Title:
SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR MANAGEMENT OF CHARITABLE FUNDRAISING RAFFLES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An exemplary embodiment of the invention relates to systems and methods for conducting online fundraising raffles. An exemplary embodiment may include a method of creating and managing online raffles, which may include, (a) receiving a request to establish a user-initiated raffle from an initiator for benefit of a beneficiary at a central controller; (b) receiving a plurality of entries from a plurality of entrants for the raffle at the controller; (c) conducting a raffle; and (d) awarding to at least one winner and at least one beneficiary upon completion of the raffle at least a portion of proceeds of the raffle.



Inventors:
Blass N. A. (Baltimore, MD, US)
Application Number:
11/694766
Publication Date:
10/11/2007
Filing Date:
03/30/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/42
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROWLAND, STEVE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
N. ALEXANDER BLASS (BALTIMORE, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of creating and managing online raffles comprising: (a) receiving a request to establish a user-initiated raffle from an initiator for benefit of a beneficiary at a central controller; (b) receiving a plurality of entries from a plurality of entrants for the user-initiated raffle at the central controller; (c) conducting the user-initiated raffle; and (d) awarding to at least one winner and at least one beneficiary upon completion of the user-initiated raffle at least a portion of proceeds of the user-initiated raffle.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the initiator is at least one of a raffle service provider, and/or a beneficiary.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the central controller is a raffle service provider.

4. The method according to claim 1, further comprising charging at least one of a fee; an initiation fee to initiate a raffle, charged by the raffle service provider; a listing fee, charged by the raffle service provider; a transactional/administrative fee per entry, wherein said transactional administrative fee comprises at least one of a flat fee and/or percentage of the entry charged by the raffle service provider; and/or a raffle completion fee paid by at least one of the initiator and/or out of the proceeds of the raffle, charged by the raffle service provider when the raffle is completed and said at least one winner is drawn, and wherein said raffle completion fee comprises at least one of a flat rate and/or an amount related to the amount of money raised by the raffle.

5. The method according to claim 1, further comprising determining the beneficiary of the raffle by at least one of performing a task, paying a payment, and/or placing a bid at a threshold amount.

6. The method according to claim 1, further comprising generating a list of potential beneficiaries from a plurality of the potential beneficiaries, wherein said list comprises the potential beneficiaries who each pay a price to appear on said list.

7. The method according to claim 1, wherein the beneficiary comprises a plurality of beneficiaries.

8. The method according to claim 1, further comprising at least one of: receiving documentary evidence; receiving evidence of financial need from at least one of: the initiator, potential beneficiary, and/or the beneficiary; providing the evidence to a user; providing at least one of; information, documentation, and/or photographs that support the claim of financial need; conducting third party identity verification/authentication of users; conducting third party identity verification/authentication of at least one of: the initiator, potential beneficiary, and/or beneficiary; availing the outcome of said third party identity verification/authentication to other users; and/or distinguishing users in some fashion whose identities have been verified/authenticated.

9. The method according to claim 1, further comprising receiving search queries from visitors searching raffle listings by at least one criterion.

10. The method according to claim 1, further comprising providing preferential placement on a website for a raffle based on a criterion comprising at least one of: an initiation fee level; a commission level; an auction bid level; an activity level; and/or raffle popularity.

11. The method according to claim 1, wherein terms and conditions of a particular raffle are defined by at least one of the initiator and/or beneficiary.

12. The method according to claim 1 further comprising at least one of selecting by the initiator from a plurality of monetary currencies in which to conduct the raffle, and/or participating in a foreign currency raffle by converting the native currency of an entrant into the raffle currency via an exchange rate.

13. The method according to claim 1, wherein the beneficiary of the raffle is not predetermined.

14. The method according to claim 11, wherein the terms and conditions may include at least one of: a payout ratio split between the beneficiary and the at least one winner; a predetermined number of the at least one winners; a duration of raffle drawing based on at least one of reaching a threshold amount of funds raised, reaching a fixed number of tickets available for purchase, reaching a fixed calendar date/time, and/or reaching expiration of a period of time; a predefined price and/or price range per ticket, if any; a party responsible for any administration fee; any split in administration fee payment; any bonus “odds” for at least one of an early entrant and/or a raffle entry sum exceeding a particular amount; a nature of a winning prize including at least one of money and/or object; a start date and/or time of a raffle; and/or a cancellation term.

15. The method according to claim 13, further comprising listing and/or voting on a plurality of potential beneficiaries by the public and/or other users comprising at least one of a user, an entrant, a visitor, a beneficiary, an initiator, and/or a winner.

16. The method according to claim 13, further comprising at least one of listing and/or voting on a plurality of potential beneficiaries by entrants to the raffle, and wherein said voting comprises being uniformly weighted, and/or being weighted by entry amount paid by the entrant.

17. The method according to claim 13, further comprising at least one of selecting from and/or voting on a plurality of potential beneficiaries by the at least one raffle winner.

18. The method according to claim 13, further comprising at least one of choosing a list of potential beneficiaries by the public, by the raffle service provider, and/or by the raffle entrants.

19. The method according to claim 13, further comprising: conducting a second raffle drawing determining the beneficiary.

20. The method according to claim 13, further comprising determining a list of one or more potential beneficiaries in an auction process, with those seeking to be beneficiaries bidding on a chance to be listed as said one or more potential beneficiaries.

