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Raffles and auctions can be great fundraisers. They depend almost entirely on what prizes and other items you get to raffle or auction though! First and foremost, the items you raffle off should be free, low cost, or donated so you make a good profit.

It also has to align with your mission (or not be against it). It definitely should be easy to get! You don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of time searching for free stuff, just to make a few bucks. Your time is valuable. 

So how do you get free prizes and items for your auction or raffle? And where do you get them from? These are the questions we will try to answer here, along with a sample narrative to get you started. 

gift basket - free prize for charity auction or raffle

Define Your Raffle or Auction Purpose

What are you raising funding for? This is the most important question. And the second most important question is, what is your fundraising goal? If you aim to raise lots of money, you need good prizes (or a lot of them!). First, though, any fundraiser depends on the message. It has to be:

  1. Targeted. You can try a general raffle for organizational support, but it might be hard. You probably will be more successful if you target a project or program with specific outputs. If you’re a food relief organization, for example, you might have a raffle for a Thanksgiving dinner instead of for your general fund. Tell people how many meals their ticket or donation will cover. 
  2. Urgent. Tell people that the event or funding is needed, very soon, for a specific reason. Thanksgiving is a fixed date. Or a matching gift pledged by a big donor will expire. 
  3. Personal. Tell people why their gift matters. Why they should be involved. Basically, make it personal with an individual impact story and use a lot of “you” in your language. 

Also read: How to Run a Reverse Raffle Fundraiser

Set Up a Support Team for Getting Free Items and Prizes

If you try to do this by yourself, you’ll spend too much time. What you need is a group of volunteers or other staff members to help you and spread the work amongst yourselves! 

Make a List of Potential Donors

We have a good list of 21 corporate funders and others that give airline and game tickets for example. Your best bets are folks in your community. Get together with your support team and make a list of boutiques, shops, stores, corporate affiliate offices, sports teams, and restaurants in your area. If you can find the managers’ emails, great, put them in a spreadsheet.  You can also reach out to the business bureau in your area and other associations to access several companies at the same time. 

Also read: 6 Tricks to Find the Right Donor Prospects for Your Cause

Write a Letter to Send to Potential Donors

Write a letter that you can send to the prospect list asking for a donation for items to auction off or prizes. If you have the capacity to take the letter door to door, do it! Or send an email (especially if you are experiencing Covid restrictions). 

You’ll want to link the program description if you can.  If passing out hard copies, print it on the organization’s letterhead and have the director sign it. You should include a good brochure or one-pager for the project. 

Here’s a content sample. 

Dear (name, first if you have it, of the manager of the business):

Did you know that every year Food for Families organizes a Thanksgiving Dinner [include link to program page] for at least 500 families in our community who don’t have enough to eat? 

I didn’t either. Until last year, when my own family couldn’t afford food. A friend referred us to the list and they brought all the ingredients for a turkey dinner (including pumpkin pie!) to my house 3 days before the holiday. I was relieved with joy when I saw my little 5-year-old munching on the drumstick. How was I going to tell him we couldn’t have Thanksgiving?

That one act of community kindness was because a group of volunteers got together and asked companies like yours to donate something to the annual turkey day raffle. 

This year we have even more hungry families. The organization needs to raise $7,750 to feed all 682 families on the list. 

We’re not asking for money or time, but simply a worthy product from your shelves that we can raffle for funds. 

Since the raffle is virtual through all of our many networks and gets TV coverage on top of it, over 25,000 people will see your name on the donor list! 

I’d appreciate it if you could consider making a donation this year. I can come to pick the prize up personally this coming week if you’d like to schedule a time! My number is 888-888-8888, or you can email me back and let me know a good hour to pass by. 

Thanks for your support, and for all that you do to help our community. 

Follow-up with the Prospects and Donors for Your Raffle or Auction

Don’t just send a letter or email. Call to follow up! And if they give, make sure you send a thank you letter within a few days from the organization’s director. 

To summarize, raffles or auctions don’t need to be difficult to put together! Especially if you plan ahead and follow the best practices of fundraising in general. It’s a great way to get your community involved in your cause. 

Do you have an innovative or fun way to get prizes for your auctions and raffles? Please share in the comments!


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