Raffle has become meat, potatoes for nonprofit fundraisers

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, April 13, 2014

JANESVILLE—Four years ago, Dan Wilcox had never even heard of a meat raffle.

“Now they're coming out of the woodwork,” he said. "It's one of those things that, when you find something good, everybody jumps on it."

Wilcox is development director/public relations coordinator for the Alzheimer's Support Center or Rock County. His organization is one of the several that has added the popular raffles to its arsenal of fundraising tools.

Other groups that have climbed on board include Friends of Noah, a local all-volunteer animal rescue organization, and YWCA Rock County, which is dedicated to empowering women and eliminating racism.

Local taverns host the meat raffles as a way to attract patrons and give back to their communities, local owners and managers said.

“It's for charities in Rock County and might be for kids playing football or for a youth trip to wherever,” said Major Masech , manager of Sneakers Sports Bar and Grill, 1221 Woodman Road, Janesville.

Sharen Hoskins, owner of East Point Sportz Pub, 3501 E. Milwaukee St., said meat raffles for dance teams, youth sports groups, fishing clubs and the Alzheimer's Support Center have been highly successful. Since opening in 2005, the bar has gone from hosting two meat raffles a year to more than a dozen.

“It's a fun, easy way for a group to raise money, and people love to win something,” Hoskins said.

Sneakers began hosting meat raffles when the football season kicked off last fall. At first, about 10 people came. As word spread “we could fill the bar on Sundays, and not with just sports fans, but people that like to get their local meats as well," Masech said.

"We're getting more patrons just to come in because of the meat raffles, he said. "It's bringing in business."

But why meat raffles? Brian Bailey of The Watering Hole, 1700 N. Washington St., Janesville, explained:

"People call them meat raffles; it's just always been classified as that. But it's kind of a fallacy and not always meat. People may bring in baskets or (Milwaukee) Brewers tickets and raffle them off, too, to raise money," he said.

Wilcox said returns from meat raffles are great considering the time it takes to plan them.

“We generally raise between $1,500 and $2,500” each year, he said.

Like Wilcox, Lois Corwin of Friends of Noah had never heard of meat raffles until she moved to Wisconsin from Cincinnati. When her group held its first meat raffle three years ago at Wiggy's Saloon, 9 N. Parker Drive, Janesville, only a few people came, and a couple hundred dollars were raised.

“Now, you can't find a place to sit," she said. "We usually pack the place so that it's overflowing with people and raise around $1,000."

Wilcox said the meat raffles have become so popular that it was difficult for this year's Dancing with the Stars contestants to find businesses that weren't already booked with them. Some of the couples involved in the dance fundraiser hold meat raffles as a way to raise money and get bonus points from judges during the annual competition.

The growing popularity of meat raffles also has changed the financing of the events.

In the beginning, meat for the Alzheimer's Support Center's raffles was donated. Today, Wilcox said there are so many meat raffles being held that nonprofits have to buy meat at discounted prizes or find supporters willing to pitch in with additional funding.

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