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This article was published 18/5/2017 (1347 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For all those under-appreciated hockey moms and community club volunteers — and their organization administrators — tasked with selling raffle tickets for their non-profits, now there’s an app for that.
And if the enthusiasm of business development professionals in the non-profit world is any indication, this shiny new technology is more than just another distraction — it could be a game-changer.
A Winnipeg company called Funding Change Inc. is in the vanguard of this innovation in the newly regulated world of electronic raffles.
In fact, the young company was so far in front of the wave that it was already working on its business concept before a change in federal law made electronic raffles for non-profits possible.
Working with North Forge Technology Exchange in the Innovation Alley, Funding Change has only been in the market for less than a year, but it has already closed an early-stage round of financing, raising $1 million from angel investors including the likes of David Asper.
"This is a new and convenient way of doing something that most of us do many times," Asper said. "So the trick is to get us to actually do it (buy raffle tickets). Funding Change crosses that threshold. I think it’s a winner."
Ian Smith, one of the founders of Funding Change, likes to tell the story of the "eureka!" moment when he imagined such a tool would work.
"I was at a Winnipeg Jets hockey game and the 50-50 jackpot was getting big and I wanted to buy a ticket," he said. "But I couldn’t find a seller or a kiosk. I was thinking that it was something that I should be able to buy online, using my phone."
Later, he followed up and made a call to the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba (LGA) and asked why he couldn’t buy a ticket with his smartphone and he was told it was against the law.
But about a year and a half ago that law was changed, allowing "charitable and religious organizations" to use computers to run a raffle.
All raffles have to be licensed by the LGA, as do the electronic platforms that are now legal for non-profit raffles. Lisa Hansen, an official with the regulatory body, said Funding Change is not the only platform licensed to provide the service. But by all accounts it is one of the more active ones.
Instead of going door-to-door or roaming the stands selling tickets at hockey games and then going through the time-consuming process of having tickets printed, scrutinizing and tracking each booklet, then manually separating them, putting them in a drum and picking a winner, the Funding Change platform can do it all electronically and automatically.
An online link is set up and then participants can use their own social media networks and email contact lists to share the link.
Tickets can be purchased online using credit cards.
Smith said the Funding Change platform is not yet distributing winnings electronically, but that the feature is in development.
"So far our partners are distributing the winnings," Smith said. "That’s the fun part for them."
Funding Change takes 15 per cent of the pot, but even in the early days, organization administrators say it’s a small price to pay.
The Grace Hospital Foundation has already tried it out, reviving an internal raffle with winning results.
"What they bring to the table is a novel platform that involves little work on behalf of a chairty with virtually no risk. We are thinking about other ways to utilize the platform," Jon Einarson, the foundation’s executive director, said.
Not surprisingly, Einarson said, the foundation is taking baby steps with the technology, but everyone likes it and the plan is to do quarterly 50-50 draws with staff.
Hockey Manitoba is also rolling out a major program for its 2017-18 season.
The United Way is likely the city’s most trusted partner when it comes to helping organizations raise funds for charities. It has already used the platform for one of its internal programs and plans to pilot the platform with one of its partner companies during this year’s fall campaign to see how it works for them.
Jennifer Glen, vice-president, finance and internal services at United Way of Winnipeg, said, "The internal United Way pilot went very well. My team would never want to go back (to the manual process). It is so much easier to use."
Smith is encouraged by the reception the service is getting in the market but like anything that is so new, he knows there is plenty of work ahead.
"Like pioneering anything, we are disrupting an industry we like to say that has not been disrupted since the printing press in terms of an actual physical printed raffle ticket," Smith said. "This is the first step in getting ourselves out there. No no one really knows who we are yet."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.