Fundraiser Raffle vs Silent Auction

Many groups wonder whether a raffle fundraiser will raise more funds than a silent auction fundraiser offering the same items. Unsurprisingly, the answer is a qualified maybe because it depends on a wide variety of factors.

Listed below are the factors you should consider when choosing between a raffle fundraiser and a silent auction:

  • Silent auction event attendance – Crowd size is a huge factor in how how much money a silent auction raises. The bigger the better as long as they actively participate. If you crowd is small or only a small percentage of the crowd participates in the auction, then a raffle might be a better choice.
  • Silent auction audience participation in bidding – Get people involved by having everyone register for a bidding number, by grouping items by theme, by scattering tables around the event, color coding themed areas, staggering closing times, and using an emcee to hype the big ticket items and remind everyone to place bids.
  • Previous silent auction performance – How well previous auctions performed is also very important. Did you raise more then the fair market value of your auction items? Did your bid sheets have minimum bids and mandatory bid increments. Did you offer a Buy It Now or Guaranteed Purchase option on the more expensive items?
  • Community support – The size of your community and the amount of supporters you have is another big factor. The more people you can get money from, the more money you’ll raise. With raffles, you need more reach. With silent auction fewer people, but more motivated to participate in the auction bidding.
  • Number of volunteers – How many volunteers you can count on is another consideration. It takes far fewer people to coordinate a raffle than an auction. But, you also need people willing to sell the raffle tickets and that takes some effort.
  • Fundraising raffle ideas – What type of raffle you’re doing and what big prizes you offer has a big effect on how popular your raffle will be. Dream raffles are an easier sale, but there’s nothing wrong with doing lower-priced raffles as well.
  • Raffle ticket sales – For a raffle to succeed, you have to sell a lot of raffle tickets. Usually, that means having a lot of people available to sell their share of the tickets. Alternatives include selling raffle chances at high-traffic locations such as outside grocery stores or anywhere else you’ve seen Girl Scouts selling cookies or the Salvation Army collecting donations. Go where the people are to sell your tickets, use big signs and have a short sales pitch ready: “We’re raising money for charity. Can you help us out by buying a raffle ticket because you don’t have to be present to win.
  • Fundraiser raffle ticket prices – Prices are going to vary depending on the prizes offered. Some raffles are a dollar and others are $250 a ticket. At a minimum, you want to price your tickets to produce double the cost or fair market value of the prizes. That’s fine for cash raffles, but when raffling other items you may want to shoot for triple the cost because you might not sell all your raffle chances.
  • Raffle prizes – The type of items and the value of the prizes has a big impact on how appealing your raffle would be to your supporters.
  • Raffle items – The quantity of items you would have to raffle is also important. If you offer lots of items as prizes, as would be the case if you were doing one instead of a silent auction, then people think they have a better chance of winning something. The thing about raffles is that everybody that buys a ticket contributes to your cause. With a silent auction, only the winning bidders contribute to your cause.
  • Fundraising raffle types – There are five main types of raffles : door prize raffle as part of admission ticket, low-end prize raffles (all prizes are under $1,000), high-end prize raffles, dream theme raffles (house, car, big cash prize), and reverse raffles. You can use as many fundraising raffle types as you want.
  • IRS regulations concerning raffles &  reporting prize winners – It’s also important to note that there are specific IRS reporting requirements for charity raffles. When you do a raffle, you must get any winner of a prize worth $600 or more to complete a W-2G (gambling winnings form. For larger prizes, you are required to withhold 28% for federal income taxes.

Fundraiser Raffle vs Silent Auction Options

Now that we’ve covered all the decision factors when choosing between a fundraiser raffle or a silent auction, why not consider some  reasonable alternative solutions by including some raffles into your event?

  1. Charge admission to your event and include a door prize raffle. Even if it’s only $5 a ticket, you are still getting a contribution from every attendee. For door prizes, you can select items from the donated silent auction baskets, gift certificates, etc.
  2. Do a cash raffle at your event. Sell tickets in advance at the registration desk or entrance. Price cash raffle chances at $10 and award 50% in prizes, It can be all one jackpot or multiple prizes at graduated levels.
  3. Do a reverse raffle for some really nice prizes. Reverse raffles award prizes to the last tickets drawn. People have the option of buying any leftover tickets that didn’t sell as a way to get back in the prize drawing once their initial ticket was drawn. When you get down to the last few tickets, you can offer the remaining ticket holders a chance to split the prize between them. A reverse raffle is a great way to keep the crowd involved and excited during a big event.
  4. Do a Chinese auction for some of your silent auction items. You sell batches of tickets and people drop as many of their tickets as they want into fishbowls next to the items in the Chinese auction. This is a great way to get more money for silent auction items that wouldn’t attract a lot of bids or would likely fail to reach their fair market value during a silent auction.
  5. Raffle off some deluxe prizes that might not have enough bidders to drive the price that high enough through a silent auction as it should be.

So, those are some of the ways where you can blend raffles with your silent auction to have the best of both worlds. The bottom line is that every event is different and there are lots of ways to fund raise at any event. Why not put as many of them to work for your cause as possible? Good luck and great fundraising!