21. The method in claim 1, further comprising providing an affiliate program wherein said affiliate program comprises: providing for one to make a referral, comprising at least one of allowing one to promote and/or refer one or more new users to the raffle service provider via the one's at least one of website, blog, social network, email list, and/or other platform, in which said referral is at least one of tracked and/or credited to a referee, and/or compensating the referee via at least one of: a flat rate, a commission of fees generated by the referred users, and/or a bonus based on volume of at least one of a number of referrals, fees generated, and/or by volume of raffle entries or cumulative raffle entry amounts generated.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELA TED PA TENTAPPLICA TIONS

This application is a U.S. Non-Provisional of and claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. Section 119 (e) of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/787,159 entitled “Systems and Methods for Management of Fundraising Campaigns,” and U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/787,158 entitled “Systems and Methods for Management of Charitable Fundraising Raffles,” of common inventorship, and the contents of both of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates generally to charitable fundraising and more particularly to charitable donations and fundraising raffles and systems.

2. Related Art

Giving charity is a tradition that has existed for a long time. Existing fundraising campaigns are typically operated by large non-profit organizations that collect money in aggregate and then disburse it as they see fit. Thousands of fundraising organizations—some of which are classified as “non-profit”—exist which may raise donations from people and may then be entrusted to disburse the money judiciously to a “worthy cause” and people that need money. This conventional process is often very inefficient, as many of these fundraising organizations suffer from high overhead (including administrative and fundraising costs) or mismanagement.

One problematic outcome of this process is that many of these organizations may only ultimately spend or disburse around 50% of their charitable donations raised on the very programs that they were created to support. In other words, $.50 of every $1 raised may be lost to, e.g., administrative tasks, salaries, fundraising costs and the like. Another problem is that when one donates money in this conventional method, it is impossible to know where the money ends up, or specify whom in need—if anyone—actually receives the money. Another problem is that individuals in dire need do not conventionally have a convenient way to request funds they require. Stated another way, because the term “worthy cause” is subjective and in the eye of the beholder, would-be donors are limited only to helping causes that someone else, or an organization, have vetted and deems “worthy.” For example, while one may believe that one's money may broadly be going to help victims of a natural disaster, the destination of the money is very broad and non-specific. Consequently, there is a huge disconnect between the giver and the receiver. Nevertheless, this dynamic has remained the status quo.

Small scale organizational fundraising raffles exist as well, raised for a particular cause such as a school fundraiser, which may offer an incentive for donors with the lure of potential raffle winnings. The present invention brings innovation and efficiency to the very inefficient and fragmented market of charitable giving and fundraising raffles.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An exemplary embodiment of the present invention may include a system, a method, and/or a computer program product which may be used to manage a raffle. According to an exemplary embodiment, a system, method and computer program product may set forth a fundraising raffle management system and clearinghouse platform designed for networks such as, e.g., but not limited to, local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), wired networks, wireless networks, the Internet, World Wide Web, mobile devices and interactive television. In an exemplary embodiment the raffle management system and clearinghouse platform may be focused on consumer/person-to-person fundraising campaigns. In another exemplary embodiment, the system may be used for organizational fundraising such as, e.g., a charity, a business, non-profit, association, etc. An initiator may create a raffle for the benefit of an individual (defined broadly such as, e.g., but not limited to, a person, a family, an entity, someone raising money on their own behalf, or in the name of a corporation, business, group, association, or non-profit organization) referred to as a beneficiary. In some cases the raffle service provider may initiate a raffle. The invention may provide a platform for the millions of individual people around the world in dire financial need, due to various reasons—such as, e.g., but not limited to, natural disasters, student loans, divorce, medical bills, unemployment, adoption, business venture costs, and/or many others-to initiate their own personal fundraising raffle campaign. According to an exemplary embodiment, the personal fundraising raffle campaign may be listed on a website, to be viewed by potential donors who may be looking to directly contribute to an individual or cause. The donations may become raffle entries in the particular fundraising raffle campaign and therefore the donors may have the opportunity to win something such as, e.g., but not limited to, some of the proceeds of the initiator's fundraising raffle campaign. With the current invention, users may logon to the system and may initiate their own personal fundraising raffle campaigns, and more than one of these fundraising raffle campaigns may occur concurrently. An initiator of a raffle may bolster the initiator's credibility with potential donors by optionally providing a detailed description of the initiator's need as well as any supporting evidence such as, e.g., but not limited to, photos and/or documents that may further document the financial need of the initiator to be accessible for viewing by, e.g., potential raffle entrants, and/or the public. An initiator of a raffle may further bolster its credibility with potential donors by undergoing a third-party identity verification, and/or authentication process, successful passing of which potential donors may be made aware of. The initiators may also have broad control and/or flexibility in establishing many terms and/or conditions under which their particular fundraising raffle campaign may be conducted, which may be used as a further tool to attract and enhance interest in a raffle, such as, e.g., but not limited to, a generous payout ratio to the winner and/or winners, for example. In an exemplary embodiment, the service provider may validate listings prior to making them available for potential donors to view. Visitors and/or potential donors may browse a plurality of personal fundraising raffle campaigns and/or perform searches by a variety of criteria or parameters to identify specific fundraising raffle campaigns of interest to the visitor and/or donor, may read the details of any personal appeals that may spark donor curiosity and/or may resonate with the donor, may have favorable raffle terms and/or conditions, etc. The donor may then directly donate money to any fundraising raffle campaign, via the fundraising raffle management system, thereby becoming a raffle entrant. Potential donors may donate an amount of money of their choosing, or donation amount increments may be tied to a multiple of an amount, which may be a fixed amount, per raffle entry. Since the initiator or beneficiary may specify the maximum amount of money being raised in the raffle—and this amount may be related to the need demonstrated by the beneficiary and may vary from raffle to raffle—donors who donate more money in a given raffle may ultimately have a greater percentage chance of winning that raffle than those who donate less money, since they may have a greater percentage of the virtual “tickets,” depending on the specified terms and conditions of the particular raffle. When fundraising raffle campaigns are conducted and completed under given terms and conditions, at least one winner may be drawn, and the at least one winner may share the proceeds with the initiator of the fundraising raffle campaign. The funds may be disbursed to the relevant parties by the fundraising service provider, which may charge any of a fee, a fundraising raffle campaign initiation fee, a listing fee, and/or an administrative fee as funds are raised.

