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Heads or Tails? People are Flipping for this Raffle

Posted by Evan Doyle on November 14, 2011

Raffles present an additional opportunity for your organization to raise money during your silent and live event auction. There are many types of raffles, one of which is the 50-50 raffle.

In a 50-50 raffle, the winner is awarded 50% of ‘the pot,’ that is the money that was raised from the sale of the raffle tickets. The other 50% goes to your organization. It’s a win-win situation. Your organization is guaranteed to make money as long as at least one person enters, and the winner can choose what to do with his winnings. In fact, in many cases, the winner will donate all or part of the winnings back to your organization.

The game of Heads or Tails? adds a new twist to this tried and true 50-50 raffle fundraising tool. In this case, the last person standing wins 50% of the pot. Here’s how it works.

Prior to your auction:

  1. Purchase ink pads and stamps for stamping hands.
  2. Decide how much to charge each person to participate. I suggest $5 to $25 per person, or more, depending on the crowd.
  3. Advertise in advance that the winner will win 50% of the proceeds collected from the participation fees. You won’t be able to determine the exact amount until after you’ve collected all the fees. At a recent event, we sidestepped this by deciding that the winner would Win 50% of the pot up to $250. Having the $250 figure as part of the advertising made it more enticing.

As people check-in to your auction:

  1. Clearly post instructions for playing the game near the entrances to your event.
  2. Ask guests as they arrive if they would like to participate in the Heads or Tails? game, which will be played during the Live Auction portion of the event.
  3. Stamp the hand of each person who pays to participate.

Playing the Game.

  1. Early during your Live Auction, the auctioneer or master of ceremonies (MC) should explain the rules and conduct a practice round. This will encourage those who haven’t yet entered to do so.
  2. To start the game, the MC asks all the participants to stand up.
  3. The MC then announces: “Place your hand on your head (heads) or on your bottom (tails).” Every participant chooses by placing his stamped hand on his head or his tail.
  4. The MC flips a coin. If it lands on heads, then all those with their hands on their heads remain standing. Those with their hands on their bums sit down. Or visa versa if the coin lands on tails.
  5. The MC announces again, “Choose heads or tails,” and the remaining participants again choose.
  6. The MC flips the coin again. Those who chose incorrectly sit down.
  7. This continues until one person remains standing. That person is the winner!

What are the odds of remaining standing?

Ah. This is a question of probability, a math concept that has always perplexed me a bit. Here it goes…

The odds depend on the luck of each participant. The odds of choosing the correct answer on the first toss are 1 out of 2, or 50%. The odds of choosing the correct answer on the first AND second tosses are 1/2 × 1/2 = 1/4 = 25%. The odds of choosing the correct answer on the first AND second AND third tosses are 1/2 × 1/2 × 1/2 = 1/8 = 12.5%. And so forth.

At a recent event I attended, the winner chose heads or tails correctly 7 times in a row! The probability of that was less than 1% — 0.78% to be exact. The winner promptly donated all of his winnings back to the group!

Pay Attention to Your State’s Rules

Each state has its own rules for conducting raffles, games of chance and gambling. So before your organization hosts a game of Heads or Tails? be sure to check with your state government offices. Or try googling: ‘raffle rules for nonprofits in (your state).’

What other kinds of games or activities have you featured at an auction? Please share your ideas with other nonprofits by leaving a comment.

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