Wendy Weston essay

Benefits of Raffle Ticket Sales


How My Family Business Brought Community Together Through a Successful Fundraising Campaign


Our family business is located in an extremely remote location in the Four Corners region of the country, situated in the Navajo Nation, home to the largest federally recognized American Indian tribe. Geographically, the Navajo Nation is approximately the size of West Virginia, and although the more than 150 small communities scattered across the Navajo Nation are separated by mountain ranges, deep canyons and vast deserts, there remains a sense of community among all who reside within its boundaries. Children often times ride the bus more than an hour to get to school. People are accustomed to driving great distances to attend social and religious events, as well as to obtain groceries and other goods and services for their families.

Due to the remote location of the Nation, the unemployment rate is higher than other places in the country, but this has not inhibited Navajo entrepreneurs from establishing a vibrant cottage industry network, that includes the exchange of food and material goods, as well as art and crafts. On any given day, one may find an open-air market set up in a vacant lot in one or more small towns or villages, where local crafts people gather to sell their wares. Our family participates in this type of business.

Four years ago, our family decided to hold a raffle to create a fund that would be used to help defray some of the expenses that the college age students in our family were faced with. Several family members located and purchased a classic pick-up truck (1970 Chevrolet) at an auction in another state. We restored it to “Car Show” condition and announced at the local open-air markets that we would be raffling off this fully restored and working pick-up truck.

We relied on word of mouth and one on one advertising about our raffle. We had special tickets printed that advertised our family business and promoted higher education among all Navajo youth. In August that year, in the beginning of the academic school year, we began traveling to the open-air markets and annual fairs throughout the Nation, selling raffle tickets and promoting higher education through small informal discussions with those who purchased a ticket. We explained to those who purchased tickets that we were intending to use the funds raised to help defray expenses for college expenses for one of our family members.

Over a period of three months, we made an effort to visit with and get to know each person who bought a raffle ticket, as well as advocating about the importance of a college education for our children. This gesture was met with excitement by our purchasing audience and it is generally accepted that higher education for our youth is the most promising means to developing a stable reservation infrastructure and economy. The tickets were modestly priced so the excitement of buying a chance to win a “Classic Truck” was attainable for a vast cross section of purchasers.

We prepared an announcement of the Navajo Nation radio station stating the time and location for the drawing for the pickup truck would be on October 31, during a Halloween fair at a local school near Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation. Individuals from the small communities across the Nation anxiously awaited the drawing in anticipation of wining the grand prize. The winning ticket was sold to a hardworking housewife in a small town, some 150 miles away from where the drawing was held. She had purchased a raffle ticket with the last of her cash, a surprise for her husband who had, for many years, admired and wished for a classic Chevrolet pick-up truck. When we called the winner, she was elated and shed tears of joy. The truck was delivered and, still today, neighbors and other individuals around the small Navajo community in north central Arizona comment when they see “the raffle truck” drive by.

As well, several of the young people in our family who received funds from the proceeds of the raffle, have graduated from college and are either in graduate or professional school, or gainfully employed. This activity brought together our community in support of our young people, brought fellowship and positive conversations in a many times depressed environment (brought on by high unemployment and isolation). We made it fun and our family business continues to thrive and contribute to the local Navajo economy. We learned the importance of taking time to have one on one conversations with neighbors, customers and fellow business people promotes good will and builds trust. We learned that making this fun for all and through laughter, sharing and mutual respect, we were able to accomplish our family goal of helping our youth realize a good education. The efforts we made were our way of celebrating the achievements of our young people and inspire others to follow suit.

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