Other features and variations may be included, such as, e.g., but not limited to, book marking particular raffle listings for later viewing, emailing of links to others, and the ability for would—be beneficiaries to compete, bid or be voted on for the opportunity to be listed as a potential beneficiary as well as the determination of the ultimate beneficiary.

In essence, the system according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, may provide a clearinghouse and platform for needy people to be matched with generous donors that may desire to make direct contributions to individuals rather than through a traditional charitable organization where the final destination and beneficiary of the donation, if any, is ambiguous and non-specific. The invention may further include an incentive to donors of a raffle entry and potentially a share of the proceeds of the raffle. Furthermore, in an exemplary embodiment, because all financial transactions may pass through the raffle service provider, potential raffle entrants need not be concerned with the veracity of the need claimed by the raffle beneficiary which may be independently verified by the raffle service provider. Ultimately, the raffle may be conducted by the raffle service provider according to specified terms and conditions. One entrant may be attracted to participate by the merits of a particular raffle beneficiary based on the listing details and supporting evidence included by the raffle beneficiary. Another entrant may be attracted to listings where the beneficiary's identity has been verified by a third party agency. Another entrant may be attracted to appealing raffle terms of a particular raffle, and be less concerned with whether or not one beneficiary is more “worthy” or legitimate than another.

An exemplary embodiment of the present invention is directed to a system, method and computer readable medium for creating and managing online raffles. In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include: (a) receiving a request to establish a user-initiated raffle from an initiator for benefit of a beneficiary at a central controller; (b) receiving a plurality of entries from a plurality of entrants for the raffle at the controller; (c) conducting the raffle; and (d) awarding to at least one winner and at least one beneficiary upon completion of the raffle at least a portion of proceeds of the raffle.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include where the initiator is either or both a raffle service provider, and/or a beneficiary.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include a central controller which may be a raffle service provider.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further charge any of a fee; an initiation fee to initiate a raffle, charged by the raffle service provider; a listing fee, charged by the raffle service provider; a transactional/administrative fee per entry, wherein the transactional administrative fee may include a flat fee and/or a percentage of the entry which may be charged by the raffle service provider; and/or a raffle completion fee paid by any of the initiator and/or out of the proceeds of the raffle, charged by the raffle service provider when the raffle is completed and the at least one winner is drawn, and where the raffle completion fee may include any of a flat rate and/or an amount related to the amount of money raised by the raffle.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include determining the beneficiary of the raffle by any of performing a task, paying a payment, and/or placing a bid at a threshold amount.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include generating a list of potential beneficiaries from a plurality of the potential beneficiaries, wherein the list may include the potential beneficiaries who each pay a price to appear on the list.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include having the beneficiary be a plurality of beneficiaries.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include at least one of: receiving documentary evidence; receiving evidence of financial need from at least one of: the initiator, potential beneficiary, and/or the beneficiary; providing the evidence to a user; providing at least one of: information, documentation, and/or photographs that support the claim of financial need; conducting third party identity verification/authentication of users; conducting third party identity verification/authentication of at least one of: the initiator, potential beneficiary, and/or beneficiary; availing the outcome of said third party identity verification/authentication to other users; and/or distinguishing users in some fashion whose identities have been verified/authenticated.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include receiving search queries from visitors searching raffle listings by at least one criterion.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include providing preferential placement on a website for a raffle based on a criterion which may include any of: an initiation fee level; a commission level; an auction bid level; an activity level; and/or raffle popularity.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include a raffle where terms and conditions of a particular raffle may be defined by any of the initiator and/or beneficiary.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include any of selecting by the initiator from a plurality of monetary currencies in which to conduct the raffle, and/or participating in a foreign currency raffle by converting the native currency of an entrant into the raffle currency via an exchange rate.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include a raffle where the beneficiary of the raffle is not predetermined.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may include a raffle where the terms and conditions may include any of: a payout ratio split between the beneficiary and the at least one winner; a predetermined number of the at least one winners; a duration of raffle drawing based on any of reaching a threshold amount of funds raised, reaching a fixed number of tickets available for purchase, reaching a fixed calendar date/time, and/or reaching expiration of a period of time; a predefined price and/or price range per ticket, if any; a party responsible for any administration fee; any split in administration fee payment; any bonus “odds” for any of an early entrant and/or a raffle entry sum exceeding a particular amount; a nature of a winning prize including any of money and/or object; a start date and/or time of a raffle; and/or a cancellation term.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include listing and/or voting on a plurality of potential beneficiaries by the public and/or other users which may include any of a user, an entrant, a visitor, an initiator, a beneficiary, and/or a winner.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include any of listing and/or voting on a plurality of potential beneficiaries by entrants to the raffle, and wherein said voting may include being uniformly weighted, and/or being weighted by entry amount paid by the entrant.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include any of selecting from and/or voting on a plurality of potential beneficiaries by the at least one raffle winner.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include any of choosing a list of potential beneficiaries by the public, by the raffle service provider, and/or by the raffle entrants.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include: conducting a second raffle drawing determining the beneficiary.

In an exemplary embodiment, the method may further include determining a list of one or more potential beneficiaries in an auction process, with those seeking to be beneficiaries bidding on a chance to be listed as the one or more potential beneficiaries.

