The Advantages of a Nonprofit Sweepstakes Fundraiser: 10 Benefits You Need to Know

Fundraising is, of course, a critical activity for your nonprofit organization. And now that things are increasingly moving online, choosing a fun and easy method for individual donors to contribute to your cause is more important than ever. 

Sweepstakes fundraising is all the rage in the nonprofit space at the moment, in large part because it is an accessible and inclusive form of fundraising. When everyone can enter the sweepstakes with a donation amount that works for them, and anyone can win (not just the biggest donors), sweepstakes are a great way to excite your donor base, reactivate lapsed donors, and attract new donors. 

In this post, we cover the top 10 benefits of sweepstakes fundraising for nonprofits, including:

  1. Inclusive Sweepstakes: Everyone can participate.
  2. Easy Giving: Sweepstakes simplify the donation process.
  3. Significant Funds: Nonprofits raise substantial money through their first sweepstakes.
  4. Risk-Free Prizes: Use consigned or donated prizes for no financial risk.
  5. Cash Flow Boost: Sweepstakes generate consistent cash flow.
  6. Donor Growth: Proven method to expand donor base and raise funds.
  7. Automated Management: Streamlined process, less work for staff and volunteers.
  8. Effortless Winner Drawing: Picking the winner is straightforward.
  9. Sustainable Fundraising: Repeatable and reliable for ongoing support.
  10. Donor Favorite: Supporters love engaging in sweepstakes.

Read on to learn more about what sweepstakes are, how they work, and how they can be a powerful fundraising tool for your organization.

What is a Nonprofit Sweepstakes Fundraiser?

At its most essential, a sweepstakes fundraiser works like this: your nonprofit finds an eye-catching prize, and donors enter for a chance to win the prize. Run a similar sweepstakes campaign every year, and with each new sweepstakes you’ll raise more money and gain more donors. Paid entries are donations to your nonprofit.

For donors, a sweepstakes is really exciting when the prize is a bucket list-worthy item or experience. This could be anything from a family vacation to Disneyland, to a sparkling new Corvette, to tickets to see Taylor Swift in concert. Prizes can really vary from sweepstakes to sweepstakes — as long as the prize is highly desirable and a bit difficult to attain, then donors will love it and enter to win.

Top 10 Benefits of Running a Sweepstakes Fundraiser

#1: Inclusive Sweepstakes: Everyone can participate.

Ever notice that some donors are priced out of winning at a silent or live auction? Or that your grassroots donors might not attend your gala events because of the ticket price? With auctions, only the top bidder wins, and many others can’t even play.

When you run a sweepstakes, everyone gets to play. The average sweepstakes donation is around $60, which is right in the sweet spot for grassroots donors (that is, donors who contribute less than $100 annually). With sweepstakes, the wealthiest donor doesn’t automatically win: anyone who enters has a shot at the grand prize, which levels the playing field and involves people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

In 2022, Michael from New Hampshire entered a sweepstakes for a 1966 Corvette in a fundraiser for the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. He felt comfortable making a $25 donation to the sweepstakes, which raised a grand total of $172,600 from grassroots donors like Michael. 

Months later, when it was time to draw the winner for the Corvette, Michael’s ticket number was randomly selected by the random number generator. He won the Corvette! Michael was thrilled, and so was the nonprofit. It feels really great to run a fundraiser where donors at any level have a shot at taking home the grand prize. 

This means a lot to donors. It keeps them interested, engaged, and enthusiastic about the sweepstakes when they know that with each donation, they’re strengthening their chances of winning a potentially life-changing prize.

#2: Easy Giving: Sweepstakes simplify the donation process.

Incentive-based giving is when a donor gets something in return for their monetary gift, and it can be a powerful way to activate your donor base. Donors are more likely to give when they get something in return, and they’re much more likely to give when they have a chance to win something life-changing, like a new Ford Mustang or bikes for the whole family. 

In 2022, Little Kids Rock, an organization dedicated to restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in school, was gifted a Gibson guitar signed by Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard. They chose to run a sweepstakes, and with such an exciting incentive, their donor base jumped on board. 

In the end, they raised $28,325 with a donated prize, which made a big positive difference toward helping them achieve their strategic objective.


#3: Significant Funds: Nonprofits raise substantial money through their first sweepstakes.

Although it’s true that sweepstakes often raise more money year after year, it’s also true that nonprofits can raise meaningful funds with their very first sweepstakes. For example, Ski Utah raised $60,325 with their first sweepstakes in 2022. 

Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Ski Utah represents 15 ski resorts and over 250 corporate partners and sponsors with the common goal of encouraging the world to ski in Utah. Their 2022 program, Discover Winter, focused on expanding the sport by introducing ethnically diverse and LGBTQ+ individuals to skiing/riding through a series of lessons. They chose to fundraise with a sweepstakes, noting the alignment with their vision of inclusivity.

For a prize, they chose to give away “gold passes,” that is, ski passes that grant the holders access to any of the 15 ski resorts they represent, plus some exciting gear and a chance for helicopter skiing (ie., jumping out of a helicopter to ski down the mountain — very advanced!) They successfully raised $60,325 for the Discover Winter program by choosing a highly desirable prize, and promoting it to their donor base via email. 

With sweepstakes, part of the fun is the anticipation of winning. Donors love to dream about what it would be like if they were to win the grand prize, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your organization’s first sweepstakes, or your seventh. That anticipation is a big part of why nonprofits can do very well, even with their first sweepstakes.

#4: Risk-Free Prizes: Use consigned or donated prizes for no financial risk.

When sweepstakes prizes are sourced on consignment, it means that the nonprofit does not have to pay for the prize until a set amount of money is raised that covers the cost of the prize, plus ensures that the nonprofit raises the funds they need. Prize providers are typically on board with consignment purchases when the prize is something that is in high demand, or has no upfront cost, like a travel experience.

An alternative to getting a prize on consignment is to have a prize donated for your sweepstakes. Gift of Life Howie’s House is a nonprofit focused on smoothing the difficult and often unpredictable journeys of organ transplant families by providing them with affordable lodging, meals, transportation, supportive services, and a place of comfort and stability. 

In early 2023, one of their board members donated a pair of tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour with just a couple weeks until the Philadelphia concert. Knowing they had a short window to announce and promote the sweepstakes, Howie’s House jumped right in, sharing on social media and through email, and it was a huge hit! Their donors immediately began donating, and the sweepstakes also attracted new donors, raising a total of $24,800 in just a couple short weeks. 

Gifts from board members can make for excellent sweepstakes fundraiser prizes!

#5: Cash Flow Boost: Sweepstakes generate consistent cash flow.

As soon as the first donor makes a donation to your sweepstakes, your nonprofit has money to work with. With sweepstakes fundraisers, there are no restrictions on how or when you can use the money raised. Donations will be batched and deposited directly into your nonprofit’s bank account as they come in, so cash is flowing on a regular basis. 

Imagine if you had an extra source of cash flow for the entire duration of your sweepstakes. It adds up quickly and can make a big difference to your organization. 

Speaking of cash flow, note that the leading online sweepstakes fundraising platforms do not charge upfront fees or monthly subscription fees, which means that there is no financial risk to your nonprofit to run this kind of fundraiser. (If a platform is asking for an upfront fee to run your sweepstakes, keep looking — there are other services available that are more nonprofit-friendly.) 

#6: Donor Growth: Proven method to expand donor base and raise funds.

99% of sweepstakes attract new donors, which means that nonprofits have a huge opportunity to grow their donor base while at the same time raising money for their organization.

The Cobra Experience, a car museum in Martinez, California, started running annual sweepstakes fundraisers in 2020. At the time, their newsletter list was around 3,500 people. After running four sweepstakes, their list has grown to over 20,000 names! This kind of growth allowed the organization to raise more money with each subsequent sweepstakes, and expand their exhibits in exciting and meaningful ways.

Similarly, The Shelby American Collection started running sweepstakes in 2016 with 800 names on their donor list. By the end of 2022, their list had grown to over 52,000 names… and it’s still growing. 

Both these museums and other organizations running sweepstakes fundraisers see a healthy growth in their donor base email lists, plus heavier traffic at their brick and mortar locations. As more people find out about their sweepstakes, learn about their cause, and grow interested in the organization, the nonprofit is able to sustain itself and grow. 

#7: Automated Management: Streamlined process, less work for staff and volunteers.

The right sweepstakes fundraising platform should be built to include everything you need to run a sweepstakes so your team can spend time focused on promoting the fundraiser rather than managing logistics. 

Ticket numbers should be issued automatically, and your sweepstakes donor database with all the donors’ details should be maintained and available to download.  

With a solid and reliable sweepstakes fundraising platform, Sweepstakes Rules and Regulations are written for you and so are the helpful FAQs. Plus, your donors receive an automated email donation receipt including their entry ticket numbers, your nonprofit EIN, and a thank-you note.

