Is It Better To Give Randomly Or Selectively?

One of the funnest things about being a part of the online community is the ability to host giveaways and win things as well.  The predominant way hosts choose winners is randomized, likely for “fairness” sake and also so that the host doesn’t have to choose.  I can see the merits of randomization, but I do not agree with the process.

Some of the ways to improve your chances of winning a giveaway include linking back, commenting, subscribing, and tweeting.  The goal is to publicize the host’s site as much possible, which sounds good to me.  It’s a mutually beneficial exercise because you can win too.  Hence, if you have someone who is better able to better publicize your site, shouldn’t they not get stronger consideration?  What if a contestant said he could get you mentioned on Oprah, wouldn’t you rather give that prize to him?

I also believe in meritocracy, hence if someone writes a long comment addressing a question with a thorough solution, she definitely is higher on the consideration chain than someone who leaves a one-liner with little thought.   Have you seen some of the comments on this site?  They are like novels and I’m blown away at times!  There’s no way I cannot respond.

Finally, imagine if there was a scholarship contest where all you have to do is enter to win instead of write an essay.  Your essay could just consist of the words, “Boomshakala, gimme, gimme, gimme, badabada, ding dong!”  The effort put into the scholarship is not through writing something fantastic, but through submitting to as many scholarships with random selection processes as possible.  In essence, you are matching the selection process numbers game with your own numbers game.  It’s all good, but the result is that the host won’t have the quality following for the long term that she seeks.


I love winning prizes probably because I hardly win anything at all.  Yes, I could go to the Apple store and buy an iPad 2 as a business expense, and so can you, but that’s not as fun as winning one.  Who doesn’t love the feeling of winning?

If ever I win anything, I feel a deep sense of gratitude, and I will undoubtedly give back at least double the amount of love in return.  A couple years ago I won an $500 essay contest sponsored by Joel from Credit Card Chaser called “Are Credit Cards Weapons Of Mass Financial Destruction?“.  That contest led to a very fruitful relationship.  Joel received a decent amount of traffic from my site, as well as other traffic due to his Yakezie Network list which he created and I sanctioned.  I’m happy to help Joel with any projects he has!

You know the saying, “It’s always better to give than to receive“?  It’s there because some people go to great lengths to give back much more because they are so appreciative.  There are those who fight to pay the bill vs. those who give up easily, suddenly see their arms shrink into their pockets or strategically go to the bathroom before the bill?  You’ll never be able to pay the bill if we’re going out for the first time I promise!

Here are two giveaways I’ve entered from sites I visit and owners I know:

* Derek from Life and My Finances is hosting an iPad 2 giveaway.

* Bob from Christian PF wrote a good post called “How To Escape The Rat Race” is also hosting an iPad 2 giveaway.

The chances of me winning an iPad 2 from either Derek or Bob is slim-to-none because everybody comes out of the woodwork when there is a giveaway.  It’s like all your long lost friends who start pinging you, “Heeeeeyahh!” after you win the lottery or come into a position of importance.  As soon as they find out you don’t have money, you can’t give anything, or that someone else wins, they go back into the woodwork and patiently wait.


Given this natural phenomenon, I really try and focus on choosing those participants who have shown consistency in participation.  They don’t necessarily have to be site-owners or big kahunas, they just have to be people I know who will still be here tomorrow and not forget my name as soon as they win. In other words, focus on the quality of the relationship not the quantity of relationships.

This is one of the main reasons why it takes 6 months to even be considered a Yakezie Member.  Six months weeds out those who don’t have the endurance to stick around for the long run.  If they do make it past the six month Challenge, not only will they develop plenty of rewarding relationships, they will probably make thousands of extra dollars a year.  The act of helping another out is immensely gratifying and something we plan to do for as long as possible.

The great thing as readers of Financial Samurai is that you can click on the giveaway links above, tweet their posts and win too!  Forget about writing a 900 word post like I have here which argues for the merits of being more selective.  And if you win an iPad 2, I’m sure you will break it in two and give me half!

Readers, what do you think is better, selective or random selection?  This can apply to charities, contests, and promotions. 

What are the reasons why to employ random giving?




Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    Great thoughts sam. I liked how you incorporated both giveaways into your post without making it just about them. Very creative. I am taking notes as a new blogger. The yakezie challenge has been great so far and I plan to continue to the 6 month mark. :)

  2. says

    Sam, this is an old fashioned concept of giving then you receive! Put in the effort and you will succeed! It may be one of the reasons lottery millionaires usually go broke. What did they do for it? They bought the ticket and won! Working for the reward changes the equation. It makes it worthwhile. Teaching has many of the elements of giving and when you see success it is very rewarding.

    • says

      Good point on lottery millionaires sometimes going broke given all they did was buy a ticket and not put any effort.

      Hence, why do you think those of us who host giveaways don’t select the winners selectively?

      • says

        Usually, an effort is made by subscribing, following on Twitter, Facebook Fan page likes, etc to become eligible. Some may say that is not much of an effort, but it does reduce the pool. I suppose the requirements could be upgraded to make it more difficult.

  3. says


    I must admit I’ve done my giveaway selection on my site rather randomly. I’ve been fortunate that the winners for the bigger prizes have been genuine readers. However, I think you’ve made a great case for being more selective on future contests.

    I’ll have to think about how I’ll do it – perhaps having smaller prizes for new ones and the grand prize for long time readers. as I gear up for Couple Money’s 2 year anniversary giveaway later this month, I’ll be making some changes.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. says

    I guess I like a hybrid approach – giveaways are great for driving traffic, and hopefully some of those people will stick around. But I feel like hand-picking the winner of a contest would discourage people from entering. “Oh, the prize will go to someone who’s been around for a long time, and I’m new, so I won’t bother.”