In one exemplary embodiment, a method may further include providing an affiliate program wherein the affiliate program may include, e.g., but not limited to, providing for one to make a referral, may include allowing one to promote and/or refer one or more new users to the raffle service provider via the one's at least one of website, blog, social network, email list, and/or other platform, in which said referral may include tracking and/or crediting to a referee, and/or compensating the referee via any of: a flat rate, a commission of fees generated by the referred users, and/or a bonus based on volume of any of referrals, fees generated, and/or by volume of raffle entries and/or cumulative raffle entry amounts generated.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various exemplary features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following, more particular description of exemplary embodiments of the present invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numbers generally indicate identical, functionally similar, and/or structurally similar elements. The left most digits in the corresponding reference number indicate the drawing in which an element first appears.

FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating an exemplary embodiment of an exemplary system for accessing, creating, managing, hosting, and conducting fundraising raffles in accordance with the systems and methods for fundraising raffles;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating one exemplary embodiment of an architecture for an exemplary raffle management system including relationships of the system layers involved in the implementation of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a computer system that may be used in conjunction with any of the systems of FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 and the processes of FIG. 4, FIG. 5, and FIG. 6;

FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a high level process or method of creating, conducting and awarding proceeds from a raffle which maybe implemented on the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a more detailed raffle process which may be implemented on the system of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a user interaction raffle process which may be implemented on the system of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

A preferred exemplary embodiment of the invention is discussed in detail below. While specific exemplary embodiments are discussed, it should be understood that this is done for illustration purposes only. A person skilled in the relevant art will recognize that other components and configurations may be used without parting from the spirit and scope of the invention. Although described in terms of a method, a system, and/or computer program product could similarly be used to implement exemplary embodiments of the invention.

Overview of the Invention

FIG. 1 depicts a block diagram 100 including an exemplary system environment according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. Diagram 100 may include, in an exemplary embodiment, a raffle system service provider 102 which may be coupled to a network 104. Network 104, in an exemplary embodiment, may include the global Internet. In an exemplary embodiment, the system environment may be a client-server system environment. In another exemplary embodiment, the system may be an application service provider (ASP). Network 104 may in turn be coupled, in an exemplary embodiment to one or more workstations 106 of users 108. A user 108a may be also referred to as an initiator. A user 108b may be referred to as a beneficiary. User 108c may be referred to as an entrant 108c. A user 108d may be referred to as a winner. A user 108e may be referred to as a visitor. Various other users, such as, e.g., but not limited to, the browsing public may also access raffles hosted or managed on the raffle system service provider server 102.

An initiator 108a may create a raffle using the raffle system service provider 102. In an exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may create a raffle using a method as discussed further below with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5. In one exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may pay an initiation fee to the raffle service provider 102. In another exemplary embodiment, the user 108a may create a raffle using the raffle system service provider 102, but the raffle may not begin or be publicized until the raffle system service provider 102 approves of the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may select from a plurality of monetary currencies in which to conduct the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, initiator 108a may receive preferential placement on a website for a raffle based on, e.g., but not limited to, a particular raffle initiation fee and/or a listing fee. In another exemplary embodiment, beneficiary 108b may receive preferential placement on a website for a raffle based on, e.g., but not limited to, a particular raffle initiation fee and/or a listing fee. In one exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may also be the beneficiary 108b. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may also be the raffle service provider 102. In another exemplary embodiment, initiator 108a may receive preferential placement on, e.g., but not limited to, a website based on a commission level and/or auction bid level. In another exemplary embodiment, initiator 108a may receive preferential placement on a website based on, e.g., but not limited to, an activity level and/or raffle popularity.

The terms and conditions of a particular raffle may be defined by the initiator 108a. In one exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define the number of winner(s) 108d that there may be in the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define the payout ratio split between the beneficiary 108b and the at least one winner 108d. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define the duration of the raffle drawing, which may be based on, e.g., but not limited to, reaching a threshold amount of funds raised, a fixed calendar date/time, and/or expiration of a period of time. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define the party and/or parties responsible for any administration fee, such as, e.g., but not limited to, beneficiary 108b, winner 108d, another party, and/or a split thereof. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define any bonus “odds” for early entrants 108c to the raffle and/or for an entry sum exceeding a particular amount. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a defines the nature of a winning prize, which in an exemplary embodiment, may be money and/or an object. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define a start date and/or time of a raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may define a cancellation term for the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, initiator 108a may send email notifications or direct links to others to draw their attention to the particular fundraising raffle campaign.

A beneficiary 108b may benefit from the revenues generated by a raffle conducted by the raffle service provider 102. In one exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may be the beneficiary 108b. In one exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may be selected by the initiator 108a. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may not be pre-determined. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may be determined by performing a task. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may be determined by paying a payment. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may be determined by placing a bid at a threshold amount. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may be determined by being selected from a list of potential beneficiaries who each may pay a price to appear on the list. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may be determined by being selected from a list of potential beneficiaries who were randomly selected. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b may pay, e.g., but not limited to, a raffle completion fee which may be a flat rate or an amount related to the total money raised in the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, there may be a plurality of beneficiaries. In another exemplary embodiment, beneficiary 108b may be selected or voted on from a list of potential beneficiaries by winner 108d or multiple winners. In another exemplary embodiment, beneficiary 108b may provide information and/or documentation as supporting evidence of the beneficiary's need for the funds. In another exemplary embodiment, beneficiary 108b may be determined by conducting an additional drawing. In another exemplary embodiment, people seeking to be beneficiary 108b may bid in an auction process for the opportunity to be in a list of one or more potential beneficiaries. In another exemplary embodiment, beneficiary 108b may be selected or may be voted on by the public. In another exemplary embodiment, beneficiary 108b may send a thank you note or email to entrant 108c.

An entrant 108c may pay money or a fee to the raffle service provider 102 to enter the raffle. In one exemplary embodiment, entrant 108c may participate in a foreign currency raffle by converting the native currency of entrant 108c into the raffle currency, through the raffle system service provider 102, via an exchange rate. In another exemplary embodiment, an entrant 108c may become a beneficiary 108b or a winner 108d. In another exemplary embodiment, raffle entrants 108c may choose a list of potential beneficiaries. In another exemplary embodiment, raffle entrants 108c may vote on a plurality of potential beneficiaries, and these votes may be weighted including, e.g., but not limited to, being uniformly weighted and/or weighted by the entry amount paid by entrant 108c.

