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Tips for Running Popular Sweepstakes during a National Emergency

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” Muhammad Ali

We are seeing a nation pitching in to flatten the curve and countless unsung heroes on the front lines trying to help those infected by the coronavirus. Businesses too want to do their part and sweepstakes are a great way.

Here are some examples of different types of sweepstakes that businesses may run, along with some helpful tips for making sure they run smoothly.

Donate To Enter Sweepstakes. Currently, the NFL Buffalo Bills are running a sweepstakes asking people to donate to the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund for a chance to win the opportunity to be on the phone when the General Manager calls in the team’s first draft pick. (Okay, maybe not the sweepstakes for everyone, but in Buffalo this is apparently a big deal.)


  • Donating to enter requires a payment, so you need to have an AMOE.
  • Make sure the charity is on board, so you can use their name/logo.
  • Make sure 100% of the donation is going to the charity. If a Sponsor is keeping a portion for its own expenses, etc., the Sponsor could be considered a Paid Fundraiser (ushering in a whole slew of additional regulations).

Pay My Bills Sweepstakes. I’ve seen a number of local sweepstakes offering to pay your bills during this pandemic. Great idea, but make sure you think it through and your rules are clear.


  • The simplest and most practical thing to do is award a pre-set cash amount, which is clearly disclosed in ads and in the rules, such as “Prize consists of $1,000 cash.”
  • Watch your ads to make sure that you are not over promising. For example, notwithstanding a disclaimer of a fixed cash prize, an ad touting “We’ll pay your mortgage” could still be misleading. Therefore, for a fixed cash prize, a more general ad may be best, such as “We’ll help pay your bills this month!”
  • Make sure the amount of the prize is high enough to cover the promises that you are making.
  • Don’t put pictures in ads of products that cost more than the prize.
  • Don’t give away coupons.

Tell Me About It Sweepstakes or Contests. Not to be outdone by the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers are currently running a sweepstakes to win Packers paraphernalia by asking students to tweet photos or videos of them staying active while at home.


  • Decide whether it’s a sweepstakes (chance promotion) or skill contest.
  • If a sweepstakes: make it clear that photo/video will not be judged and that winner will be selected at random.
  • If a contest: set forth clear judging criteria and make sure judges view every entry.
  • Watch out what you ask for. You may be tempted to ask entrants to tell a story about how the pandemic has affected their life. But trying to judge among tales of tragedy may not be ideal. Like the Packers, you may want to pick a more uplifting theme. And, during this time, you may want to avoid themes such as how your product has helped them.

Stay safe and stay well.

Topics: Sweepstakes