Take Your Group to 2.0: Effective Raffle Rules

User Groups 2.0

Raffles are a long-standing tradition in the Macintosh User Group community, usually to the benefit of the members, but occasionally to the detriment of the group. At the very least many groups could get more out of their raffles by implementing a few simple procedures and guidelines. 2.0 user groups re-examine every aspect of their operations, determined to get more out of everything and that includes raffles.

Member vs. Non-Member Raffles: Some groups make their raffles only for paid members while others open them up to anyone in attendance. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but we suggest doing both: for items of lesser value (t-shirts, inexpensive software, promotional items, etc.), open it up to everyone. That puts visitors or those who haven’t kept their dues current in the mix and make them feel like part of the group. For more expensive or desirable items (full software programs, hardware, etc.), require participants to be members in good standing, being certain to leave adequate time for a visit to the membership chairperson or treasurer to pay up.

Getting Good Stuff to the Right People: We’ve seen it happen way too many times: a vendor comes out to visit a group, spend the morning, afternoon or evening showing off a high-powered, pro-level program such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office, and offer the group a copy to raffle off. In the audience are a healthy number of people who would benefit from the program…and because the group doesn’t have any guidelines in place the $500 piece of software goes to someone’s 10-year old daughter. The vendor cringes, tries to be a good sport, and makes note never to donate product again.

If you have a vendor coming to visit and they offer a piece of software for raffle, follow these simple steps to avoid disaster:

  • Explain your group’s raffle guidelines to the vendor and be certain they understand and agree to them.
  • If they don’t, ask them what their preference is and follow it. They are the ones who did the traveling and offered the prize. Cater to their wishes.
  • If the item has significant value, consider selling raffle tickets. Lower retail value software may justify a $1 ticket, but if you’ve got something significant it deserves $5 per ticket. Be sure the vendor agrees to this, make them understand the money will go to benefit the group, and explain that you take this approach to assure that their product will go to someone who will truly appreciate it.
  • Consider taking that expensive piece of software and not raffling it. Auction it off at the end of the meeting to generate excitement and assign a healthy minimum opening bid. Or silent auction it off, again, with a significant minimum bid.

Hold “Event” Auctions with New Products: Want to make some money for your group? Don’t wait for a special meeting to raffle off a new product. The sooner you can put a new iPod model, Apple TV, Airport Extreme or whatever else is hot, the more people you are likely to have put up money to participate. Someone who has already purchased the product isn’t going to be as anxious to shell out the money for the ticket as someone who really wants the product.

Make Raffles Special: If raffles are a regular part of your group’s meetings, they can become just that: routine. Unless you have an amazing ability to bring in top-quality prizes (a la some of the Final Cut Pro User Groups), consider limiting the frequency of your raffles and make them bigger events. Even smaller items may appear to have more value if there are more of them on the table at once.

Remind Your Members About Who Benefits: Whether you’re collecting money for a raffle under any of the scenarios above or just holding a regular raffle, be sure to remind your members that any money raised goes to fund the group, and that raffles are only possible if they belong to the group and support it. Understanding why you’re not just giving away that new iMac or copy of FileMaker Pro may encourage them to buy and extra ticket or two or to renew their membership.

Raffles represent a big opportunity. They can raise money, be a significant membership incentive and help improve vendor relations…or none of the above. 2.0 user groups will think ahead and determine how to leverage them to best advantage.

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