Fundraising Raffles – the Complete Guide

Calling all volunteer fundraisers! Don’t we love a good raffle? They’re easy to run, and can bring in lots of extra money for your cause. Here is our quick reference guide for all you need to know: from planning a raffle, to getting a gambling license, asking for prize donations, and how to announce the winners.

Permissions you might need

The definition of a lottery is a game where you pay to enter, with at least one prize, and where winning that prize is based on chance. Generally, you need a license if you are going to sell tickets to members of the public over an extended period of time.

Broadly there are two types of raffle: 

Lotteries that do require a license or registration

  • Small Society Lotteries 

Lotteries that don’t require a license or registration  

  • Incidental, small raffles, e.g. as part of an event 
  • Private
  • Customer 
  • Private Society Lottery 

We will only look at the specific rules for Small Society Lotteries and Incidental Lotteries, because that is the most likely to suit your needs as a volunteer fundraiser.

Small Society Lotteries

It’s likely that if you are reading this you will want to run a society lottery, selling tickets to the general public over a extended period of time – we will go into these in more detail below. The Gambling Commission website states that, ‘If your society lottery has proceeds which exceed £20,000 for a single draw or aggregated proceeds exceed £250,000 in a calendar year then you need to apply for a licence from us’. 

Small or society lotteries must be promoted as being for charitable gain or to enable participation in sport or cultural activity, and any non-commercial purpose other then that of private gain. 

Again the Gambling Commission explains it, ‘Small society lotteries do not require a licence but must be registered with the local authority in the area where the principal office of the society is located. Details of registration requirements and procedures should be available from the licensing department of the relevant local authority’. 

Incidental Lotteries 

Some lotteries don’t need to be registered at all, for example incidental lotteries where all the tickets are sold on the night when the prize will be announced.

An incidental lottery must

  • be for charitable gain only
  • take place at an event on a single day
  • must not deduct more that £100 for expenses etc
  • If you buy prizes you can’t deduct more than £500 to cover the cost of purchases
  • if prizes are donated these can be of unlimited value (read on for tips on how to ask for prize donations)
  • the lottery cannot offer a rollover of prizes 
  • tickets can only be sold at the location and during the event 

To read the full set of rules please look here and here. 

How to ask businesses to donate prizes 

  1. Start with people you and others know. Send an initial email request with the full detail of why you are raising  money (make sure to include the story of your cause to help encourage a positive response) and how many raffle tickets you hope to sell. Then follow up face to face. Don’t do this by yourself - ask the whole team to get involved, and get them to spread the word amongst their own contacts. Keep a record of who you’ve asked to help out, and who they are requesting donations from, to avoid duplications.
  2. Approach local businesses, or larger organisations with a local branch. Once you have those new connections, nurture them for future benefit with regular updates on your cause, as you would any other donor.
  3. If you are only running the raffle once in a year, make a note of what you did, who you contacted, and their response This will help next year’s organiser to personalise their approach to the best end, rather than inadvertently offend people who have a long standing relationship with the organisation.

More information:

The Gambling Commission

You may also like to read:

The Beginners Guide to Fundraising 

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