Why you Should Host a Reverse Raffle Event and How to do It

James Martin
Why you Should Host a Reverse Raffle Event and How to do It

Everyone loves a raffle, and they can be a great addition to a larger event to help generate extra funds on the side. Still, running one shouldn’t be considered an afterthought; a well-planned draw has people excited to attend and can boost engagement for both the organization and at the event.

You might have heard of a reverse draw/raffle - it plays off the traditional theme but does things a little differently. This is a format that’s proving itself very popular among nonprofits lately, and for good reason. There are some drawbacks, though, that need to be navigated and some considerations to take into account before running one.

We’re going to go over all of these shortly – we’ve even got some reverse raffle ideas for variations in the theme coming up - but let’s first look at what exactly all this entails and why they’re so much fun.

Reverse Raffle/Reverse Draw Basics

Raffles have been a popular choice for fundraisers for centuries, so it’s hardly surprising that modern nonprofits have discovered a way of tweaking the process to spice it up. Reverse raffles have been growing in popularity lately as a fun deviation from the original raffle.

Sometimes called Reverse Draws or Last Man Standing raffles, the principle is to continually draw tickets until the number of prizes matches the number of tickets drawn. This way, instead of drawing for winners, you’re essentially eliminating people until those who remain are all holding a winning ticket.

From there, the winning tickets are drawn until the final ticket is granted the most valuable prize.

For example, 100 tickets might be sold, and all are placed into a drawing basket. There are three prizes of different values to be won, so one by one, tickets are drawn out of the basket, and the corresponding supporters are eliminated. When three people are remaining, tickets are drawn for the three tiers of prizes. The first draw for the third-most valuable prize, the second for the second-most, and the last ticket is assigned the grand prize.

There are plenty of ways to spice this up even more by varying certain elements of the event to make it more engaging or tailoring it to budgets or attendee preferences. We’ll go into some ideas for how you might be able to do this at the end of the article.

Typically, just like a traditional raffle, the reverse raffle is held as part of its own event rather than as an event of its own. We’re going to talk about some of these variations at the end of the article.

Considerations before Running your Reverse Raffle

There are two main drawbacks to the raffle that need to be taken into account. One is a practical one: if you’ve sold 200 tickets and you have three prizes, you’re going to be eliminating a lot of people for a long time during the running of the raffle, and this can make it a little disengaging.

One way to navigate this is to draw tickets in batches throughout the event. Drawing ten batches of 20 tickets can help split the monotony up and resembles championship rounds of elimination as groups of tickets are separated. More on that later!

The second important consideration is legality. This will vary from state to state, and there will be different implications for the hosts of the event and the winners. To take NC as an example, the general statutes consider raffles as a form of gambling and unlawful in the state, with the exemption of four permitted raffles per year for each tax-exempt nonprofit.

The maximum cash prize cannot exceed $125,000, and the grand total of all prizes must remain under $250,000.

The IRS considers a raffle a lottery and as such, not a charitable activity. This means that winnings will be considered taxable income for the winners. Winnings of over $600 must be reported if this is more than 300 times the price of the ticket.

Again, this is simply an example for North Carolina, and will not represent up-to-date financial or legal information, so check with your state for the exact requirements and limitations, even if you’re planning to set it up in NC.

If it does come up that you’re in a state where raffles are illegal, there might be another option. Sweepstakes are a great alternative in many cases where a raffle just isn’t possible, so check out your options for those instead.

Other issues come up regarding the finances of setting up the raffle. Budgeting will be a big part of setting up the raffle, as we’ll discuss shortly, and the overheads of acquiring the prizes need to be taken into account as they can be quite significant. This is doubly an issue if the ticket sales aren’t as you had hoped, and your costs aren’t covered!

Two final considerations relate to safety and the ethics of what you’re offering. If you’re giving alcoholic beverages away as prizes you need to make sure no minors are able to win them. You might also need to ensure you’re allowed to do so, even for adults. Both gambling and licensing requirements will vary by state, so don’t overlook this!

If you’re all set to go ahead, it’s time to learn how to put together your own reverse draw.

How to Set up Your Reverse Raffle

It’s worth repeating that technically, the first step is to make sure you’re allowed to go ahead. Most of this was covered in the previous section, so we’ll skip ahead to planning the event itself.

1. Location

The first part of the plan involves figuring out where you’re going to be holding the raffle. You’ll want to tie it to another event whether it’s one run by your organization or not will likely determine the budget and other considerations to come.

Events that are good for raffles include cookouts, fairs, quiz nights, etc. Just remember that a raffle like this can take a lot longer to get through than a traditional one, so don’t try to tack it to the end of an evening and run out of time!

2. Budget

When designing your raffle, you need to determine the prices of your tickets. This process will involve figuring out your attendees, your expected sales, and the prizes you’re going to be offering. You can start this by setting an overall budget.

Once you’ve got your location, you’ll know roughly who will be attending. Note: Steps one and two can be done in reverse order if you have a set target to achieve and you need to find a suitable venue.

3. Set ticket prices

Now you’ll know roughly how much you’re going to be able to sell your tickets for and possibly how many you’ll likely be able to sell. It’s a good idea to put a cap on the number of tickets either as a hard limit (of, say, 100) or by way of increasing the price of tickets as you sell more of them. You should also decide here if all tickets will be the same price, or if you’ll be selling higher-value tickets as the date draws near or offering discounts on group ticket purchases.