A winner 108d may be the winner of the raffle that may be conducted by the raffle service provider 102. In an exemplary embodiment, the winner 108d may pay money to the raffle service provider 102 to enter the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, the winner 108d may pay, e.g., but not limited to, a raffle completion fee which may be, e.g., but not limited to, a flat rate and/or an amount related to the total money raised in the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, the beneficiary 108b and winner 108d may split a raffle completion fee which may be a flat rate or an amount related to the total money raised in the raffle. In another exemplary embodiment, there may be a plurality of winners. In another exemplary embodiment, the winner or winners may select from and/or vote on a plurality of potential beneficiaries.

According to an exemplary embodiment, the raffle service provider 102 may manage the creation, and conducting of various raffles created by initiators 108a. In one exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may also be the raffle service provider 102.

A visitor 108e may be a member of the public and/or a registered member of the raffle service provider 102. The visitor may or may not become an entrant 108c. In one exemplary embodiment, visitors may choose a list of potential beneficiaries 108b. In one exemplary embodiment, visitor 108e may view a raffle in progress and may vote for their choice of beneficiary 108b from a list of a plurality of potential beneficiaries. In another exemplary embodiment, visitor 108e may perform browse or search queries to list raffles by at least one criterion via the raffle service provider 102. In an exemplary embodiment, raffles may be searched by, e.g., but not limited to, category, initiator location, religion, race, and/or by any specific keyword(s). In another exemplary embodiment, visitor 108e may send an email link to notify others of a particular raffle campaign. In another exemplary embodiment, visitor 108e may become an initiator 108a, a beneficiary 108b, winner 108d, and/or an entrant 108c.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram 200 illustrating an exemplary embodiment of an architecture for an exemplary raffle management system including relationships of exemplary system architecture layers involved in an exemplary implementation of raffle service provider system 102 of FIG. 1. Diagram 200 may include, in an exemplary embodiment, a hardware (HW) layer 202, an operating system (OS) 204, and one or more applications which may be application software programs such as, e.g., but not limited to, a raffle management/hosting application 206 and/or other applications 208.

FIG. 3 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a block diagram 300 illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a computer system 102, 106 that may be used in conjunction with any of the systems depicted in diagram 100 of FIG. 1 or hardware layer 202 of diagram 200 of FIG. 2. Further, computer system 102, 106 of block diagram 300 may be used to execute any of various methods and/or processes such as, e.g., but not limited to, those discussed below with reference to FIGS. 4, 5, and 6. FIG. 3 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a computer system 102, 106 that may be used in computing devices such as, e.g., but not limited to, client 106 and/or server 102 computing devices according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 3 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a computer system that may be used as client device 106, or a server device 102, etc. The present invention (or any part(s) or function(s) thereof) may be implemented using hardware, software, firmware, or a combination thereof and may be implemented in one or more computer systems or other processing systems. In fact, in one exemplary embodiment, the invention may be directed toward one or more computer systems capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. An example of a computer system 300 is shown in FIG. 3, depicting an exemplary embodiment of a block diagram of an exemplary computer system useful for implementing the present invention. Specifically, FIG. 3 illustrates an example computer 300, which in an exemplary embodiment may be, e.g., (but not limited to) a personal computer (PC) system running an operating system such as, e.g., (but not limited to) WINDOWS MOBILE™ for POCKET PC, or MICROSOFT® WINDOWS® NT/98/2000/XP/CE/, etc. available from MICROSOFT® Corporation of Redmond, Wash., U.S.A., SOLARIS® from SUN® Microsystems of Santa Clara, Calif., U.S.A., OS/2 from IBM® Corporation of Armonk, N.Y., U.S.A., Mac/OS from APPLE® Corporation of Cupertino, Calif., U.S.A., etc., or any of various versions of UNIX® (a trademark of the Open Group of San Francisco, Calif., USA) including, e.g., LINUX®, HPUX®, IBM AIX®, and SCO/UNIX®, etc. However, the invention may not be limited to these platforms. Instead, the invention may be implemented on any appropriate computer system running any appropriate operating system. In one exemplary embodiment, the present invention may be implemented on a computer system operating as discussed herein. An exemplary computer system, computer 300 is shown in FIG. 3. Other components of the invention, such as, e.g., (but not limited to) a computing device, a communications device, a telephone, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a personal computer (PC), a handheld PC, client workstations, thin clients, thick clients, proxy servers, network communication servers, remote access devices, client computers, server computers, routers, web servers, data, media, audio, video, telephony or streaming technology servers, etc., may also be implemented using a computer such as that shown in FIG. 3.

The computer system 300 may include one or more processors, such as, e.g., but not limited to, processor(s) 302. The processor(s) 302 may be coupled or connected to a communication infrastructure 304 (e.g., but not limited to, a communications bus, a backplane, a mother board, a cross-over bar, or network, etc.). Various exemplary software embodiments may be described in terms of this exemplary computer system. After reading this description, it will become apparent to a person skilled in the relevant art(s) how to implement the invention using other computer systems and/or architectures.

Computer system 300 may include a display interface 318 that may forward, e.g., but not limited to, graphics, text, and other data, etc., from the communication infrastructure 304 (or from a frame buffer, etc., not shown) for display on the display unit 320.

