We’re proud of our creators for finding new and exciting ways to bring value to their Patreon pages. Marketing your creator page through inventive tiers and exciting benefits is essential to a successful membership business.
Let’s take a look at and answer the most common questions we get on this topic:
- What constitutes a raffle, lottery, or giveaway?
- Why aren’t these types of benefits allowed to be used on Patreon?
- What kind of benefits could I offer to my patrons instead?
What are raffles, lotteries, and giveaways?
On Patreon, a raffle is defined as a contest that your patrons must pay to enter in order to receive a randomized chance of winning a prize.
When trying to figure out if a Patreon benefit would be considered a raffle or not, ask yourself the following two questions:
- Did everyone have to pay to enter the contest (i.e., by becoming your patron)?
- Would the winner of the contest be chosen through pure chance (i.e., a drawing or a lottery)?
If the answer to both of those questions would be yes, then the benefit in question is a raffle and is not allowed on Patreon. Other forms of contests that share the two characteristics mentioned above, such as lotteries or giveaways, are also not allowed on Patreon.
Why doesn’t Patreon allow raffles or other games of chance?
We don’t allow raffles, or other games of chance, on our platform because we want to protect creators, patrons, and Patreon. The legality of chance-based contests can differ depending on what country or state you live in. For instance, in the United States, the IRS views raffles as a form of gaming (aka gambling). This means that, not only would a raffle be subject to the legal constraints of gambling nationally, it may not even be legal in the state you, or your patrons, live in.
We don’t want our creators or patrons, either intentionally or unintentionally, to break the laws of their home country or state. Since our creators and patrons come from many different places, allowing raffles to be used as benefits would put them, and Patreon, at risk of breaking local, state or national laws.
Does this mean creators can’t organize contests at all?
Now you know why we don’t allow raffles and games of chance on Patreon. But does that mean that you can’t organize any form of contest with your patrons?
Running other forms of contests on Patreon is allowed as long as they fulfill the following qualifications:
- Winning the contest doesn’t depend on luck/chance
- A patron’s chance of winning can’t be increased by paying more money (like by pledging at a higher tier)
Here are some examples of contests that are okay to run for your patrons
We understand patrons like participating in raffles, lotteries and giveaways, and that they like winning them even more. We also understand that, sometimes, creators have benefits they’d like to share with only a limited number of patrons, perhaps because there are just not enough of those benefits to give to everyone.
1. Make a contest that relies on creator agency
For a contest to be allowed on Patreon, the winner cannot be determined by pure chance.
However, you could use some other, non-chance-based form of action to decide which patron wins — for instance, you could run a contest where you pick the winner(s) based on some established criteria, such as skill or preference.
For example: Let’s say you are a photographer who specializes in dog portraits. To promote a new membership tier to your fans and patrons, you create a contest titled “Chihuahuas at Work,” in which you post photos on your Patreon page of tiny canines in different uniforms: construction worker doggies, dentist doggies, you get the idea. You ask your patrons to leave funny comments below the photos, and then, you choose the five comments that make you laugh the most — those patrons each receive a prize (perhaps a print signed by your Maltese poodle, Fifi).
Why is this contest acceptable: this contest relied on creator choice, or judgement, rather than chance to pick the winner.
2. Make a contest that relies on community agency
This contest is similar to #1. But rather than you choosing the winner of the contest, the winner is decided by your patrons.
For example: Let’s say you are an illustrator who is known for the drawing of office supplies — especially staplers. Seriously, you draw a mean stapler. You want to reward your loyal office-supply loving patrons, as well as entice some new ones, by creating a contest for them. To kick off the contest, you create a Patreon post that contains a downloadable, black and white PDF of your most recent stapler illustration. Then you give your patrons a week to color the drawings and post them to a certain social media hashtag.
After the week is over, you pick your five favorite coloring sheets from the bunch. Then, in a Patreon Poll, you ask your patrons to vote for their favorite one. The creator that gets the most votes gets a prize — a brand, spanking new stapler, painted by you.
Why is this contest acceptable: the winner was chosen by a Patreon poll, not by chance.
3. Make a raffle that’s open to everyone
To make this form of contest work, your contest has to be open to everyone (not just your patrons). Your contest cannot be hidden on Patreon behind a “Patron Only” post, nor can it be be available, or even advertised, to your patrons alone.
For example: Let’s say you are a professional guitarist. You’re in an all-guitar band, which specializes in making metal music suitable for elevators and hotel lobbies. You are releasing a new album titled, “Hospitality in the key of E minor.” To support the album release, you host a raffle, and the winners get a free download link to your new album.
You share your raffle on other social media accounts, not just on Patreon, allowing all your fans equal access to the prize. Then, you live stream the raffle drawing, which is viewable to all of your fans (no purchase necessary).
Why is this contest acceptable: running this contest doesn’t violate our benefit guidelines because there is no purchase necessary to enter. Also, this kind of raffle is okay to use on Patreon because it is advertised to all of your fans, not just your patrons.
4. Make a first come/first serve contest
To make this form of contest work, the winner of the contest has to be chosen on a first come/first serve basis.
For example: You are a video creator who films themselves building famous castles out of sand. First, you post a video on your Patreon page of you building the Game of Thrones castle, Winterfell. Then you tell your patrons that the first five people to comment on the video will get a free vial of sand from your own personal collection.
Why is this contest acceptable: the winner of this contest was determined by who commented on your video first, instead of chance.
5. Give a benefit to your most loyal patrons
Sometimes creators want to share a certain item of merchandise with their patrons, but they don’t have enough of it to give to everyone. If you want to give merch as a benefit to a limited number of your patrons, it’s okay to base your giveaway on patron loyalty.
For example: You are an aquarium enthusiast and podcaster. You made limited edition, fish-shaped hats to sell as merch at podcast conventions. But you still had some hats left over after convention season ended.
You want to give them away to all your patrons, but you don’t have enough for everyone. So, you only give them to the top 5 patrons who have supported you for the longest.
Why is this benefit acceptable: it’s acceptable because the receiving patrons were determined by a factor besides chance.
6. Create a higher tier that is only available to a certain amount of patrons
Another way to make use of limited quantities of merchandise is to include them as benefits for a higher-priced tier, which would only be open to a certain number of your patrons.
For example: You are a food writer who specializes in fast food. You know a great deal about hamburgers, and your patrons love you for it. You were digging through your office the other day, and you found five copies of your out-of-print book, “French Fries, etc.” You sign the inside cover, and include the book as a benefit in a new $100 tier, which is only available to five patrons.
Why is this benefit acceptable: it’s acceptable because your patrons are paying for your limited merch, rather than a chance to win it.
There are two things to keep in mind with the higher tier model:
- The number of people who want to pledge on this level all have to receive the same prize.
- Since those patrons would be receiving such special merch, make sure you are pricing this tier at a higher level than your other tiers.
We hope that we’ve given you some clarification on what kind of contests are and aren’t allowed by Patreon. We also hope that we’ve given you inspiration for contests you could run in place of chance-based raffles, lotteries, or giveaways. If you’re interested in learning more about other Trust and Safety related topics, check out the rest of our Trust and Safety series.