#8: Effortless Winner Drawing: Picking the winner is straightforward.

Rather than printing out paper tickets, filling them in a giant drum, and manually drawing the winner, an online sweepstakes fundraising platform provides this service digitally. When you’re ready to pull the winner, you’ll simply log in to your dashboard and use the built-in random number generator to select your winning ticket number. It should be just as easy as clicking a button! 

#9: Sustainable Fundraising: Repeatable and reliable for ongoing support.

Sweepstakes aren’t a one-and-done fundraiser. In fact, organizations that run sweepstakes year after year with a similar prize each year quickly find that:

  • Donors stick around because they’re hoping that this will be the year that they win, 
  • Metrics help your team get better and better at promoting the sweepstakes,
  • The promotional partnerships you create during year one are even more effective in years two, three, four, and so on, 
  • And each year there’s more buzz, more excitement, more anticipation for a winner to be drawn!

All this equals cash in the bank for your nonprofit. Most nonprofits that run a sweepstakes every year see their sweepstakes revenue grow year after year… and they also see their donor list grow significantly from year to year.

In 2016, The Shelby American Collection, a small nonprofit car museum in Boulder, Colorado, ran their first sweepstakes for a Shelby Mustang. They raised a little over $250,000 — more than enough to cover a year’s worth of expenses. The sweepstakes was a huge success after years of running galas that didn’t offer much return on the investment of time, volunteer energy, and funds. 

They decided to run another sweepstakes the next year, and the next, and seven years and seven sweepstakes later, the museum consistently raises over $1 million with each sweepstakes. In 2022, they brought in $1,491,550. In 2023, they are on track to meet or beat that record

The Shelby American Collection isn’t the only nonprofit to discover the power of sweepstakes repetition: other nonprofits have found that incorporating a sweepstakes into their annual fundraising strategy accomplishes a few things: 

  • Each consecutive sweepstakes tends to raise more than the last. As long as you select a similar prize and timeline for the sweepstakes, donors will stick with you and the excitement builds. More people will find out about the sweepstakes and jump on the bandwagon. 
  • 99% of sweepstakes bring in new donors. We’ve seen it time and again: sweepstakes are just too exciting for donors to resist! Through email, social media, website marketing, in-person event marketing, and word of mouth, the buzz around sweepstakes builds quickly, and donors who haven’t been on your radar will enter your sweepstakes. 

The power of sweepstakes fundraising builds over time. Pick and path and stick with it and you will find sweepstakes success.

#10: Donor Favorite: Supporters love engaging in sweepstakes.

With sweepstakes, a big part of the fun is the anticipation of winning. When you source a great prize, with beautiful images and descriptive text, your donors will be extremely excited to enter the sweepstakes! 

Donors love to dream about what it would be like if they were to win the grand prize. That anticipation is a big part of why so many sweepstakes see a huge uptick in donations toward the end of the entry period. At this point, nonprofits often see donors enter their sweepstakes more than once — in all the excitement and buzz about the sweepstakes coming to a close, donors want to increase their chances of winning by entering multiple times. 

Many nonprofits have reported the enthusiastic nature of their entrants. Often, donors are extremely supportive of the winner, commenting and “liking” on social media. Donors will even ask about the next sweepstakes within minutes of learning who won! It’s fun all around. 

Donors love it, nonprofits have a great time, and important causes are funded by sweepstakes. It’s a great way to fundraise.


Choose the Right Prize for Your Sweepstakes

Selecting the right prize is important, and very fun! Sometimes it’s obvious what the prize should be (a car museum giving away a car, a dirt bike club giving away a dirtbike, an avalanche awareness nonprofit giving away a snowmobile, a ski organization giving away ski passes, a rock climbing club giving away a climbing trip, etc.)

But other times it’s a little less clear what the best prize would be. In that case, we’ve written up some suggestions for the best sweepstakes prizes. Dig in — and have fun!

Content collaboration with:

Allison Volk, Marketing Director, TapKat

Allison Volk is the marketing director at TapKat Solutions, Inc. She loves teaching nonprofit professionals about the world of sweepstakes fundraising and helping them meet their goals with inclusive, exciting, and effective fundraising sweepstakes! 


About TapKat

TapKat is an online sweepstakes fundraising platform for nonprofits. With TapKat’s cutting-edge technology, nonprofits can easily create, manage, and run online sweepstakes designed to help increase donations and grow your donor base. TapKat is committed to helping nonprofits with innovative fundraising tools that are simple for nonprofits and fun for donors!