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What is a fishbowl raffle?

A fishbowl raffle is a type of fundraising event where participants can purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes. The name “fishbowl” comes from the practice of placing ticket stubs in a fishbowl or other container and drawing winners from it. Fishbowl raffles are popular with nonprofit organizations as an easy way to raise money.

How Does a Fishbowl Raffle Work?

Fishbowl raffles work by selling raffle tickets to participants and collecting the ticket stubs in a fishbowl or other container. The stubs are then drawn at random to select the prize winners. The basic steps are:

  1. Obtain prizes to raffle off. These are usually donated by local businesses or individuals.
  2. Sell raffle tickets for a set price, like $1 or $5 each.
  3. Collect the ticket stubs as people purchase tickets.
  4. Place the stubs in a fishbowl or similar container.
  5. At the designated raffle drawing time, stir up the tickets and randomly select stubs from the fishbowl to determine the prize winners.
  6. Award the prizes to the winning ticket holders.

Raffle tickets can be sold at a specific event, fundraising dinner, or even over a longer period of time leading up to the raffle date. Many organizations sell tickets for several weeks prior to the raffle to boost interest and raise more money.

Benefits of Fishbowl Raffles

There are several benefits that make fishbowl raffles a popular fundraising option:

  • Simple format – Fishbowl raffles have a simple ticket draw format that is familiar to most participants.
  • Engaging – The element of winning prizes is more engaging than simply asking for donations.
  • Good for all organization sizes – Both large and small groups can hold successful fishbowl raffles.
  • Relatively low effort – These raffles take some work but are easier than more complex fundraisers.
  • Fun and social – Fishbowl raffles bring people together for a fun social activity.

The fishbowl format is easy for nonprofit groups to organize and execute. Supporters enjoy participating for the chance to win prizes while also supporting the organization.

Fishbowl Raffle Prize Ideas

The prizes offered at a fishbowl raffle can be just about anything, but popular options include:

  • Gift certificates to local businesses like restaurants, spas, stores, etc.
  • Tickets to local events like sports games, concerts, theater shows, etc.
  • Gift baskets with wine, baked goods, souvenirs, or other items
  • Electronics like televisions, tablets, or smart speakers
  • Household items like kitchen appliances or gardening tools
  • Toys, games, or hobby items
  • Handcrafted items like quilts, jewelry, decorative pieces
  • Service packages like lawn mowing, cleaning, pet sitting
  • Raffle baskets grouped by theme like movies, car care, cooking, etc.

Many fishbowl raffles have multiple prize levels like first prize, second prize, third prize, and door prizes. Offering a range of prizes at different values can increase interest and ticket sales.

Where to Get Fishbowl Raffle Prizes

Nonprofit groups use a variety of methods to obtain prizes for their fishbowl raffles:

  • Securing donations from local businesses – Many businesses are willing to donate items, certificates or their products/services to support community fundraisers.
  • Purchasing prizes – Some prizes may need to be purchased if insufficient donations are received.
  • Soliciting individuals for donations – Prizes can be homemade or purchased items donated by supporters.
  • Offering naming sponsorships on high-value prizes – A business may sponsor a large prize item in exchange for recognition.
  • Using a portion of raffle proceeds – Some funds raised can be allocated towards buying nice raffle prizes for future events.

Nonprofits should start securing prizes well in advance so they have time to follow up as needed. Having desirable prizes will help drive ticket sales.

Fishbowl Raffle Rules and Legalities

Nonprofits holding fishbowl raffles need to follow some standard rules and legal guidelines:

  • Check your state laws – Most states allow certain types of raffles for nonprofit fundraising, but regulations vary.
  • Must be a nonprofit – Raffles are typically only legal fundraisers for IRS-designated 501(c)3 nonprofit groups.
  • Report prizes and proceeds appropriately – Follow tax and reporting rules for any prizes awarded and funds raised.
  • Cannot require a donation – Raffle ticket purchase can be suggested but not required or bundled with other donations.
  • Purchase is not tax deductible – Buying raffle tickets does not qualify as a charitable deduction.

Nonprofit groups should research and comply with all relevant raffle laws in their state. This helps ensure the fishbowl raffle stays compliant and avoiding any legal issues.

Fishbowl Raffle Ticket Prices

Fishbowl raffle ticket prices are generally low since the goal is to sell a high volume of tickets. Typical price points are:

  • $1 per ticket
  • $2 per ticket
  • $5 per ticket
  • $10 for 3 tickets
  • $20 for 5 tickets

Higher ticket prices like $20 or $50 may be used for special raffles with very high-end prizes. However, pricing under $10 helps generate large sales volume.

Discounted bundles, like $20 for 6 tickets, are a popular tactic to incentivize larger purchases. Tickets can also be sold in various combinations – individually or in strips of multiple tickets.

Fishbowl Raffle Marketing

Effective marketing is key to promoting a fishbowl raffle and selling more tickets. Nonprofits use various promotional tactics:

  • Posters/flyers – Display in local businesses, community hubs, college campuses, etc.
  • Social media campaigns – Facebook events, Instagram posts, videos, etc.
  • Email blasts – Send details on the raffle prizes and ticket prices.
  • Radio PSAs – Free public service announcements on local stations.
  • Local media – Pitch the raffle story to community newspapers and blogs.
  • Website/blog – Dedicate a page to the raffle details and frequently asked questions.
  • Word of mouth – Encourage supporters to spread the word in the community.
  • Advertising – Buy online, radio or print ads to reach more people.

