Belinda Watson is the founder of RaffleLink, an online raffle resource for not-for-profit organisations and individuals.
After growing up in a town of just 80 people where her family operated a tourism business, attending university was the perfect way for Belinda to grow her wings. She completed a BA in Tourism and Japanese, then found herself working within the coal mining, travel and car industries.
Belinda and her husband both grew up with parents who owned their own business so operating a family business is something that they are both familiar with and passionate about – it’s in their blood! Together they ran their own successful natural pet treat business for 10 years before branching out into the fundraising world in 2012 when RaffleLink was first launched.
When you are looking for inspiration, remove yourself from your work environment. Go for a walk or a coffee away from your computer and distraction.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
I’ve always been passionate about fundraising and supporting community initiatives. The idea of an online raffle system evolved from attending my daughter’s school P&C to discuss fundraising options. It was very clear to me that the labour intensive nature of a raffle was a major deterrent for fundraisers and I began to think “there has to be a better way”.
My husband and I began discussing the concept of RaffleLink at length and quickly identified that there was a real need and gap in the market for smarter fundraising solutions.
At the time I was working in my other business and spent my evenings planning what was to become RaffleLink.
We launched in April 2014 offering custom designed software to help not for profit organisations conduct their raffles online. Our service provides a unique raffle website, secure payment platform, mobile friendly ticket purchase processes, ticket and receipt issuance, money collection, sales reporting and a push button raffle draw and winner notification system.
We have most recently updated our website to offer more free tools for fundraisers and to create a marketing portal for our clients to help them achieve their raffle sales goals.
Can you explain your business model to us?
Our clients can gain access to our raffle system without having to purchase any software which helps to minimise their financial outlay.
Instead, we have an initial establishment fee to create their raffle, followed by a small percentage-based service fee based on their proceeds, so essentially their success is our success!
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
Currently we are working on another system modification to cater for the growing DIY Fundraising market. Many charities encourage individuals to conduct their own stand-alone fundraising activities and our system’s easy setup & shareability through social media links lends itself to larger scale fundraising for individuals in the name of a charity.
We are liaising with another industry business to launch this capability to a wider audience in the next few months.
How do you make ideas happen?
To get an idea off the ground, I put everything in writing and then sleep on it. It is amazing what your subconscious comes up with in the moments before you wake in the morning. I always have a notebook on my bedside table.
I consult with my husband, who often sees opportunities or challenges in a different light.
I also strongly believe that you should surround yourself with people who have the skills that you may not necessarily have. So for instance, we worked with a branding specialist to develop our look and feel, we have a developer to help with our software program and maintenance and my husband is also a great sounding board with a solid business mind.
If we have an idea, we bounce these off the very people that we work with and consult with to ensure we can get a full, big picture vision of how feasible the idea is and what it will realistically take to implement.
What does your typical day look like?
Like any working mum, I make lunches over a cup of tea, see my husband off to work and then take my daughter to school. Once free of family, I try to do some form of exercise – either jogging or swimming.
Once in front of the computer, I review emails, pay bills, chat with our developer about implementing system upgrades that have been requested by clients.
I enjoy talking to potential clients via phone or email and providing a personalised solution to their fundraising effort.
I try to step away from the computer at 4.30pm and direct my attention to family time.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
The software design took many months of design and amendment. We had to ensure that the system could cater for the variation in Government Gambling Regulations across all states of Australia. The research was very laborious. Just explaining the concept to some Government departments was challenging, as they are fixated on a traditional raffle format.
There is also the internal struggle that I’m sure any business owner faces where you do have to overcome doubt and back yourself on what you are doing. Our concept is so unique and different that it did take us some time and consultation before we tweaked it to become what it is today. You must not give up during that phase as its so important for ensuring you can continue to develop and meet the needs of your clients.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
When you are looking for inspiration, remove yourself from your work environment. Go for a walk or a coffee away from your computer and distraction. I find this can provide clarity of thought. Take a pen & paper. Find a direction and return to your workspace to research & pursue your chosen pathway.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing great stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Inspired Adventures & Huma Charity Challenge are both companies that allow individuals to fundraise for charity through travel challenges. Also TravelGiver, which allows your travel purchase to contribute to a charity. My interest in travel has led me to gravitate towards these businesses.
What about internationally?
As a business less than 2 years old, my focus has been here in Australia and I haven’t taken time to investigate fundraising organisations outside of Australia, although I do think that the Thank You concept is a really brilliant Aussie social enterprise that is now tackling the global market. They started in retailing water and have now moved into Body Care products too. It’s a great inspiration for those who want to do good and creative positive change in the world.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Our business is directly geared to affect social change. We aim to empower non-profits of all sizes to access funding and grow their communities. Of course most non-profits are focused on benefiting society.
I’m a big advocate for businesses incorporating a giving strategy or cause component into their operations. The true innovators and drivers of social change in Australia need to be supported financially and I believe there is a great opportunity for the business community to come to the party there and work collaboratively with social enterprises and not for profits that align with their corporate values.
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like to support?
I’d love to support the Australian Justice Tribunal. They are running a raffle with us currently and tend to fly under the radar a little. They aren’t a big organisation but they are having a big impact on the lives of many individuals and families in Australia who are in need.
Can you name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
What about 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?
The Thank You Group
ABSCensus (If you are after a laugh and some interesting facts, Census tweets some very clever data and information!)
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
Absolutely! We are always looking for people that can enhance what we have to offer. As we grow and take on more projects, we would definitely be keen for interns who could assist with marketing and social media.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc., what would it be?
What is the best way to build an audience on social media around a new idea that they are not familiar with?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
I enjoy The Lab Bar & Restaurant in Brisbane. The location has sentimental significance, the ambience is elegant & old-world, the staff are professional & attentive and unlike a lot of places, the menu delivers on your expectations.