What is a 50/50 Raffle and How Does it Work? [2024 Guide for Nonprofits]

From school fundraisers to upscale galas, hosting a raffle is unequivocally a great fundraising tool for any nonprofit. While traditional raffles can be lucrative and fun, they can also be a timesuck when it comes to prep. That’s why we want to introduce you to the concept of a 50/50 raffle.

What Is A 50/50 Raffle?

A 50/50 raffle works just like any other raffle where participants purchase tickets for a chance to win a prize if their name is drawn. 

The difference is with a 50/50 raffle, you can skip the prize procurement process. Instead, the prize is half of the gross proceeds (aka the amount raised through ticket sales). For example, if you sold 1,000 tickets at $5 each ($5,000 jackpot), your organization retains half of the proceeds ($2,500) and the winner takes home the other half ($2,500). 

The more tickets someone buys, the higher their odds are of winning. Sounds straightforward right?

Benefits Of 50/50 Raffles

A 50/50 raffle is one of the simplest fundraising ideas with a reliable and proven ROI. Unlike a traditional raffle, there’s little to no upfront cost. With a 50/50 raffle, you don’t need to plan and purchase a physical prize. The prize is the pool itself. 

50/50 raffles are also extremely versatile. They can be held at any time during the year as a standalone event or in conjunction with a larger, planned event. 

Best of all, the cost to enter is extremely low. If you host a 50/50 raffle online, anyone anywhere can participate even if they only have a few dollars.

Who Should Hold A 50/50 Fundraising Raffle?

The thing about 50/50 raffles is that they’re a great option for any organization – nonprofits, churches, schools, fire departments, youth groups, etc. – large or small. For grassroots organizations with a shoestring budget or a one-person fundraising team, a 50/50 fundraising raffle may be particularly appealing due to the low-barrier to entry and the amount of time it takes to spin up. 

What Are Some Good Candidates For Raffle Prizes?

Anyone, and we literally mean anyone, can be a good candidate for a 50/50 raffle. Reach out to your board members, staff, donors, volunteers, and social media followers. For someone to participate, all you need is their ticket purchases, name, and a way to reach them if they’re selected!

Reasons To Take Your 50/50 Charity Raffle Online

With virtual events growing in popularity, a 50/50 raffle can be contactless and run entirely online, which means that you don’t have to print and manage physical raffle tickets. Rain or shine, virtual charity raffles also means you can reach more people no matter where they are geographically. 

In addition, you can accept digital payment (digital wallet, PayPal, etc.), which means you’re not limited to cash sales or having to handle loose change. When it comes time to draw a winner, a virtual format gives you the option of doing it in-person or via live stream. You can draw a winner the old-fashioned way by picking one out of a hat or use one of the many online tools out there such as WheelSpinner to randomly select a winner.

How To Price Raffle Tickets For A 50/50 Drawing

The goal of any 50/50 raffle is to sell as many tickets as possible, at a fixed rate. You might be wondering then, how much should each ticket be priced at?

Ticket prices typically start at $1 but can go up to $5 or $10 depending on your target participant and your overall fundraising goal. If you’re unsure of what to price your raffle tickets, think about how much someone would be willing to spend. Remember, the lower the price per ticket, the larger your prospective pool of buyers will be. On the other hand, the higher your ticket prices, the more you can expect to make but your pool might be smaller. There’s certainly a delicate balance; it may take some trial and error.

Be sure to account for the quantity of raffle tickets you think you’ll be able to sell along with any related expenses such as marketing, ads, and cost of software to host online. Oftentimes, nonprofits won’t know how much they’ll raise through a raffle until after the event. Even if you sold a ton of tickets, this is problematic since you won’t know if you’ll be able to reach your fundraising goal.

When in doubt, refer to this quick formula to help you out:

(Raffle ticket price * Quantity of tickets sold) / 2 – Expenses  = Gross organizational revenue

To boost your overall ticket sales, consider offering incentives for multiple ticket purchases. For example, if you’re charging $1 for one raffle ticket, offer 3 tickets for $2 or $5 for 4 tickets. You’re upselling your participant but they’re also getting more bang for their buck and increasing their chances of winning. It’s a win-win!

Using CauseVox Ticketing For 50/50 Raffles

A successful online raffle hinges on having the right tools. With CauseVox Ticketing, we’ll get your 50/50 raffle up and running in no time. 

