes from online fundraising initiatives have been nothing short of remarkable — a report by OneCause claimed that 62 percent of nonprofits that had converted to virtual fundraising saw success and were 10 percent more likely to be raising at or above their original fundraising goals. As we inch back to life as we knew it, results like these have made it clear that online fundraising is here to stay.
In this article, you will learn an innovative way to raise funds effectively across many weeks and months. We’ll walk you through the basic concepts, share key benefits, and outline a step-by-step guide to implementing the fundraising program, all backed by success stories from real nonprofits.
What is Catch the Ace?
Catch the Ace (CTA) is a type of online progressive raffle game involving a deck of playing cards — it is what you get when you combine a 50/50 raffle game with a deck of cards and a progressive jackpot mechanism. Even if that sounds a bit complicated, the game itself is easy to understand.
But first, what is a progressive raffle?
In a progressive raffle, 50 percent of the ticket sales each week go to the nonprofit or charity. From the remaining 50 percent, 30 percent is added to the progressive jackpot and 20 percent is awarded to the weekly draw winner. The excitement keeps building with each passing week as the progressive jackpot gets larger and the odds of catching the ace increase. Depending on how many weeks it takes for someone to choose the Ace of Spades, the prize awarded can often go into the millions.
How does Catch the Ace work?
When hosting a game of Catch the Ace as a fundraiser for your nonprofit, tickets are sold online to the public through a dedicated webpage. The card chosen by the player is associated with the purchased ticket. However, throughout the game, the player won’t know which card they chose; they will only learn about their card if they win the weekly draw.
Each ticket enables the purchaser (or player) to potentially win two prizes:
(1) A chance to win the weekly jackpot and
(2) A chance to win the progressive jackpot.
The goal is to choose and reveal the Ace of Spades. So, the game may run for up to 52 weeks (since there are 52 cards) or until the Ace of Spades is caught. Every week, a draw is held where one ticket is randomly selected as the winning ticket.
The person with this winning ticket wins the weekly draw, which is 20 percent of all ticket sales in that week. Additionally, the card associated with the winning ticket is revealed and displayed on the website — this opens up two possibilities:
If the card revealed is not the Ace of Spades —
- As mentioned above, the winner still receives 20 percent of the weekly ticket sales;
- The chosen card is removed from future selection;
- The progressive portion of the ticket sales (i.e. 30 percent of the weekly sales proceeds) is rolled over to the next scheduled draw, meaning the progressive jackpot keeps growing each week until the Ace of Spades is found;
- Your nonprofit retains 50 percent of the weekly sales proceeds; and
- Ticket sales begin for the next weekly draw.
If the card chosen is the Ace of Spades —
- The winner receives the progressive jackpot (i.e. 30 percent of ticket sales from ALL weekly draws) plus as outlined above, 20 percent of all ticket sales from the current weekly draw; and
- The raffle is concluded.
Remember: For any player to have a chance to win each weekly draw and the progressive jackpot, they have to purchase tickets every week. Buying a ticket in any one week does not automatically enable the player to enter all future draws.
Trivia: Catch the Ace is also known by other names like Chase the Ace, Queen of Hearts, and Crown the King. However, none of these are related to the traditional card game which is also called Chase the Ace.
An online Catch the Ace fundraising event has many benefits
The Catch the Ace program is ideal for charity fundraising. With its highly engaging and excitement-building progressive jackpot component, the game has proven to be a massive hit among both nonprofits and the public. There are numerous media reports of Chase the Ace fundraisers captivating the attention of the public in Canada and helping nonprofits easily surpass their fundraising targets.
A similar story is unfolding here in the US as well. An offline Catch the Ace campaign run by the Faulkton Area Foundation in South Dakota attracted national attention in 2021 when the jackpot swelled to $1.87 million. It eventually raised more than $900,000 for the nonprofit, against an original target of just $200,000.
In many of these events, the lucky winners took home millions of dollars in prize money and the organizers easily surpassed their fundraising targets.
As we emerge from the pandemic, online fundraising continues to be a hot trend in the nonprofit world. Choosing to implement an online gaming-based fundraiser like Catch the Ace has several benefits:
- Guaranteed donor engagement: With its enticing game of chance concept, Catch the Ace allows you to achieve high levels of meaningful engagement with your online/mobile donors.
