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Raffles Are a Good Source of Revenue for Charities by Richard Lewis Murdick

 Raffles Are a Good Source of Revenue for Charities  by Richard Lewis Murdick


How can businesses (retail or service) derive promotional and customer loyalty/retention benefit by utilizing a raffle in their marketing efforts?

B.F. Skinner was a psychologist in the 1930’s that developed theories about behavior.  He specialized in something he called operant conditioning of rats and pigeons in cumulative recorders or skinner boxes.

The idea is to operate on the environment (skinner box) in which the animals are placed.  He caused animals to associate rewards/punishments with their own behaviors.

His theories run counter to the notion of free will.  Grade school teachers have interesting insights into the effectiveness of teaching methods that grew from his research.

Pigeons are more susceptible to operant conditioning methods than rats.  Skinner could cause a bird to develop illogical behavior (superstition) with random rewards.  The bird wrongly associated cause and effect.

Skinner could also cause pigeons to retain learned behaviors for a relatively long time.   Rewards that are connected to behavior, but awarded randomly are more effective.  A pigeon conditioned to peck at a dot on a wall with associated but randomly awarded food pellets can continue the behavior for up to 3.5 hours after the rewards have ceased.

A gambling casino is a skinner box for people.  Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines prove that dopamine releases are triggered in peoples’ brains by stimuli in these establishments.  People can become addicted.

People prefer free will.  They want to be in control.  It may be more ethical to design raffles around the notion of free will.

Some soft drink companies put letters under the caps of their products.  Customers buy the products, collect enough letters to spell a word, and then turn it in for a prize.  S & H Green Stamps worked on a similar principal.  Customers collected enough stamps to fill-up a page in a catalog.  The pages of stamps were turned in for prizes.

Raffles are based on probability.  Large contests are sometimes insured.  In other words, if somebody does win an unusually large prize, a pre-purchased insurance policy will cover the cost.

Insurance companies condition customers’ behavior by sending them rebate checks for not having accidents.  Vanishing deductibles are sometimes offered for each year of safe driving.  One should feel uneasy with any scheme that allows an insurance company to attach a device to a car to monitor driving.

Raffles can be used as a tool to collect information about customers.  This could be as simple as requesting names and phone numbers on tickets or as sophisticated as tracking movement throughout a retail store with coupons.  Data bases can be built and used to efficiently target marketing to specific groups.

Raffles can be used to drive traffic through a retail store.   Blue light specials at Kmart are an example of a fun way to do this.   Credit card rewards programs and frequent flier miles are examples of ways to generate more traffic during off hours or off seasons.

A raffle can be a relatively inexpensive way for a company to entertain customers.  It can be a cheap thrill that allows them to escape from life’s troubles for a while.  In the process, customers are drawn to participate and experience more of what the company has to offer.  Movie theaters often have trivia contests about the films being shown.  Some businesses offer awards or discounts if the local sports team wins a game.   

Even churches participate in a benevolent form of gambling.  It is good to donate part of the proceeds of a raffle to a charity.  Bingo is fun.

Many feel uneasy about some of the conclusions drawn from B.F. Skinner’s work.  The 1930’s were a turbulent time.  He may have been conditioned by his environment. 

Some feel that the 1960’s draft lottery was rigged.  Many Boomers were disloyal and could not be retained by the military.  These Boomers were conditioned by that environment.  Some hold high offices in government today.  

The government should regulate some forms of gambling, but probably not participate in lotteries.  Raffles are a good source of revenue for charities and can be a cost effective marketing tool for retail and service businesses.  As with any tool, raffles should be used ethically.

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Contributed by Richard Lewis Murdick