When it comes to online fundraising for nonprofits, a sweepstakes is one of the best options for engaging and activating individual donors. Donors find the idea of winning a coveted prize to be exciting, fun and new, and nonprofits have an opportunity to expand their reach beyond an existing donor base to a broad audience that cares about the cause.

An online sweepstakes enables your nonprofit to reach a global audience with no restrictions on how much money you can raise, or when and how you can use those funds.

TapKat is an online fundraising platform that makes it easy and affordable for nonprofits to create, manage, and run sweepstakes fundraisers. In this blog post, TapKat shares their top 10 best practices for launching and promoting successful online sweepstakes.

1) Choose a Great Sweepstakes Prize

When selecting your prize, first consider your strategic goals for the sweepstakes. Some nonprofits may be more interested in activating their current base rather than expanding their base. This is often the case for member-based associations and unions. In this scenario, you can get very targeted with your prize, and have fun catering to your members’ preferences! On the other hand, most nonprofits are eager to expand their donor base and reach new people. In this case, your sweepstakes prize should be attractive to a broad audience.

If your goal is to activate your current donor base, choose a prize that appeals specifically to that group of people. Think about the type of people who are attracted to your nonprofit. Are they outdoorsy types? Are they into travel? Do they love animals? Let this guide you in selecting a prize. A car museum would do well to select a vintage car; a mountain bicycling association would be successful with the latest high-end mountain bike as their prize.

If your goal is to grow your donor list, choose a substantial prize that lots of people would love to have. Consider the kind of prize that would excite a broader audience of potential new supporters. The best prizes are highly desirable and maybe a little hard to get! Think the latest cool sports car that everyone is drooling over, a tricked-out camper van, or that once-in-a-lifetime vacation adventure on an exotic wildlife safari. You get the idea!

Over the course of your sweepstakes, you’ll be capturing contact information for everyone who enters. Which means throughout your fundraiser, you will build a curated list of existing and new donors who are interested in winning that type of prize and supporting your nonprofit. That list is a valuable asset for future fundraising – and a huge head start on achieving even bigger success with your next sweepstakes fundraiser!

2) Create a Promotional Plan Before You Launch Your Sweepstakes

Just like any kind of fundraising you do for your nonprofit, a sweepstakes fundraiser will be much more successful when you start with a promotional plan. A solid plan of action will help you do everything you can to spread the word about the sweepstakes.

Sometimes the idea of marketing and promotion feels a bit overwhelming, but when you’re giving away a desirable prize with a built-in fan base, creating good promotions is actually easier… and even fun!

A solid roadmap for promotion will allow your team members to stay organized, clear, and consistent in all marketing efforts. Before you launch the sweepstakes, map out your exact moves. Here are some examples of things to include.

Launch the sweepstakes with a bang. Announce the sweepstakes on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn — whichever social media platforms your nonprofit is already using). Send an email to your base to let them know the sweepstakes is live and they can show their support by entering to win your amazing prize.

Promote the sweepstakes at your live events. If you have live events scheduled, be sure to incorporate your sweepstakes into the festivities. Set up a table with banners promoting the prize, and make sure volunteers or staff members are available to answer questions. Most importantly – display QR codes that link to your sweepstakes website so donors can enter easily from their mobile phones.

Show off the prize at your facility. If your nonprofit has a brick and mortar presence (for example, if you’re a museum, or you have an office that the public visits), display your prize! Make it easy for people to enter the sweepstakes by providing a QR code they can scan with their mobile phone. All TapKat sweepstakes are mobile-optimized, so your donors can enter on the spot.

Look for promotional opportunities. For instance, if your prize is an amazing sports car, reach out to car fanatic blogs that will allow you to write a guest post about the sweepstakes. Facebook ads targeting car fans are also a great way to promote the sweepstakes in a targeted way. The more people that know about your sweepstakes, the better!

Give it a big, final push. Sweepstakes entries typically skyrocket during the last month of a sweepstakes. Take advantage of your growing email list and remind them when the sweepstakes is about to close. Send a dedicated email every week during the last month, and a couple times a week during the last two weeks of your sweepstakes.

This is just a rough overview of what your sweepstakes marketing plan might look like. Make sure you enlist your team and board members to help you put all the pieces together to make your fundraiser a success!

3) Timing is Everything

Look at your annual calendar and make sure that your launch and completion dates for the sweepstakes make sense. Avoid scheduling your sweepstakes closing date during a hectic time of year for your nonprofit – you’ll need to be able to give the sweepstakes your full attention to make sure it wraps up smoothly and successfully.

TapKat recommends choosing a sweepstakes duration based on the size of the prize. Big prizes such as cars, camper vans, and home remodels should run for 7-12 months to give you enough time to maximize your reach. Medium-sized prizes like mountain bikes and vacation trips should run for 3-6 months. Small prizes like gift certificates can run for shorter periods of time.

4) Select Great Images of Your Sweepstakes Prize

Remember that many people will enter your online sweepstakes based on the images they see of the prize online. It’s up to you to source high-quality images of your prize! Great images not only show the audience what the prize is, they also tell a story about how the winner will feel when he or she wins that prize and takes it home.

You also want to include some great photos of your nonprofit in action so your audience will understand, and feel good about, the positive impact they are making by contributing to your sweepstakes fundraiser.

A series of top-notch, colorful, bright images will inspire donors to participate in your sweepstakes, and serve as powerful marketing assets to boost the reach of your promotion, potentially far beyond your current list of donors.