- Affordable and efficient marketing: Online marketing channels like email, social media, and online ad services are highly cost effective when used strategically. You can also rely on word of mouth, especially if the jackpot prize keeps building.
- Long-term revenue source: This is perhaps one of the main reasons to consider Catch the Ace for your next online fundraising event. With 50 percent of the ticket sales guaranteed each week, it can provide a steady and reliable stream of revenue.
- Get new recurring donors: In some previous Catch the Ace campaigns run by Ascend, up to 30 percent of the donors were new donors to the charitable organizations involved. Studies have shown that recurring donors are significantly more valuable for charitable organizations than one-time benefactors.
Case example: The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH)
Catch the Ace delivers $1.24 million for OFAH
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is a Canadian nonprofit with a focus on balancing nature conservation with the traditions of hunting and fishing. The organization had been promoting its annual conservation lottery among its 75,000-strong member base. This was a large and highly manual endeavor — lots of ticket books to print and mail and then lots of mailed back stubs to receive and process. After printing and mailing costs, but not factoring in labor, at the most, it would net $600,000 in donations.
A 24-week CTA campaign in partnership with Ascend achieved the following results:
- $1.24 million from total ticket sales;
- $230,000 awarded through weekly prize draws;
- $395,000 to the lucky Ace of Spades winner, who was an out-of-work tow truck driver;
- $425,000 raised, after prizes, fees, seeding the initial pot and media spend;
- The labor-intensive printing, mailing, and sorting was replaced with email marketing, social media promotion and advertising. Donation, sales, ticketing, tracking and the draws themselves were all managed via the Ascend platform; and
- Over 30% of the Catch the Ace players were net new to the database.
What’s interesting about OFAH’s first Catch the Ace program is that despite the huge $1.24 million in ticket sales, the program had no negative or cannibalization impact on the Federation’s other fundraising programs; it was pure incremental revenues.
In March 2022, OFAH concluded their second season of Catch the Ace after running for 51 weeks! With total ticket sales of over $4 million, the winner took home the progressive jackpot worth over $1.2 million plus the weekly draw of approximately $117,000.
How to setup your own Catch the Ace program
Starting an online charitable gaming program may seem like a complicated endeavor. However, it is relatively smooth and painless and can be accomplished in three simple steps:
1. Check local regulations
Catch the Ace is a form of a raffle, and as such, it is treated as gambling as players have to pay (or put something on the line) to participate. It is a regulated game in most U.S. states and Canadian provinces which means your nonprofit will need a state or provincial license to organize this game.
The rules and regulations differ in most jurisdictions. To find out more about all the legal requirements, the state’s Attorney General’s office is a good place to start in the U.S. while in Canada, you can find more information from the respective provincial Alcohol and Gaming Commission websites.
2. Find a technology partner for implementing the raffle
Hosting an online raffle requires that you bring together a few tools, systems, and expertise. This step can get overwhelming depending on the option you choose to go with. You have two choices:
- You can opt for a technology supplier who only offers the raffle platform; OR
- You can choose a full-service solutions provider like Ascend Fundraising Solutions.
Depending on how involved you want to be in the raffle implementation and execution, a solutions provider like Ascend (versus just a technology supplier) might be a better fit. While other players offer easy-to-use platforms, Ascend adds value by not only providing a world-class platform and technology solution, but also by working shoulder-to-shoulder as a true partner to ensure your programs achieve maximum impact. This means assisting with recommendations for a plethora of full-lifecycle services related to marketing, promotions, licensing, analytics, and much more.
For those that need even more help, Ascend can help with running entire raffle programs end-to-end as a fully outsourced partner. Ascend is the only provider in North America with the ability to provide a full turnkey solution for any nonprofit, charity or foundation looking to run an online raffle or lottery.
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3. Go live!
This is one area where online charitable gaming campaigns differ massively from traditional fundraisers; it only takes a few clicks to launch your online Catch the Ace program. The execution part is fully automated and managed by the technology partner, which makes this a stress-free way to raise money. All you have to do is congratulate the lucky winners and thank all your donors!
To sum it up
A significant portion of business and life has shifted to online platforms in recent years. Charitable donations are no different — going forward, nonprofit organizations will have to adapt and adopt digital fundraising methods for continued access to donors.
If you are new to online fundraising, Ascend is the ideal starting point — we provide support and guidance across all the stages of your charitable online gaming campaign. To learn more about scaling up your online fundraising game, schedule a call today!