In the first quarter of 2020, when the WHO declared a world pandemic, Canadian charities, like other charities worldwide, were forced to rethink their fundraising activities in a hurry. Events traditionally held in conference centres, hotels, and other in-person venues were suddenly no longer logistically feasible or were not permitted by law.
For most non-profit organizations, the logical response to cancelled major fundraisers was to maximize their online efforts. Within weeks of the lockdowns, multiple new online 50-50s, car lotteries and “chase the ace” raffles popped up online – all managed digitally from ticket sales on down!
The idea of lotteries as a fundraising tool is, of course, not new. What has changed however, largely in response to the pandemic, is the number of active lotteries that run on end-to-end digital platforms. The uptick in numbers is a combination of new entrants and organizations who switched from “paper” raffles under municipal licensing to fully digitized lotteries under provincial licensing. The all-digital platform offers the perfect solution to fundraising without the need for any human physical contact.
Is your charity too late to join the fray?
Many charities have already made the move to online raffles and lotteries, but others are still waiting on the sidelines, wondering if it is too late to jump into the fray. Is the window of opportunity closed with so many new lotteries already cluttering the space?
Our 20Eight clients will tell you that even in a competitive market, the upside can be significant. 2020 –2021 was the most profitable fundraising period for some of our clients. Fully automated digital platforms helped them raise more funds with less staff and volunteer hours than traditional in-person events.
Building a field of dreams online does not sell tickets. A good marketing plan will.
For every successful online lottery, several others are languishing in cyberspace – a source of disappointment for the organizations behind them. The online raffle landscape is not a “plug and play” proposition. Strong marketing leadership and many hours of work behind-the-scenes are necessary for planning as well as for the execution of the events.
What you need to know before you apply for licensing
Yes – you have to apply for licensing! Each province has its Alcohol and Gaming Commission with distinct regulations. Researching the regulations specific to your region is a good place to start.
Before you submit your application for licensing, you will need the following questions answered:
- What type of lottery do you want to offer?
- Car, home or other major prize lottery?
- “Catch The Ace” raffle?
- One of the most important decisions you can make is finding the perfect price for your tickets. Your pricing decision has a direct impact on revenue, so it is crucial to find that sweet spot between too high and too low. There are factors which may help guide you in your decision: What is the pricing of your closest competition? What is your estimate of the spending threshold of your target audience? What kind of transaction costs will you have per ticket sold?
- Not all organizations can secure big prizes like the CHEO Dream Home or the Princess Margaret Home Lottery. But the reality is that your prize must be exciting and have mass appeal as it will be a determining factor in your lottery’s success. For example, if your prize is a car, the brand and model will, without a doubt, have a significant impact on ticket sales. Sexy sells!
- Don’t forget the impact of early bird and secondary prizes on ticket buyer psychology. Secondary prizes are extra motivation for your audience to purchase and they help keep the raffle momentum alive until the grand prize is awarded.
- Your provincial alcohol and gaming commission will have a formula for maximum revenue allowed relative to your prize value (for prize lotteries). In Ontario, for example, the value of the prizes cannot be greater than 20% of your revenue objective.
- Are there major established fundraisers taking place in your community at the same time you want to run your charitable lottery? Will seasonality be a factor? These are essential points to be taken into consideration.
- Currently, the AGCO is advising newcomers to the world of charitable gaming lotteries to plan a nine-week turnaround for eligibility and license application approval.
- Which approved gaming supplier will you choose?
- Before you submit your application, you must select an accredited gaming provider to partner with. Many of our lottery customers use the services of Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN).
Optimizing your Lottery Revenue
Inspire confidence with professional landing pages and emails. A professionally designed and user-friendly online presence is key to inspiring confidence with potential ticket buyers. You are asking people to trust you with their credit cards and personal information. Offer ticket buyers a seamless experience online. Research shows as many as 85% of transactions are on mobile – is your site mobile responsive and designed for an easy checkout?
Your email list is still your bread and butter. Go for the low hanging fruit first. Someone who has shown support in the past is more likely to buy your lottery tickets than the average person. Take out your trusted email lists, clean them up and segment them according to your marketing strategy.
And, did you know that as a charity, some CASL rules other businesses must follow do not apply to you? Here is a great example: A few of our lottery clients were not taking advantage of the CASL “opt-in” exemption before working with us. When we expanded their email lists to include “all” instead of only “opted-in” subscribers, ticket sales increased immediately! Of course, it is always good practice to remove anyone that unsubscribes to from your list.
Don’t be afraid to put muscle behind your online advertising. A great email database will get you out of the gate, but solid online advertising campaigns will widen your sales net. Put your lottery in front of as many eyeballs online as possible. If you have a fantastic prize and people in your target area know of your cause, you have an excellent recipe for selling tickets to people who would not otherwise even know your lottery exists. Plus, some people are habitual lottery ticket buyers and seek out new lotteries. Make sure you show up on their radar for your current and future lotteries.
We have been asked the question many times… why should we spend on advertising for our charitable lottery? The answer is easy – we have our own clients’ success to reference. The following illustrates the results for three scenarios based on real clients running 50-50 lotteries.
Digital lotteries are here to stay
All of us want to get back to a sense of normalcy. One day soon, we will be shopping in stores and working in offices again. With some luck, we might even dress up for galas or train for walks and runs to support our favorite charities!
In the meantime, most of us agree that trends accelerated by the pandemic are now settling in for good. There is no reason to believe that digital lotteries will suddenly disappear post-pandemic. The most likely scenario for the future is a hybrid version of raffles, where non-profit organizations can capitalize on both in-venue and online sales at the same time and will have the ability to quickly pivot should circumstances change.
Will the online environment become even more competitive? Yes —without a doubt. But that’s where a strong marketing team saves the day. The window of opportunity will not close; rather, it will open wider, but only for organizations that have a solid plan.
If your organization is still on the fence? Online lotteries are here to stay, so jump off and get onboard!
20Eight is a digital marketing agency that provides turnkey solutions for non-profit organizations looking to maximize their lottery ROI. The data available from managing more than a dozen online lotteries enables our team to build results-based plans with realistic expectations.
Our team of passionate digital marketers is here to help. Contact us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (613) 228-2028.