459,123 acres burned during California’s Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018. That same year, the most destructive fire in the state’s history, the Carr Fire, was sparked. And that’s just in the Golden State—according to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 50,546 wildfires in the U.S. from January 1 through October 26.
That staggering number, however, does not reflect the human loss. When a wildfire breaks out, wildland fire fighters rush to the scene to suppress the flames from air and land, doing everything possible to keep civilians and their homes safe. These brave people risk—and sometimes lose—their lives.
Founded in 1994, The Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF) provides near-instant support—within hours—to families and firefighters hurt or killed in the line of duty fighting wildland fires regardless of agency or association. WFF will often fly family members to hospital bedsides and is there for families as they navigate red tape and insurance. The organization also offers long-term grief recovery and counseling for families of the fallen as well as those injured. Explains Nate Alexander, who runs a helicopter wildland firefighter crew and fundraises for WFF, “When something bad happens to a wildland firefighter, their spouse usually has no idea what the next step is, who to talk to and what needs to be done. It is a scary and confusing time. The Foundation steps up and is there and provides direction for those affected. Us Wildland Firefighters consider the Wildland Firefighter Foundation the backbone of our fire community.”
To do all that good work, WFF relies on year-round fundraising and donations, many of which come from events that are put on by active firefighters like Nate. He recently held Shoot for Loot (SFL), an event for which he is the promoter, coordinator, and director (while also out there fighting wildland fires). Says Nate, “The people this event supports don’t know they need them until they need them. One day a child is going to wake up and not a have father or a mother because that parent was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when a burnt tree falls, or a rock comes rolling off a steep hillside, a parachute doesn’t open up, an engine in a helicopter quits or a fire engine doesn’t navigate a corner coming down a steep hill in blinding smoke.“
A family-oriented, long-range shooting event, SFL places safety and raising funds for WFF as a priority and positively affects the community. Said Nate, “(SFL) brings people together in the local community and forms new relationships. It promotes our sport and the folks in the community that make it possible.” Most of SFL’s shooting events are games of chance. To buy into the competition, a person pays a specific amount which equates to raffle tickets. Every time a competitor makes an impact on a target, he or she earns more raffle tickets, which means a greater chance of winning the really great prizes Nate lines up for the benefit. Folks can also buy raffle tickets without or in addition to competing, which many do!
The two SFL raffles are an integral part of the event, plus they also help Nate secure prizes while raising funds for WFF. To keep things fresh and respect prize donors, he mixes things up year to year as far as who he approaches for prize donations. “These raffles generate monetary income which in turn, I use to purchase prizes which in turn generates more money for the cause. In order to build my event year after year I don’t want to keep going to the same folks for donations, that only goes so far. I want people to want to be a part of it but only if they want to be a part of it, not because they feel pressured.” The first fundraiser was in 2015, and as of 2017 he has raised over $69,000 for WFF!
Since the raffles are critical for SFL, Nate is keen to have good-looking raffle tickets! On Eventgroove, Nate shares, “I loved the formats that were available, the ability to duplicate raffle tickets from the previous years with minor edits and the nonprofit discount didn’t hurt either. Finally, the finished product looks great. I believe it adds a validity to our cause. When asking people to donate hard-earned money, showing them a quality raffle ticket created with pride shows them what that cause means to you.”
A trifecta of great tickets, great prizes, and great sales is the key to any successful raffle, and Nate has put in a lot of work to create a strategy for selling tickets that works for SFL. First, he keeps the number of tickets he asks his team to sell low—just 10 a piece. Then, he adds a little motivation. “Anyone can sell 10 tickets, if you put 50 tickets on someone it becomes a daunting task.” Pointed out Nate, “Also I give a prize to whomever sells the winning ticket. That creates a little competition between the ticket sellers, and I usually have ticket sellers coming back and asking me for more.”
When setting raffle ticket prices, Nate asserts that the price point can make or break the raffle. He figured out the best number through trial and error, and broke it down for us this way: “One year, I sold a raffle ticket for $50 apiece. Peoples’ heads snapped back when I said $50. They instantly thought about a $50 dollar bill. It took me a while to sell those. The next year, I asked $40 per ticket. Everyone thinks of two $20 bills, and everyone has a couple $20s in their wallet. Those sold like hot cakes. Finally, set a limit on how many raffle tickets you are going to sell. People love it when they hear there’s a 1 in 500 chance vs. unlimited tickets available. It also doesn’t drag out the process of selling tickets. There is a beginning and an end, and when people only hear you have 20 left… they tend to jump on them.”
How fantastic is all of that raffle ticket selling advice? Nate has two terrific pointers about promotion and planning, too. “Timing is everything. Too far in advance, and people forget about you. Too close to your event and all those folks will already have plans. Figure out the sweet spot for your particular event.” When choosing an event date, Nate suggests checking the calendar for conflicts. “Competition can kill both events. I coordinated with another small name fundraiser during the same time period…you may have heard of them—”THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION”—I changed my date and I am glad I did.”
An enormous thank you to Nate for sharing such great raffle and fundraising tips—we know they’ll be a huge help to our other customers with a cause! We are even more grateful for your work for the WFF and fighting wildland fires here in Montana and anywhere else you and your courageous crew are needed!