On the 2nd Jan, 1998, the Spice Girls were topping the charts with their famous ballad, Too Much. It was the same day as Wirral Hospice St John’s ran our first lottery draw. The first £2,000 jackpot winner certainly didn’t think it was ‘too much’ and many more people since, can only agree.
Today, our hospice lottery has grown to around 12,500 players every week making a massive contribution to the essential specialist palliative care and support services our charity provides for the people of Wirral.
Wirral Hospice’s lottery is a fun way to get involved and to have a chance of winning a decent cash prize. However, many people will say that they’re NOT in it to win it and see it very much as a way of showing their support. It’s all above board as we’re regulated by the Gambling Commission and we always ask people to gamble responsibly.
For just £1 each week (£4.34 a month), a member will be issued with a unique five figure number which is then entered into our random electronic draw every Friday. Once the numbers have run, we contact the big winners by phone and then have to ensure all the cheques are sent out to the lucky lottery prize winners.
Carl, our Lottery Manager: “The best job of the week is calling up the first prize winner and letting them know that they’ve won £2,000! I’ve had tears and laughter with the winners, and I’ve also had the odd expletive from a couple of people who didn’t believe me!”
Wirral Hospice’s top lottery prize is very nice at £2,000, but often the second prize is even bigger. In fact the £500 second prize, can ‘rollover’ up to a maximum of £10,000!
The explanation for this is that the random number generator can stop on any one of 100,000 numbers (00000 to 99999) for each prize. The machine keeps going until it finds an actual player’s number for the £2,000 and every other of the total of 34 prizes, except for the second prize.
If the number it falls on for the second prize is NOT any of our player’s numbers – it rolls over by £500 a week. It can be won at any multiple of £500 as it rolls but, at 20 weeks, the machine is set so that the 2nd prize must be won if it hasn’t been before then.
It is fantastic when anyone wins but it is especially gratifying when a long term member’s number comes up for one of the big prizes! Our most recent £10,000 winner was a lady from Rock Ferry who had been a member of our lottery, for all of its 20 years.
“That was particularly heart-warming” says Carl, “the lady was surprised, shocked and delighted, all at the same time. It was a great call to make”.
Carl’s team of dedicated lottery staff and volunteers consists of 2 x part-time administrators, 3 x canvassers, 3 x collectors and a further small number of invaluable volunteers who, variously, sell single tickets, send out winning cheques, post reminder/new members’ letters and also do some community subscriptions collecting.
In its early days, the Wirral Hospice St John’s lottery was very much a ‘cash collection’ operation – people signed up and committed to paying £4.00 every four weeks. The legacy is that we continue to collect cash from a significant number of people around the Wirral. For many, especially older people, it is the only way they will play. A friendly face every four weeks is something they look forward to. Rachel, Ian and Tracy are our cheery collectors.
Also out and about in all weathers our canvassers, Frank, Nigel and Kevin, are knocking on doors! They are assigned an area and off they go. We know there is a lot of competition for people’s charity pound(s) these days. Despite the challenges of ‘cold -calling’, many people do sign-up on the doorstep or, in the small businesses we sometimes call on. It’s a great way for people to get involved and demonstrate the goodwill they feel towards the hospice.
The canvassers will tell you that 99% of people are very polite. Sometimes the strategy is to warm people up with a lottery branded leaflet to let them know that they’ll be getting a knock soon. Sometimes they’ll just knock and win people over immediately with a mix of charm and gentle persuasion. Wirral Hospice St John’s is certainly ‘worth it’ to them.
Nowadays, many people will make a card payment or commit to a standing order. As a nod towards the electronic age people can also sign up at our website. Some traditionalists still like to use their trusty cheque-books!
Our administrators, Kate and Laura, are busy every day (they share the hours) answering queries from new and existing players, while processing the quarterly, half yearly or annual payments of existing members. They also make sure all the weekly single ticket numbers are entered into the draw. When they’ve balanced the books, by Thursday pm, double-checked by Carl on a Friday morning, the draw is ready to roll!
Like every other part of the hospice, the lottery team is complemented by the commitment and support of our wonderful volunteers. There are up to 20 people who collect monies in their own communities and we are eternally grateful to them.
We reserve a special thanks to Margie Freeman, our dynamic fundraising volunteer . She’s a frequent visitor to the Carr Farm Garden Centre, as well as other places and events on our behalf, selling hundreds of single lottery tickets.
Very special mentions must also include, our most recently retired (after 20 years), former canvassing/collecting stalwart, Irene Howard, and our previous, ultra-efficient, administrator, Debbie Pierce (also with us for 19 years!).
And last, but definitely not least, is hospice volunteer Lorna. Every Friday as she enters the fundraising office there is a loud, welcoming cheer. She’s 92 years young and is still helping as a volunteer, to pack and post large numbers of lottery letters every week. If you’ve ever received a winners’ cheque in the last 14 years, chances are that Lorna packed it into the envelope with love to you.
Finally, this week’s lottery rollover is a fantastic £4,500! We came in mentioning the Spice Girls and Too Much, but I think we might all prefer the Luther Vandross hit, Never Too Much!
Author: Billy Howard