5) Send Regular, Dedicated Emails to Your Donor Base

Email is the number one driver of traffic to TapKat sweepstakes, typically accounting for as much as 60% of donations. Put together a focused, fun and informative email marketing campaign that touches your donor base at least once per month, and weekly during the last month of your sweepstakes campaign.

It’s important to send out “dedicated emails,” which are emails with only one subject – your sweepstakes. As opposed to a newsletter that contains multiple pieces of news, updates, and action items, a dedicated email solely promotes your sweepstakes and only links to the sweepstakes website. Dedicated emails keep the reader focused, provide a single call-to-action and have proven to be much more effective at generating donations.

Each dedicated email should include high-quality and appealing images of your prize, lots of links back to your sweepstakes website, and a quick note informing readers that all entries are donations which will benefit your nonprofit.

6) Post a Prominent Announcement of the Sweepstakes on Your Home Page

Make sure the announcement on your nonprofit’s homepage links directly back to your TapKat sweepstakes website. This is very important for establishing credibility for your sweepstakes. Many people who see a social media post or receive an email about your sweepstakes will visit your website to make sure the fundraiser is legitimate.

Give donors peace of mind by making it easy to tell that the sweepstakes is indeed hosted by and benefiting your nonprofit. And, as a bonus, all your website visitors will have the opportunity to donate by entering your sweepstakes!

7) Use Social Media to Promote Your Sweepstakes

Post about your sweepstakes at least a couple times a month on all your social channels (more often on Twitter is fine), and link back directly to your sweepstakes website. Social media marketing works best when it is used consistently and frequently.

Show off how fun and exciting the prize is, plus the important impact entering the sweepstakes will make for your nonprofit. Ask questions to prompt engagement, such as, “How much fun would you have if you won this [insert prize]?” That will help your fans visualize how great it would be to win the prize. And use hashtags that will attract new donors who would be interested in your prize.

8) Register a Vanity Domain for Your Sweepstakes

When you create your TapKat sweepstakes page, it will be branded for your nonprofit and, of course, showcase your prize. To make things even simpler for your donor base, you can purchase an easy-to-remember “vanity” or “marketing” domain to make it simple for people to find and spread the word about your sweepstakes fundraiser. You can do this on any domain registration site.

Something like www.ShelbyGT500Contest.org is obvious and easy to remember. Once you have purchased the domain, adjust the settings so it will forward traffic to your sweepstakes website URL.

9) Look for Partners to Help You Promote the Sweepstakes

Ask your sponsors, prize providers, corporate partners, and other supporters if they will send email blasts to their lists promoting your sweepstakes. For many companies, this is a way for them to contribute to your fundraising efforts and they’ll be happy to support you.

Don’t be shy about asking partners for this kind of support. Most businesses are used to nonprofits asking for financial support, something that isn’t always easy for them to contribute. However, asking for support by sending a dedicated email is an impactful way they can champion your cause, while at the same time, promoting their brand.

10) Track All Your Sweepstakes Promotions to Understand What Works Best

The key to success with your sweepstakes fundraiser is to track the results of each promotion so you know exactly what is working (and what is not). That way, you can focus on the kind of promotions that raise the most money. Maybe your Instagram posts are getting a few clicks, but your Facebook posts are going crazy. You want to know when a particular promotion performs well so you can repeat that success.

There are two effective and simple ways to track your promotions: tracking URLs and promo codes.

Tracking URLs report visitors to your sweepstakes website. Tracking URLs, called UTM codes, are snippets of code you add to the end of your sweepstakes website URL to help you accurately track how many visitors go to your sweepstakes website. UTMs show up in your analytics reports so you can see how many people clicked on your promotion link and visited your sweepstakes website. Below is an example of how the UTM shows traffic resulting from a particular promotion in Google Analytics. In this case, the tracking URL has tag the source as a particular email blast.

Tracking URLs show you exactly which promotion (source) is driving traffic to your sweepstakes website.

Google provides a simple tool for creating tracking URLs: Campaign URL Builder. Just fill in the fields, copy the URL generated for you, and use that as the link in your promotion.

Promo codes make it easy to track the precise number of donations and how much money is raised. Knowing the number of visitors hitting your sweepstakes website as a result of a particular post or email is a good indication of interest levels. But what you really want to know is how many of those visitors actually entered your sweepstakes and how much money they donated. You can easily track that information by using promo codes for all of your sweepstakes promotions. As an added bonus, promo codes also increase the average amount donors give to enter the sweepstakes – because everybody loves a deal!

To take advantage of this, your sweepstakes website and database need to provide the tools to create, manage and track the results of your promo codes. The TapKat platform has fully integrated promo codes. Here’s an example of how promo codes accurately track the success of a promotion:

Using promo codes lets you accurately track how many people donated and how much was raised as a result of each promotional campaign.

TapKat suggests using promo codes for all your promotional campaigns so you can collect data about your target demographic’s behavior and more accurately promote the sweepstakes. This kind of information is very clear and easy to understand, and it is pretty exciting when you start to see successful results!

Final Thoughts on Sweepstakes

The bottom line when it comes to launching and promoting a fundraising sweepstakes is that upfront planning and ongoing adjustments to your marketing promotions, will lead to greater success and help you raise a significant amount of money.

Just like any fundraiser, it takes a bit of focus and effort — but with the online sweepstakes model, it can pay off in spades. Choose a great prize, plan your next steps, and promote the heck out of your sweepstakes. It’s fundraising that your donor base is going to love!

Want to learn more about sweepstakes? Here are some great resources:

About the Author

Wendy Volan is the Chief Marketing Officer at TapKat – 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.