Raffling a Car—Not As Easy As It Seems

Dear Kim,

My organization was given a car and our fundraising team is unsure how best to maximize our return on it. We think a raffle is the best way to raise the most money, but we don’t know how much the tickets should be. We initially priced them at $50 a ticket, but we are getting resistance. What do you recommend?
—Gift Horse

Dear Gift Horse,

There are two questions you want to answer with this item: 1) What is your fundraising goal? 2) How many people are available to help you reach your goal? Consider these answers in conjunction with the value of the car and how many people would want it. For example, if your goal is to get as much money as you can as easily as you can, you might want to simply sell the car. If you have a lot of volunteers to help you, and you want to bring in some new donors, then you may want to raffle the car, as you suggest. If it is a new car, it will take a lot of $50 tickets to really raise the true value of the car. If you have access to a slightly more affluent audience of people who would really want the car, you may want to set the raffle ticket price high (say $250) and only “sell” 100 or 200 tickets. That way each person has a decent chance of winning the car. If you want to create more work for your committee, but possibly bring in much more money, you may want to make the car the centerpiece of a larger auction event. The car would be auctioned along with other high and low ticket items and your net could be very high.

Since you are getting resistance to the idea of $50 for a ticket, by which I am assuming people want to charge less than $50, I would not go the raffle route unless this is a used car and you think you can move enough tickets to realize its value. Be sure to watch the law in your state with regard to raffles. Some states and even some towns are much stricter than others in enforcing gambling laws, which a raffle usually falls under.

Your letter is helpful because it shows that a gift is not always as straightforward as it seems. Getting a free car seems fantastic, and it is, but it creates its own set of worries and work. One of the great outcomes of a gift like this is that it makes you think more clearly about all your fundraising goals.