When Levies for Schools and Non Profits Don’t Raise Money, Online Raffles Often Can

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Facing job loses, drastic drops in business revenue, and mortgages going underwater, tax payers are revolting and refusing to vote for increases to their property taxes to support local schools and other non profits. Across the country, more and more non profits are turning to an online version of a traditional fundraising tool, the raffle. But raffles online have a new tools to insure their success, ranging from viral marketing to youtube videos.

With the help of NPO Promotions (http://npopromotions.com), a school turns to raffles on the Internet rather than to tax levies to meet its fund raising goals during tough economic times.

Several arts organizations, such as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, annually raise a million or more in new funds by offering online raffles, often with the top prize being a “dream house.” Currently the Yerba Buena Center raffle is selling tickets at $150 each, top prizes consisting of a house valued at $3 million or $1.5 million in cash.

With the assistance of NPO Promotions, Ursuline Academy, a private school for girls in Blue Ash, Ohio, has been conducting successful online raffles for several years. Lori Haines, the Director of Special Events, heads up the raffle and reports that her school is increasing its raffles from one to two this year.

Ms Haines says, “This is our 14th year of raffles. We have moved into two raffles a year after determining the House Raffle was no longer profitable for us. The spring car raffle and the fall Big Green Cash raffle. Together we should exceed $175,000 in profit annually, at least this year.” Ursuline is offering particularly attractive prizes this year, obtained through discounts from local auto dealer CincyAutos.

Among the prizes are a choice of a new Jeep Wrangler, a Volkswagon Beetle convertible, or a Mazda Miata. Tickets through the special raffle web site, uaraffle.org, are selling briskly, and Ms Haines expects to meet the goal of selling 2000 tickets at fifty dollars each by the end of April.

NPO Promotions has been assisting non profits such as Ursuline with online raffles for about six years, according to the company’s president, Dr. Terry Erdt. “We provide various consulting services for planning and marketing raffles as well as tools to cut down the staff time needed to put on a raffle.” The viral marketing elements, video promotion, and expert search engine optimization get the word out, as well as motivate ticket buyers to recommend the site to friends. We can sometimes help a client non profit obtain free prizes, such as cars. For one of our clients Chrysler not only donated prizes but paid all overhead costs, including television advertising.

"Non profits often have a lot to offer business, so that if they know what they are doing they aren't asking for a handout but are saying, for instance, our cause may open a lot of eyes of potential customers for your products and services," he says.

Asked why more non profits do not hold online raffles, Dr. Erdt says, “Dependence upon levies appears to be one factor. Another is that fund raising staff assume they should try to cultivate only regular donors who want to support the mission of their non profit.” But, he says that supporters are often quite happy to participate in online raffles regularly, and in addition many people who do not care about the non profit itself are often delighted to have a chance to win exciting prizes.

Dr. Erdt's company, a sister company to the web design and hosting company, Multimedia Production Services (MPS.net), recommends to schools wanting to conduct a raffle not a “dream house” as the top prize, but a free college education. “Obviously a school cannot offer admission to college, but it can offer a prize of two to three hundred thousand dollars, and put the funds into an annuity, with the winner receiving the money when of college age. And in lieu of the college prize, there could be a cash equivalent. And such a prize will appeal to the families of students, a large number of people.”

“As a property tax payer, myself, I’d like to see more public schools and non profits depend less on taxes and more on the creative fund raising possibilities that online raffles offer,” he says. Dr. Erdt recommends coming up with compelling ideas for prizes and some creative marketing ideas, so that there's the chance of catching the eye of CNN, for instance. "Except in states such as Nevada, where the gaming industry has succeeded in preventing competition from non profits, a school or other non profit can offer its own 'lottery,' offering much better chances of winning to the ticket buyer than those given by a state."

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