At What Point It’s Worth Registering Your California Raffle

1000 House FrontRemember my recent blog about how California’s weird raffle laws require either that your nonprofit register its raffle and comply with a bunch of rules, or give away tickets for free?

The perfect example of when it’s NOT worth giving your raffle tickets away has come along: It’s the fifth annual “Dream House Raffle,” a benefit for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which is indeed a 501(c)(3) charity.

The first prize (among many) is either a house in San Francisco (and a nice one, by the look of it) or $4 million dollars in cash. Nope, they won’t be giving any of these tickets away. They’ll cost you $150 a pop.

This is pretty much the opposite of a grassroots raffle. Riding on BART today, I saw ad signs for it lining the walls by the train tracks. The mail just brought me a four-page glossy brochure with details on entry and prizes. (It’s hard not to look . . . and to wonder, “If I won a vacation, would I take it or the $5,000 cash?”)

But sometimes, you’ve got to plan big in order to get big returns. They assure us that no more than 90,000 tickets will be sold — but that with all the smaller prizes, the odds of winning are actually 1 in 50. Better get shopping!