The computer system 300 may also include, e.g., but may not be limited to, a main memory 306, which may include, e.g., but not limited to, random access memory (RAM), and a secondary memory 308, etc. The secondary memory 308 may include, for example, (but not limited to) a storage device 310 such as, e.g., but not limited to, a hard disk drive and/or a removable storage drive 312, representing, e.g., but not limited to, a floppy diskette drive, a magnetic tape drive, an optical disk drive, a compact disk drive CD-ROM, a magneto-optical (MO) drive, a digital versatile disk (DVD), etc. The removable storage drive 312 may, e.g., but not limited to, read from and/or write to a removable storage unit 314 in a well known manner. Removable storage media unit 314, may also be called a program storage device or a computer program product, and may represent, e.g., but not limited to, a floppy disk, magnetic tape, optical disk, CD-ROM disk, a MO device, a DVD disk, etc. which may be read from and written to by removable storage device 312. As will be appreciated, the removable storage unit 314 may include a computer usable storage medium having stored therein computer software and/or data.

In alternative exemplary embodiments, secondary memory 308 may include other similar devices for allowing computer programs or other instructions to be loaded into computer system 300. Such devices may include, for example, a removable storage unit 314 and an interface (not labeled). Examples of such may include a program cartridge and cartridge interface (such as, e.g., but not limited to, those found in video game devices), a removable memory chip (such as, e.g., but not limited to, an erasable programmable read only memory (EPROM), or programmable read only memory (PROM) and associated socket, and other removable storage units 314 and interfaces, which may allow software and data to be transferred from the removable storage unit 314 to computer system 300.

Computer 300 may also include, e.g., but not limited to, an input device 316 such as, e.g., (but not limited to) a mouse or other pointing device such as a digitizer, and a keyboard or other data entry device (none of which are labeled).

Computer 300 may also include, e.g., but not limited to, other output devices, such as, e.g., (but not limited to) display 320, and output subsystem display interface 318.

Computer 300 may also include, e.g., but not limited to, input/output (I/O) system 322 such as, e.g., (but not limited to) a communications interface, a cable and communications path, (all not shown) etc., as well as I/O devices 324, 326, 328, for example. These devices 324, 326, 328, may include, e.g., but not limited to, a network interface card, and modems. The communications interface may allow software and data to be transferred between computer system 300 and external devices over a network 104, as shown. Examples of the communications interface may include, e.g., but may not be limited to, a modem, a network interface (such as, e.g., an Ethernet card), a communications port, a Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) or PC-Card slot and card, etc. Software and data transferred via communications interface may be in the form of signals which may be electronic, electromagnetic, optical or other signals capable of being received by communications interface. These signals may be provided to communications interface via, e.g., but not limited to, a communications path (e.g., but not limited to, a channel). This channel may carry signals, which may include, e.g., but not limited to, propagated signals, and may be implemented using, e.g., but not limited to, wire or cable, fiber optics, a telephone line, a cellular link, an radio frequency (RF) link and other communications channels, etc.

In this document, the terms “computer program medium” and “computer readable medium” may be used to generally refer to media such as, e.g., but not limited to removable storage drive 314, a hard disk installed in storage device 310, and signals, etc. These computer program products may provide software to computer system 300. The invention may be directed to such computer program products.

References to “one embodiment,” “an embodiment,” “example embodiment,” “various embodiments,” etc., may indicate that the embodiment(s) of the invention so described may include a particular feature, structure, or characteristic, but not every embodiment necessarily includes the particular feature, structure, or characteristic. Further, repeated use of the phrase “in one embodiment,” or “in an exemplary embodiment,” do not necessarily refer to the same embodiment, although they may.

In the following description and claims, the terms “coupled” and “connected,” along with their derivatives, may be used. It should be understood that these terms are not intended as synonyms for each other. Rather, in particular embodiments, “connected” may be used to indicate that two or more elements are in direct physical or electrical contact with each other. “Coupled” may mean that two or more elements are in direct physical or electrical contact. However, “coupled” may also mean that two or more elements are not in direct contact with each other, but yet still co-operate or interact with each other.

An algorithm is here, and generally, considered to be a self-consistent sequence of acts or operations leading to a desired result. These include physical manipulations of physical quantities. Usually, though not necessarily, these quantities take the form of electrical or magnetic signals capable of being stored, transferred, combined, compared, and otherwise manipulated. It has proven convenient at times, principally for reasons of common usage, to refer to these signals as bits, values, elements, symbols, characters, terms, numbers or the like. It should be understood, however, that all of these and similar terms are to be associated with the appropriate physical quantities and are merely convenient labels applied to these quantities.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, as apparent from the following discussions, it is appreciated that throughout the specification discussions utilizing terms such as “processing,” “computing,” “calculating,” “determining,” or the like, refer to the action and/or processes of a computer or computing system, or similar electronic computing device, that manipulate and/or transform data represented as physical, such as electronic, quantities within the computing system's registers and/or memories into other data similarly represented as physical quantities within the computing system's memories, registers or other such information storage, transmission or display devices.

In a similar manner, the term “processor” may refer to any device or portion of a device that processes electronic data from registers and/or memory to transform that electronic data into other electronic data that may be stored in registers and/or memory. A “computing platform” may comprise one or more processors.

Embodiments of the present invention may include apparatuses for performing the operations herein. An apparatus may be specially constructed for the desired purposes, or it may comprise a general purpose device selectively activated or reconfigured by a program stored in the device.

Embodiments of the invention may be implemented in one or a combination of hardware, firmware, and software. Embodiments of the invention may also be implemented as instructions stored on a machine-readable medium, which may be read and executed by a computing platform to perform the operations described herein. A machine-readable medium may include any mechanism for storing or transmitting information in a form readable by a machine (e.g., a computer). For example, a machine-readable medium may include read only memory (ROM); random access memory (RAM); magnetic disk storage media; optical storage media; flash memory devices; electrical, optical, acoustical or other form of propagated signals (e.g., carrier waves, infrared signals, digital signals, etc.), and others.