Our integrated ticketing system is a mobile-optimized 3-step form that: 

  • Allows you to set multiple ticketing tiers and quantities.
  • Pulls supporters to a single campaign site to purchase tickets with a free-standing ticketing page.
  • Lets you set your own promo codes for any discounts you want to offer for a certain amount of tickets purchased or for specific donors.
  • Provides an easy way to embed your ticketing form on your website or landing page by simply copy-and-pasting the form embed code.
  • Offers a variety of payment options such as credit card or Apple and Google Pay.
  • Gives your donors a pleasant, mobile-optimized purchasing experience to help you maximize your ticket sales.

On the backend, our ticketing platform makes customizing forms, reporting, and data exportation simple. You’ll get automatic email notifications on ticket orders right when they’re purchased and you’ll be able to view ticket orders and who bought them at a glance.

(Kansas Advocates for Better Care’s Raffle Ticketing Form via CauseVox)

Marketing Your 50/50 Raffle

Since you’re not having to handle physical tickets or procure a prize, you can allocate this time to marketing! To generate buzz around your 50/50 raffle, we recommend:

  • Routinely updating your supporters on how much has been raised. The higher the total pool, the more the winner gets. Include a visual element like a fundraising thermometer to ramp up excitement and urgency. 
  • Promoting your raffle on your website via a dedicated landing page.
  • Blasting it out to your email list or in your e-newsletter. Segment and tailor your messaging as needed. 
  • Scheduling out regular social media posts about your raffle. Encourage your supporters to share your posts on social media. In addition, utilize Facebook’s stories and Instagram reels to keep your raffle top of mind for your followers and at the top of their news feed. As you get closer to the date of the drawing, ramp up your post frequency to promote a sense of urgency. 
  • Investing in paid Facebook or Instagram ads to get the word out to a whole new audience (if your budget allows). 
  • Letting people know how funds raised will be used and how this will make a difference. If half of the prize pool is earmarked for a specific project or initiative, market it as such.
  • Creating an online event page where people can purchase tickets. Be sure that this page reflects exactly how much is in the total pool.

On average, it takes 7 touches for a user to make a sale online. To make your 50/50 raffle as successful as possible, implement a multi-channel marketing approach. If you know your audience’s communication preferences, focus the bulk of your marketing efforts on those. 

Know The Rules – Legal Considerations For 50/50 Raffles

In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), raffles are considered “legalized games of chance”, otherwise known as a form of lottery. As such, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations so that you’re protected from any unintended consequences. You don’t want to jeopardize your nonprofit status or have the IRS knocking on your door. 

To start, if the raffle prize amount exceeds $600 or at least 300 times the amount of the raffle ticket price, you’re obligated to report to the IRS. If the winnings exceed $5,000, you are required to withhold 24% (as of the 2022 tax year) of the winnings or pay a withholding tax. Since 50/50 raffles pay out in cash, this amount can be withheld directly from the winnings. Using Form W-2G, nonprofits must report winnings, any federal income tax withheld on those winnings, along with the raffle winner’s name and contact information (Note: Please check with a gaming lawyer, a CPA, or the IRS for any additional paperwork required).

Moreover, state and local laws may apply. To ensure compliance, we highly recommend checking with your local and state gambling laws to make sure raffles are permitted. Certain states have banned raffles outright while others require applying for a permit beforehand. Online raffle tickets sales may also be prohibited in a number of states due to concerns for out-of-state ticket sales. 

Alternatives & Additions To 50/50 Raffles

If you want to put a twist on your 50/50 raffle consider having more than one winner. For instance, if the total pot was $10,000, a grand prize winner could win $2,500, a second place winner could get $1,500, and a third winner would pick up the remaining $500. By using a multi-winner model, you can incentivize donors to give more since they have more opportunities to win. Alternatively, while a 50/50 split is the most common configuration, you can also try out different ratios like a 60/40 or 80/20 split. It really depends on what you think will work best for your purposes.

CauseVox Ticketing isn’t limited to 50/50 raffles. Our software can be applied to other types of raffles or a silent auction. When these types of activities are tied into a larger event, we recommend recruiting sponsors.

(Nido All School Item Raffle)

Ready To Take A Gamble On 50/50 Raffles?

Learn more about how CauseVox Ticketing can help your fundraising event soar, or drop your email address below to get top fundraising tips in your inbox weekly! 

This article was first published in May 2022 and was updated in January 2023 for freshness and accuracy.