Promoting the appealing prizes is crucial to generating excitement. Marketers should pitch it as a fun event for a good cause.

Holding a Fishbowl Raffle

Here are some tips for smoothly running a fishbowl raffle event:

  • Staffing – Have enough volunteers on hand to sell tickets, collect stubs, answer questions, etc.
  • Supplies – Fishbowl, raffle drum, ticket stubs, pens, tables, chairs, PA system if needed.
  • Display prizes – Showcase prizes at the event to spur excitement.
  • Time ticket sales to end before drawing winners so all stubs are included.
  • Make draw announcements – Name winning tickets and prizes clearly.
  • Record winners – Log names and contact info to distribute prizes later if needed.
  • Rules reminders – Review key rules around ticket purchase, drawing, and prizes.
  • Fun atmosphere – upbeat music, balloons and decorations keep energy positive.

A well-run fishbowl raffle feels fun and inclusive for all attendees. Make sure to publicly thank sponsors who donated prizes.

Fishbowl Raffle Pros and Cons

Fishbowl raffles offer many advantages but also some potential drawbacks to consider:


  • Easy fundraising format people understand
  • Provides engaging experiences for attendees
  • Chance to win prizes drives ticket sales
  • Minimal staffing and supplies required
  • Low barrier to participation increases reach


  • Prize sourcing can be time consuming
  • State regulations may restrict raffle options
  • Less entertaining for those not interested in prizes
  • Possible to lose money if ticket sales are low
  • Requires marketing effort to promote tickets

Overall fishbowl raffles offer a strong return on investment. A well-run raffle with good prizes can earn significant funds minus expenses. The engaging format helps drive ticket sales. Nonprofits should weigh the pros and cons when deciding if a fishbowl raffle aligns with their goals and audience.

Fishbowl Raffle Ideas and Variations

Groups can add fun twists or themes to make their fishbowl raffles more unique:

  • Date night raffle with restaurant gift cards and event tickets as prizes
  • Super sports fan raffle with sports memorabilia and tickets
  • Luxury raffle with high-end prizes like vacations, jewelry, electronics
  • Craft lovers raffle with homemade quilts, pottery, knitwear as prizes
  • Ticketless raffle using donor names instead of paper tickets
  • Half-and-half raffle splitting the pot between winner and nonprofit
  • Progressive raffle with increasing jackpots after each drawing

Getting creative with the raffle theme and prizes can generate additional interest and ticket sales. Nonprofits should brainstorm fun variations that appeal to their audiences.

Sample Fishbowl Raffle Budget

A sample budget for a 501(c)3 nonprofit holding a fishbowl raffle might look like:

Income Amount
500 tickets sold at $5 each $2,500
Raffle prize purchases $500
Printing costs for tickets and marketing materials $150
Postage for mailed promotions $80
Raffle permit/license fee $25
Total Expenses $755
Net Income $1,745

This example nets $1,745 after covering $755 in basic raffle expenses. Net income can be higher or lower depending on factors like:

  • Number of tickets sold
  • Ticket pricing
  • Cost of raffle prizes
  • Marketing expenses

Raffle organizers should track income and costs carefully. Popular raffles becoming annual tradition can generate consistent fundraising revenue.

Are Fishbowl Raffles Legal?

The legality of fishbowl raffles depends on state laws. Here are some common state-by-state regulations:

  • Allowed – Most states permit certain nonprofit raffles like fishbowl drawings.
  • Limited – Some states limit raffle frequency, prize values, or eligibility.
  • Restricted – A few states heavily restrict or prohibit raffles.
  • Permits – Many states require gaming permits for raffles.

Nonprofits should thoroughly research their own state statues. Law enforcement sometimes cracks down on illegal raffles. Following all regulations is crucial to operate legally.

Fishbowl Raffle FAQ

Are fishbowl raffle tickets tax deductible?

No, purchasing raffle tickets is not considered a tax-deductible charitable donation. Only direct donations without receiving anything in return can be deducted.

Do you need a permit for a fishbowl raffle?

Most states require gaming permits for organizations to hold raffles. Apply well in advance since approvals can take several weeks or longer.

Can churches hold fishbowl raffles?

Yes, churches are considered nonprofits so they can hold legal fishbowl raffles in most states after obtaining required permits.

Are fishbowl raffles considered gambling?

Raffles do involve an element of chance. However, state laws allow properly run nonprofit raffles. Taxes and rules differentiate raffles from for-profit gambling activities.

How long do fishbowl raffles last?

Most fishbowl raffles run for a few weeks or months during active ticket selling. The drawing event itself typically lasts a few hours. Some groups hold raffles annually.

Can you buy fishbowl raffle tickets online?

Yes, nonprofits can set up online ticketing platforms to sell raffle tickets via email, social media, or their website for added convenience.


Fishbowl raffles offer a proven fundraising model for nonprofits. A compelling prize lineup combined with strategic marketing drives ticket sales. Following state regulations and properly managing finances are key. With some upfront planning, groups can execute fun, successful raffles benefiting their community.