Computer programs (also called computer control logic), may include object oriented computer programs, and may be stored in main memory 306 and/or the secondary memory 308 and/or removable storage media units 314, also called computer program products. Such computer programs, when executed, may enable the computer system 300 to perform the features of the present invention as discussed herein. In particular, the computer programs, when executed, may enable the processor 302 to provide a method to resolve conflicts during data synchronization according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. Accordingly, such computer programs may represent controllers of the computer system 300.

In another exemplary embodiment, the invention may be directed to a computer program product comprising a computer readable medium having control logic (computer software) stored therein. The control logic, when executed by the processor 302, may cause the processor 302 to perform the functions of the invention as described herein. In another exemplary embodiment where the invention may be implemented using software, the software may be stored in a computer program product and loaded into computer system 300 using, e.g., but not limited to, removable storage drive 312, storage device 310 or communications interface, etc. The control logic (software), when executed by the processor 302, may cause the processor 302 to perform the functions of the invention as described herein. The computer software may run as a standalone software application program running atop an operating system, or may be integrated into the operating system.

In yet another embodiment, the invention may be implemented primarily in hardware using, for example, but not limited to, hardware components such as application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), or one or more state machines, etc. Implementation of the hardware state machine so as to perform the functions described herein will be apparent to persons skilled in the relevant art(s).

In another exemplary embodiment, the invention may be implemented primarily in firmware.

In yet another exemplary embodiment, the invention may be implemented using a combination of any of, e.g., but not limited to, hardware, firmware, and software, etc.

Exemplary embodiments of the invention may also be implemented as instructions stored on a machine-readable medium, which may be read and executed by a computing platform to perform the operations described herein. A machine-readable medium may include any mechanism for storing or transmitting information in a form readable by a machine (e.g., a computer). For example, a machine-readable medium may include read only memory (ROM); random access memory (RAM); magnetic disk storage media; optical storage media; flash memory devices; electrical, optical, acoustical or other form of propagated signals (e.g., carrier waves, infrared signals, digital signals, etc.), and others.

The exemplary embodiment of the present invention makes reference to wired, or wireless networks. Wired networks include any of a wide variety of well known means for coupling voice and data communications devices together. A brief discussion of various exemplary wireless network technologies that may be used to implement the embodiments of the present invention now are discussed. The examples are non-limited. Exemplary wireless network types may include, e.g., but not limited to, code division multiple access (CDMA), spread spectrum wireless, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), 1G, 2G, 3G wireless, Bluetooth, Infrared Data Association (IrDA), shared wireless access protocol (SWAP), “wireless fidelity” (Wi-Fi), WIMAX, and other IEEE standard 802.11-compliant wireless local area network (LAN), 802.16-compliant wide area network (WAN), and ultrawideband (UWB), etc.

Bluetooth is an emerging wireless technology promising to unify several wireless technologies for use in low power radio frequency (RF) networks.

IrDA is a standard method for devices to communicate using infrared light pulses, as promulgated by the Infrared Data Association from which the standard gets its name. Since IrDA devices use infrared light, they may depend on being in line of sight with each other.

The exemplary embodiments of the present invention may make reference to WLANs. Examples of a WLAN may include a shared wireless access protocol (SWAP) developed by Home radio frequency (HomeRF), and wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi), a derivative of IEEE 802.11, advocated by the wireless ethernet compatibility alliance (WECA). The IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN standard refers to various technologies that adhere to one or more of various wireless LAN standards. An IEEE 802.11 compliant wireless LAN may comply with any of one or more of the various IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN standards including, e.g., but not limited to, wireless LANs compliant with IEEE std. 802.11a, b, d or g, such as, e.g., but not limited to, IEEE std. 802.11 a, b, d and g, (including, e.g., but not limited to IEEE 802.11g-2003, etc.), etc.

FIG. 4 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a flow chart 400 illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a high level process or method of creating, conducting and awarding proceeds from a raffle which maybe implemented on the system of FIG. 1. Flow diagram 400 illustrates an exemplary high level process of conducting a raffle, which may use the exemplary raffle service provider 102 according to the present invention. Diagram 400 may begin with 402 and may continue immediately with 404.

In 404, a request may be received from an initiator 108a at the raffle service provider 102 to establish a new raffle. As noted above, in an exemplary embodiment, the initiator 108a may be prompted to input information including, e.g., but not limited to, any of various criterion, parameters, photos, file attachments, and/or terms and conditions associated with the raffle being established. From 404, flow diagram 400 may continue with 406.

In 406, the raffle service provider 102 may receive a plurality of raffle entries from a plurality of entrants 108c. From 406, flow diagram 400 may continue with 408.

In 408, the raffle service provider 102 may conduct the raffle. From 408, flow diagram 400 may continue with 410.

In 410, a portion of the proceeds from the raffle may be awarded to at least one winner and a portion may be provided to at least one beneficiary upon completion of the raffle, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the particular raffle. From 410, flow diagram 400 may continue with 412 and may continue immediately by ending.

FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a flow chart 500 illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a more detailed raffle process which may be implemented on the system of FIG. 1. Diagram 500 may begin with 502 and may continue immediately with 504.

In 504, a user 108 may access a raffle service provider 102 server which may be executing the fundraising raffle management system application 206. As shown in FIG. 1, the raffle service provider system 102 may include, e.g., but not limited to, an application server and/or a web server. From 504, flow diagram 500 may continue with 506.

In 506, the raffle service provider 102, in an exemplary embodiment, may check account details for the user. From 506, flow diagram 500 may continue with 514.

In 514, the raffle service provider 102, in an exemplary embodiment, may check whether the user is an existing user. From 514, if the user 108 is determined to be an existing user, then flow diagram 500 may continue with 516, and if the user 108 is not determined to be an existing user, flow diagram 500 may continue with 508.

