Charities across the globe face a reckoning. Pandemic lockdowns have shuttered in-person donor events, draining charities’ coffers. With traditional sources of fundraising dwindling, nonprofits are eying 50/50 raffle programs to raise money, part of a broader digital fundraising trend sweeping across the nonprofit sector.
A new frontier in online fundraising: The 50/50 raffle
A nimble way for nonprofits to fundraise, online 50/50 raffles have recently gained traction amid a swell of individual giving and enabling technologies. Without the physical constraints of in-person events, online raffles offer a new stream of revenues with greater flexibility. Rain or shine, they allow nonprofits to reach donors—right at their fingertips.
Tickets are sold online, and the total amount raised is split evenly between the charity and the winning ticketer. Aided by a suite of digital tools, such programs create a close-knit environment, enabling organizations to slash costs, bolster finances and burnish brand recognition.
Many charities have capitalized on the trend. Hockey Canada, through an online 50/50 raffle in Alberta, raised $17 million—a world record—in a single day during the 2021 World Juniors. In Ontario, Health Sciences North generated $9.5 million in cumulative online 50/50 raffle sales in the year to June 2021, with proceeds going to projects about cancer, pediatric care and patient care. Ascend, which helped these two nonprofits launch online raffles, has to date enabled NPOs, charities and foundations big and small to raise over $850 million.
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Canada’s first nationwide 50/50
One organization decided to double down on fundraising efforts.
In July, the Canadian Olympic Foundation (COF) launched Canada’s first multi-provincial 50/50 raffle. Dubbed “Team Canada 50/50,” it aims to raise money to train the next cohort of Canadian Olympians. With prices ranging from $10 to $50, players across all provinces and territories except Newfoundland could purchase tickets online.
The launch of the Team Canada 50/50 draw coincided with a historic Olympic push: Ottawa sent 371 athletes to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the largest delegation since the 1984 Los Angeles Games. In a radio interview earlier this month, Cindy Yelle, a 1984 Olympic swimmer who is now CEO of the COF, said that the path to the Olympics was a “long road,” characterizing athletes’ Olympic dream as a collective effort.
It’s a sentiment shared by Michael Kramolc, the Manager of Ascend’s Customer Success Team. For six months, he had worked with colleagues to help kick-start the national 50/50 raffle for the COF. A hockey lover, Kramolc relishes the Olympic spectacle, “Summer, winter, it doesn’t matter!” he said. As a sports fan, he appreciated the opportunity to contribute to a program whose proceeds go directly towards training Olympic and amateur athletes.
|“If a client came to me saying their goal is to raise $100,000 in their first 50/50 campaign, but they only have one person working on the program, 100 people in their email marketing list, and no marketing budget, then I would tell them this is not a realistic goal. So, let’s figure out a plan that fits both your resources, marketing assets, and risk level, and build from there.”|
Planning for a successful multi-provincial 50/50
It was an ambitious plan—previous online raffles unveiled by charities were simply Provincial or Territorial. Licensing requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and donor bases can be geographically concentrated. In supporting an Olympic cause bearing considerable influence and prestige, the COF wanted the online raffle to reach as many Canadians as possible.
To make it happen, Ascend not only provided the technology but also helped the COF with a three-pronged strategy:
- Licensing advice: Kramolc’s team provided the COF ample guidance, including advice on licensing requirements.
- Legal consultation: Ascend’s legal team was looped in to help ensure compliance before the national 50/50 rollout.
- Marketing support: Ascend provided best practices across all of the different Provinces/Territories for what has worked best locally. Additionally, Ascend paired the Foundation with an external marketing firm to craft a strong social and paid search campaign that would help promote the online raffle program.
The COF succeeded in getting the word out: Team Canada 50/50 winners, for example, were announced on the CBC, along with social media mentions from high-profile influencers about the raffle program. Additionally, Kramolc’s team worked with the COF throughout the countrywide raffle program, offering expertise to the COF around best practices.
For any organization looking to launch a multi-provincial program, Kramolc has two pieces of advice: (1) Start the licensing application early as it takes “a lot of bandwidth”; and (2) assemble a separate, dedicated team to craft a marketing plan well in advance of your launch.
Go big online
North America has witnessed a spike in individual giving, and nonprofits have transitioned online to tap into the swell of donor enthusiasm. Already, the United States (1.44%) and Canada (0.77%) lead the world in individual giving, measured by the share of it as a percentage of national GDP. In both countries, individual giving surged in 2020, driven by causes related to animal welfare and health.
According to a 2020 survey on global trends in donation, 63% of American and Canadian donors prefer to give online. Among them, 47% of donors opt for online raffles and sweepstakes, compared with about 24% who prefer auctions.
All told, online fundraising has incredible potential to yield great returns. An online 50/50 raffle—be it regional or national—can boost your reach, attract a larger donor base, and help you reach or exceed your fundraising goals.