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January 17, 2018

Fundraising Contests: A Win-Win

Today we feature a guest article from Annie Volk at TapKat Solutions.  We’ve been watching their successful online drawing campaign fundraising model with interest, so we asked Annie to tell us how fundraising contests are making an impact for nonprofits. Maybe this is something you could try in 2018!

If you’re a regular on social media, chances are you have seen persistent ads featuring the opportunity to win tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway, sit down with Jennifer Lawrence for a wine-tasting adventure or a chance to meet Daniel Craig and take home a brand new Aston Martin.

All of these contests are actually fundraisers for non-profits. The Hamilton drawing was to benefit (RED) in AIDS education and prevention, Jennifer Lawrence raised money for Represent.Us, and Daniel Craig’s contest raised funds for the United Nations Mine Action Services to remove active land mines in 18 countries around the world.

The drawings raised hundreds of thousands of dollars – significant funds that will have a tremendous impact on each organizations’ ability to sustain themselves and continue the life-changing work that they do.

These are all big organizations, but even smaller non-profits can successfully participate in this kind of contest-based fundraising and walk away having made a significant (positive!) impact on their bottom line.

Why Use a Contest for Fundraising?

Choosing a contest-based model for fundraising is a great move: it’s something fun that will attract new donors and exciting enough to re-engage previous donors. The added benefit is the national and potentially worldwide exposure your nonprofit will receive in the process.

However, choosing a prize that excites people is the key to successfully raising funds through this model.

Whether your prize is a trip to Europe, coveted tickets to an event, an automobile or something else, this model is a wonderful way to engage your existing donors with something new and exciting, connect with new donors, reach people who otherwise may not have donated to your cause and gain momentum as you continue doing work that has an impact.

Anyone Can Run a Contest-Based Fundraiser

The contests named above all have something in common: they rely on the power of celebrity to incentivize their donor base – and the fan bases of the celebrities – to raise funds.

But what if you don’t have access to a celebrity? Or, what’s more, what if you don’t have a connection to one of the big companies running these contest-based fundraisers?

The great news is that you don’t have to be friends with a celebrity to run a successful drawing. Your non-profit can use an online platform like to set up a drawing that successfully raises money – whether you’re buddies with a celebrity or not.

Need a prize idea? How about a Race Red Mustang, a Comic-Con meet and greet, a yoga adventure in Peru or a $500 gift certificate to the local hot spot? The key is to select something that you think will get your audience base buzzing. A great way to start looking for a prize is to contact your board and current staff members. You never know who might own a condo in Maui and offer up a weeklong get-away.

Running A Successful Drawing

Gaining traction from the start is key to running a prosperous contest. We suggest that you begin by marketing to your current base with an email blast, then expand your network with Facebook ads, Twitter posts, and rented email lists.

Take the Shelby American Collection for example. They are a car museum in Boulder dedicated to the preservation of American racing history, and their demographic loved seeing a Race Red Ford Mustang as a prize.

Case Study #1: The Shelby American Collection

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Size of Non-Profit: Less than 10 employees

Prize: 2017 Shelby Mustang GT350R

Funds Raised: $395,250

Notes: Over the course of 9 months, The Shelby American Collection raised close to $400k for their organization. They successfully secured a prize that their donor base would love and focused on spreading the word about the drawing!

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Platform Used:

Another great example is Traveling Stories, a San Diego-based non-profit dedicated to children’s literacy. They worked closely with Comic-Con to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the world famous, perpetually sold out annual San Diego Comic Convention. By the time they were finished with their drawing campaign, not only had they significantly grown their donor base but they also captured the attention of several celebrities in the comic book arena, which has led to further opportunities for the organization.

Case Study #2: Traveling Stories

Location: San Diego, California

Size of Non-Profit: Less than 10 employees

Prize: A San Diego Comic Con Experience for 2

Funds Raised: $20,120

Notes: Over the course of 3 months, Traveling Stories heavily promoted their mission of teaching underprivileged children to read through a 2017 drawing for an experience at San Diego Comic-Con. Next year, they’ll run their drawing for a longer period of time so they can raise more money!

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Platform Used:

Benefits of Integrating a Contest into Your Fundraising Program

When non-profits run a sweepstakes fundraiser, they typically enjoy the following benefits:

Expanded donor base (any time someone enters to win, the name and email address of that person is added to the non-profit’s donor base)…

  • Increased public awareness of your cause…
  • Re-engagement of past donors and/or board members who may have drifted…
  • Strengthened social media presence…
  • And, of course, significantly increased revenue to the organization!

Many non-profits have seen great success using contest-based fundraising. If you think this fundraising platform may be right for your organization, visit  or contact Annie directly at

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