‘Like many PTAs, we usually run raffles at large school fundraising events. We held our first text raffle in 2019, and it worked so well that we returned to this method of virtual fundraising during – and beyond – lockdown in 2020.
Our goal was to raise funds for colourful shelters to enable our school to extend its outdoor classroom space. We made this a wish list priority when social distancing was introduced, because the sheltered areas create so much extra room and flexibility for teaching, learning and play.
It’s very straightforward to set up and run a text raffle, and you can hold the draw at an agreed time and date at a safe social distance. It’s also far less time-consuming than a physical raffle because you don’t have to spend hours folding up tickets and collecting and counting cash!
We use the National Funding Scheme’s DONATE platform, which is for charitable digital fundraising. It’s free to register and you can create a text raffle in the self-serve portal. You need to come up with a keyword that your entrants can then text to a five-digit number.
By making a donation, a supporter’s mobile number is automatically entered into the draw – and because this is a national platform people across the country can enter. Just as with a physical raffle, you need a lottery licence from the local authority.
Last year, we ran the text raffle in place of our usual summer fair draw, using the keyword GRAND as it seemed memorable and relevant to what is usually an important fundraiser. You can set your ticket price at £1, £3, £5 or £10 – and we set ours at £3. In the weeks running up to the draw, we publicised the raffle in the school newsletter and through our parent reps. There is an admin fee of 4.5% for charities (and 5% for other organisations) but we found this worth paying because we saved so much on printing and envelope stuffing!
What has been really encouraging is that people have been so willing to give during these tough times – both by donating prizes and buying raffle tickets. A local estate agent donated a cash prize of £250, so we split this into £175 and £75 for the first and second prizes. Other prizes included a Skywalk Adventure family pass, online vouchers, stationery and toys. Most supporters entered twice.
DONATE texted us daily reports so that we could monitor how sales were going, and post reminders if we felt interest was waning. The draw was automated and all we had to do was notify the winners and distribute prizes. People got quite excited in the run up to the draw and the winners were delighted when we called them.
The raffle raised almost £800! It also highlighted the online platform and we received further online donations, on which we were able to claim Gift Aid (Gift Aid can’t be claimed on text raffle entries).
In the autumn term, we used the platform for a campaign called The Grand Chop, where our headmistress cut more than 70cm of her hair off and donated it to the Little Princess Trust. The school community was asked to text ‘CHOP’ to donate £3 – or donate any amount online – in support of her brave move. We raised over £1,500 for the school charity and made a further donation of £500 to the Little Princess Trust to cover the wig-making costs. Here, Gift Aid could be claimed. The National Funding Scheme takes 4.5% (+22p per web donation) if no Gift Aid is added by the donor, or 45% of Gift Aid (+22p per web donation).’
Lauren Clusky, PTA secretary, Grand Avenue Primary School, Surbiton, Surrey (650 pupils)