In 516, the raffle service provider 102 may prompt the user 108 to provide a username and password, or other authentication, and the user may provide as input the requested information. From 516, the flow diagram 500 may continue with 518.

In 518, the raffle service provider 102 may display account status and information about the account to the user 108. From 518, flow diagram 500 may continue immediately by ending at 544, in one exemplary embodiment.

In 508, the raffle service provider 102, in an exemplary embodiment, may create a new account for the user 108. From 508, flow diagram 500 may continue with 520.

In 520, the raffle service provider 102, may receive information, input by the user 108 used to create the account, in an exemplary embodiment. From 520, flow diagram 500 may continue with 522.

In 522, the raffle service provider 102 may verify the information previously input, in an exemplary embodiment. From 522, flow diagram 500 may continue with 524.

In 524, the raffle service provider 102, may make the user 108 provide authentication, or agreement to the user agreement, providing an electronic signature to sign the user agreement, for example, in an exemplary embodiment. From 524, flow diagram 500 may continue with 526.

In 526, the raffle service provider 102, in an exemplary embodiment, may send an email with a confirmation request. From 526, flow diagram 500 may continue with 528.

In 528, the raffle service provider 102 may receive from the user 108, an account confirmation from the user, in an exemplary embodiment. From 528, flow diagram 500 may continue with 512 and may continue immediately by ending at 544, in one exemplary embodiment.

In 510, the raffle service provider 102, in an exemplary embodiment, may allow an initiator 108a to create a raffle. From 510, flow diagram 500 may continue with 530.

In 530, the raffle service provider 102 may determine whether the user 108 is an existing user, and if so, flow diagram 500 may continue with 532, and if not, then flow diagram 500 may continue with 508, in an exemplary embodiment.

In 532, the raffle service provider 102, in an exemplary embodiment, may prompt the user 108 to input/verify the user's username and password. From 532, flow diagram 500 may continue with 534.

In 534, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the initiator 108a a raffle amount, a title, a description, and/or listing details for the raffle, in an exemplary embodiment. From 534, flow diagram 500 may continue with 536.

In 536, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the initiator 108a an upload of files, and/or photos, and/or other information related to the raffle. From 536, flow diagram 500 may continue with 538.

In 538, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the initiator 108a any terms and conditions associated with the raffle. From 538, flow diagram 500 may continue with 540.

In 540, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the initiator 108a an acknowledgement of acceptance of the raffle agreement, such as, e.g, but not limited to, by entry of an electronic signature, or clickthrough acknowledgement or confirmation of another type. From 540, flow diagram 500 may continue with 542.

In 542, the raffle service provider 102, may prompt the user to determine whether or not to notify others of the raffle. In an exemplary embodiment, if the user 108 wishes to notify others, then flow diagram 500 may continue with 546. In another exemplary embodiment, if the user 108 chooses not to notify others, then flow diagram 500 may continue with 544, which may immediately end flow diagram 500.

In 546, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the initiator 108a a list of email addresses to which a notification of the raffle may be sent. From 546, flow diagram 500 may continue with 548.

In 548, the raffle service provider 102, may send the notification to each of the addresses previously provided. From 548, flow diagram 500 may continue with 544.

In 512, the raffle service provider 102, may allow a user 108 to access such as, e.g., but not limited to, to browse, to search, and/or to view, raffle listings. From 512, flow diagram 500 may continue with 550.

In 550, the raffle service provider 102, may display results of the operations of 512 in response to input from the user 108. From 550, flow diagram 500 may continue with 552.

In 552, the raffle service provider 102, may determine whether the user 108 wishes to view a specific raffle listing, and if so, then from 552, flow diagram 500 may continue with 554. Otherwise, flow diagram 500 may continue with step 512, according to an exemplary embodiment.

In 554, the raffle service provider 102, may display the specific raffle listing, in an exemplary embodiment. From 554, flow diagram 500 may prompt the user with steps 556, 558, and/or 560.

In 556, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the user 108 a bookmark selection. From 556, flow diagram 500 may continue by book marking the raffle, and may end with 544.

In 558, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the user 108 a request to email a link to another. From 558, flow diagram 500 may continue by emailing the link, and may end with 544.

In 560, the raffle service provider 102, may receive from the user 108 a request to enter a raffle. From 560, flow diagram 500 may continue by allowing the user 108 to enter the raffle as shown in step 406 of flow diagram 400, or in greater detail, as discussed below with reference to FIG. 6, or may end with 544.

FIG. 6 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a flow chart 600 illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a user interaction raffle process which may be implemented on the system of FIG. 1. Diagram 600 may begin with 602 and may continue immediately with 604.

In 604, a user 108 may enter a raffle. From 604, flow diagram 600 may continue with 606.

In 606, the raffle service provider 102 may determine whether the user 108 is logged in or not. From 606, flow diagram 600 may continue with 608 if the user is logged in, or if not, then with 610.

In 608, the raffle service provider 102 may process a payment amount for the raffle entry, as may be input by user 108. From 608, flow diagram 600 may continue with 612 and may end.

In 610, if a user is not logged in, then it may be determined whether the user is an existing user. From 610, flow diagram 600 may continue with 614 if an existing user, or if not an existing user, may continue with 616.

In 614, if a user is an existing user, then the raffle service provider 102 may request input and verification of a username and password of the user 108. From 614, flow diagram 600 may continue with 608.

In 616, if a user is not an existing user, then an account may be created for the user. From 616, flow diagram 600 may continue with 618.

In 618, the account creation module 508, discussed further above with reference to FIG. 5, may be executed. From 618, flow diagram 600 may continue with 614.

While various embodiments of the present invention have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example only, and not limitation. Thus, the breadth and scope of the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should instead be defined only in accordance with the following claims and their equivalents.