4. Set your prizes

Now you can figure out what and how much to give away. Will it be hard cash, a bottle of wine, or some token gifts? This will depend on the targets you’re aiming for and the amount you’re expecting to bring in. Choose the number of prizes and figure out their net worth.

5. Gather your materials

You’ll need some kind of presentation at the event, so make sure you’ve got something to keep the tickets in, something to process the money (if they’re paying on the night), and some form of promotional materials for you to represent your organization with.

Just remember not to get so carried away with the promotional media you forget the tickets themselves and the prizes!

6. Mobilize your volunteers

You’re going to want to make the most of contributors where you can. You should start promoting your raffle as soon as you have a location and let your supporters know about it. Rally Corp can help with this by way of mobile communications.

Texting makes it so simple to gather people to your side when you need them. Keep all your communication in one place and promote volunteer positions on the same platform as you’ll be promoting ticket sales. Rally Corp keeps all your communication in one place, making this part way easier on you and your volunteers.

7. Advertise your event and sell tickets

If you’re in association with another event, make sure you get your message onto their media too. Then, get to selling tickets. Again, keep your communications in one place so that all your stakeholders are involved and know how to contribute in a way that’s meaningful to them. You might be able to include the venue in your communications platform so that you can send out updates where necessary to each group.

Consider getting outside help with promotion too. Various local shops or companies might be willing to put up your media or even sell your tickets as a way to contribute. It’s better to sell tickets to a reverse raffle early since the procedure takes longer than a traditional one, but it is possible to sell them at the entrance, too.

8. On the Day

You might have already sold most of your tickets by now, or it might be time to get in early and set up a kiosk at the entrance. Either way, bring all your materials with you and prepare in good time to start. Have your timetable if you’re drawing in batches, and have the prizes on display to lure people in.

When the time comes, present the winners with their prizes!

Since the raffle is more of a sideshow than the main event, there are so many ways to get it done. Whether you’re organizing a much bigger event of your own and want to use it as an additional draw or whether you’re piggybacking on another relevant event that you consider will bring in potential donors, there are plenty of ways to tweak the format to boost engagement and make it a little more interesting.

Reverse Raffle Ideas: Variations on the Theme to Boost the Appeal of Your Fundraiser

If you’ve only sold 50 tickets (whether you intended to or not), your raffle can go ahead in one sitting without any trouble. If, on the other hand, you’ve got 200 people or more eagerly awaiting confirmation, you might need to spread it out a bit. If this is the case, there are better ways than simply reading out 20 ticket numbers from start to finish. Here are a few suggestions for inspiration:

Let guests buy back in

This is a great way to improve revenue generation while maximizing engagement. Turn the show into a bit of a competition, as rejected ticket holders get the chance to try again. Each new buy-in round could be more expensive than the last, upping the stakes as the prize gets nearer.

Championship tickets

If you’ve sold a lot of tickets and you’ve elected to draw them throughout the event, consider holding a championship raffle format. This can be done in several ways, but for example, draw batches of 20 tickets and keep the last one drawn over to the final round. This builds suspense for the final ten ticket holders and culminates in a final draw of ten tickets (for, say, three prizes).

Staggered Prizes

You could keep it fresh by offering every tenth ticket a prize. This could work as a single series of draws or as rounds spread out through the event. This might be considered a variation of the championship tickets approach, but instead of winning a position in the finals, there are prizes given out after every round.

Ace of Spades Raffle

This is a very slight adjustment to the standard theme, in which ticket buyers get to choose a card from a deck of playing cards. The Jokers and Ace of spades have been removed, so there are 51 cards to choose from. They then tear it in half, and the buyer keeps their half as a receipt. The other half is placed in the drawing basket.

As usual, participants are eliminated until there is one remaining person in the game. At this point, the Ace of Spades is auctioned off to the group of participants, giving whoever buys it a 50/50 chance of winning the prize. The Ace can also be bought by the holder of the final card for a 100% chance to win the prize.

This is a great variation to hold alongside an auction, in which other items are being auctioned, and elimination rounds can happen between items. It also makes it fun to have the auctioneer sell off the Ace of Spades.

Split the money

Another way to throw in a twist at the end is to offer the remaining candidates a chance to team up and split the money.

For example, if you’ve eliminated all but three people and there’s a single cash prize, consider offering all three the opportunity to go home with a third of the money each. There are even variations on this move, in which you can have each of them write on a piece of paper whether they’d like to share or keep playing. If all people choose to share, the money is split. If there are differing responses, those who elected to share can be eliminated.

For best results on this one, have them confer publicly and make their agreement out loud before writing it down in secret. This brings an element of game theory into play and can create excellent suspense!

Mix and Match

Some of these ideas can be combined, or elements from one can be used in another. The possibilities are numerous. The trick is to try and maximize engagement and counter the effect of a drawn-out raffle process with a lot of tickets. If you’re able to come up with your own unique ways of doing this, you’ll get all of the benefits of the raffle process but with a fun twist.


A raffle played in reverse is a novel take on a classic theme that’s engaged supporters of nonprofits and other organizations for generations. The principle is simple: eliminate people until there are only winners remaining. This can be done in one go or spread out over the course of the fundraising event.

To keep it interesting, especially with high numbers of ticket sales, change it up a little and incorporate some suspenseful tweaks, such as auctioning off more tickets at the last minute, or offering contestants the chance to split and run. However you choose to play it, your reverse draw should be a memorable part of the event for those who follow and want to support your cause.