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5 tips for ongoing success in prize-led retention

Five top tips to enhance retention in your prize-led programme

With increasing cost-per-acquisition and squeezed budgets, it's now even more essential to retain your prize-led players. But we know this is easier said than done, especially in these times of economic difficulty. Here's five of our top tips to enhance retention in your prize-led programme.

(Top tip... This is one of the topics we explored with leading fundraisers in our webinar prize-led fundraising benchmarking and trends webinar (2024) which might be worth a little watch if this is an area of interest to you).

When you're thinking about retention, it's always a good idea to change your mind-set from income to relationships. It's about building the love with your new and existing supporters, and getting them to stay with you and do more with you over time regardless of whether that's on this product or another one, whether that's a financial gift, advocacy or giving time to your cause.

1. Attract, don't acquire

First of all we'd like to talk about acquisition rather than retention as this is really where acquisition starts. If we start by acquiring the right supporters, then they're more likely to stick with us over time. So, regardless of the channel, think long and hard about the type of people who you want to attract and who might be interested in your cause. Target carefully. Here's some things to look out for:


On face-to-face (F2F) recruitment, make sure your fundraisers or agency are clear on the type of player you're looking for. And if you're using an agency apply a contract based on longevity of play rather than volume of sign-ups. A face-to-face agency or fundraisers remunerated on volume of sign-ups or chances are less likely to take the time to see if the person really wants to play or is really interested in your cause. It's better to have fewer sign-ups who will play for longer, than more sign-ups who are going to cancel very soon into your relationship.


One of benefits of digital, social acquisition is the ability to target your marketing. If you have a mature programme, use the data you have to create profiles that will match target in social media and explore tests of other segments that you think will be viable yet diversify your player base. Incrementally you'll find the profiles that work for you on each channel. And remember, every social channel requires a different approach! It's better to focus on one and do it well than spend across multiple channels and do it badly.

Direct Mail

Warm direct mail continues to be excellent in acquiring new players into prize-led. But that doesn't mean you should mail everyone all the time. Identify who within your database fits the profile of your raffle or lottery players and target these supporters first. In every mailing, try testing a more outlying segment to see how they perform. There's lots of snazzy technology out there right now to help you identify the best segments for you. Have a chat with specialists like Sequoia Insights who can help point you in the right direction.

Typical Royal Mail post box in England

Or, if you're looking to acquire new supporters, cold direct mail is starting to make a come-back with response rates around 2% for raffle and a healthy average gift. If you want to grow your raffle programme, cold direct mail is somewhere it might be worth exploring and testing. But as before, checking you're targeting the right lists is essential for response and repeat play.

2. Make your communications relevant

It seems obvious, but always keep in mind that one size does not fit all when it comes to engagement. By making your ongoing communications relevant to them, they're more likely to engage with you. So invest in finding out more about your players and use your database to find common groups of characteristics with which to segment. Think about what kind of person they are, what motivates them to play, what channels they respond to, how much they are comfortable in giving, what their connection to your cause is. And create and send content that reflects their interests. 

You don't need an expensive campaign to enable this. Relevance can be generated by variable text in a letter or email, a particular leaflet or link or a selected story that aligns to their interests.

3. Do more than a next-ask

Whilst part of your engagement with supporters is about asking for further support, it shouldn't necessarily be the only thing you do. In it's most simple terms, we need to make sure we're saying thank you and valuing their support.

This can be seen in a number of ways:

1. Physical thanks

Expressing gratitude and acknowledging your supporters' contributions goes a long way in building loyalty. Whether it's a warm welcome pack, a timely thank-you message on text, email or postcard or a quick call, make every interaction count. And the timing of these thank-yous are especially important for lottery players. Look at your programme and identify when your key attrition points are. Putting in retention activity just before those can have a dramatic effect.

Mature woman hugging her husband at home

2. Showing they're valued

Make sure that their contributions in playing are dealt with properly. If they're playing a raffle, ensure their ticket money is banked and processed correctly and quickly. If they're playing a lottery, it's about their direct debit being taken as you said it would and sending out new schedules for payments which are clear and timely.

4. Next-plays and upgrades

For lottery, you're looking at activity to encourage upgrades.

Raffle next plays

So raffle is all about next-plays. We're really looking to keep players playing again within the next 12 months. One of the key factors here is to make sure there are multiple opportunities to play again across the calendar year. If you only have one raffle a year, your players are already lapsing by the time the have any opportunity to play again. Keep them keen by having regular raffle play opportunities throughout the year (2-4 are ideal). Woods Valldata has research this and have found that there is a direct correlation between the number of times a player is asked to play in a year and their average number of plays.

Use your next-play packs to keep them informed about what impact playing the raffle has had to your charity, who the winners were (or where they were) and talk about how excited you are about the chance of them winning this time around. If you're finding a segment of players lapsing into 36-48 months since their last play, you might also consider a special reactivation pack to encourage re-play.

Lottery upgrades

Depending on the type of channel the lottery player signed up on they might be playing with anything between 1 and 5 chances per week. We find that for volume, signing players up on 1-2 asks per week is the optimum number. But over time, you can communicate with players and see if they would like to increase their number of weekly chances.

Key times to do this might be around a one-off super-draw (where the prize-fund is increased for one week only), when they have recently won, or around an anniversary. The most effective way to upgrade is to call the players to thank them for their contribution to the cause, explain how they're helping and see if they'd like to increase their chance of winning. But you can also achieve this through email, text and letter. 

5. Make the idea of winning tangible

Prize-led supporters play your raffle or weekly lottery for two reasons. One of those is to support a good cause. The other is the chance of winning something in return for their contribution. And that idea of winning is a strong driver to retention. So next time you communicate with your players, make sure you show that real people are winning. Make it real for them. Prove that people are winning prizes. Have little case studies or include pictures of winners if you can - especially those who have won the top prize! If you can maintain that level of excitement and 'it could be you'-ness players are more likely to keep playing.

Closeup portrait super happy excited successful middle aged business woman holding money dollar bills in hand isolated yellow background. Positive emotion facial expression feeling. Financial reward

Keeping players playing, retention, is a key aspect of any successful prize-led programme. Small changes can make a big impact. So by attracting the right players in the first place, communicating with them in ways which are relevant to them, acknowledging the impact they're having to your cause, keeping them engaged in your programme and making the idea of winning tangible you'll be well on your way to enhancing your programme. 

Embracing prize-led with the right partner

But we know this can all seem quite daunting. That's why working with the right partner, who are not only there to ensure your programmes run smoothly, but who support you with the right rention strategies to enable growth. That's where Woods Valldata can really make the difference. Why not contact us today to see how we can work together to grow en elevate your prize-led programme? 

Together, let's navigate the ever-changing world of prize-led fundraising and make a lasting difference in the lives of those we serve. We're your Partners in Possibility.


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