    I like to offer something extra for the people who I know are loyal readers. For example, I’m launching a giveaway tomorrow and my RSS subscribers got a code worth 5 extra entries. So they have a greater chance of winning, but the people who show up just for the giveaway can feel that they have a chance as well. Then again, I did like Bucksome Boomer’s approach with the Tempurpedic giveaway – an essay that actually required some effort.

    So at this point I don’t even know why I’m commenting, because I’m just going in circles. Basically, I want to make it worth someone’s time to visit my site and enter a contest, but I want to make it MORE worth it for people who have already been a part of the community.

  5. says

    It teaches them to make great effort in entering a lot of giveaways! :)

    I love the idea of winning something for nothing. It’s like the lottery system.

    I also love the idea of competing to win! If there is something I want bad enough, I will be the most ferocious competitor around. So fun!

  6. Darwin's Money says

    Great question. I’m a meritocratic guy myself but I think a few factors tend to lean toward random selection for blog giveaways. Primarily, it’s a heck of a lot of effort to select out of hundreds of entrants and pick the most “deserving”. Next, there are issues of percieved fairness and favoritism (real or not) and finally, it might deter many from joining if they already know more “established” elite own the prize.

    The goal of contests are usually to sign up new subscribers, so by their very nature, bloggers are usually inclined to incentivize newbies to sign up for a newsletter or whatever. It’s kinda like why you can’t get that “new subscriber” discount from the cable service you’ve been paying for years.

  7. says

    I like the hybrid approach. Regardless of who wins, I think it’s awesome so many of us bloggers host giveaways of all sorts and sizes. It feels good to give back. I’ve hosted a few book giveaways recently and was actually gifted a book back by one winner b/c she was so appreciative. That was an awesome surprise. :) -Sydney

  8. says

    For my giveaways, I’ve selected the winners totally at random. That’s how I said I’d do it, and I followed through. The thing is, people could also get extra entries for doing different things like following, subscribing, etc. I feel much more comfortable having the winners randomly chosen in this way, with the loyalty reward coming from what they do to earn the extra entries.

    And yes – giving can be better than receiving. I can’t and won’t give away all my worldly possesions, honestly. However, I do derive much, much, much more enjoyment from giving gifts than receiving them. It’s not even close.

  9. says

    Some really interesting thoughts! Moving away from the blogging side of things, there are definitely legal reasons to choose one over the other as if you’re not careful, your giveaway could be construed as ‘gambling’ (at least in NZ) – yet it seems not many people are aware of this. For example, most subscription offers touted by magazines are actually falling foul of the law, because if you have to pay to enter (buy a subscription) and prizes are awarded randomly (element of chance).

    The random method certainly makes it easier for the blogger, and it makes it easier to enter because you won’t get extra marks for putting more effort in

    • says

      Hmmmm, very interesting point about the legality of things! Didn’t realize that at all.

      I was thinking, maybe one should hire someone to enter one in contests then haha. It just is a numbers game!

  10. says

    Great post Sam. I really like you part about building relationships because to me that is why we blog in the first place- to get to know others and share our opinions. The rest is just bonus. I haven’t hosted a giveaway yet but is in my plans and this post has given me some things to think about. Eemusings makes a good point though- you do need to watch out legally when choosing a specific person.

  11. says

    I have won 2 giveaways, and I loved it! If I had a giveaway though, I would probably not make it random. Maybe I would post a problem and solicit comments to help solve the problem or something, I don’t know.

    I totally agree about the relationship thing. I have consistently posted probably 4 times a week since I started writing, but I did have a couple weeks where I was ‘out of commission’. However, my loyal friends kept dropping by and some even offered to write guest posts for me. It might sound crazy, but that meant a lot of me. Some of my online friends came through for me more so than my ‘in person’ friends, and that is a part of blogging that I never anticipated.

    • says

      I think we UNDERESTIMATE the desire ability of contestants who participate to want to compete and do something. We can make random or selective giveaways a government analogy, which I know you love. Shall we randomly give anybody unemployment benefits, or those who are actively searching for work, participating in programs to find work, etc, or should we just give unemployment to anybody? The amazing thing is, the government choose the former, the one who is actively looking and needs the money the most!

      I think the hybrid method is the best method of random plus selective for the grand prize. Let’s compete, help out, solve a problem, whatever! People don’t want to “earn” their award, more than they want it just to be given to them. They don’t mind getting something for free or minimal work, but it is not as rewarding. Not by a looong shot.

  12. says

    I’ve been thinking about this since I first read it the other day.

    I have won 4 or 5 giveaways since I started blogging. (Which is a miracle for me because I never win anything!) Honestly, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head which blogs I won something from – except FrugalBeautiful, because Shannyn and I are friends and I read her blog all the time. So in the sense of gaining loyalty, I’m not sure a giveaway does that. Traffic? Definitely. And hopefully some of them will like what they see and stick around. But do the visitors actually read anything, or do they just fill out the form as quickly as possible so they can go back to their regular reading?

    I’m still really torn on this issue. Just thinking out loud here, don’t mind me. :)

    • says

      Wow, that’s a lot! Sweet! I’m assuming you’ve participated in many and you’ve gotten chosen using a random system yeah?

      I would be disappointed if someone who won something from me don’t remember my name or site months or a years later. That’s my point… I want to build long term relationships.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  13. says

    I guess if you allow everyone to participate in a giveaway, you have a good chance that new readers will take notice of you and come back and visit again.

    But I also understand that giving the prize to someone who has just entered to win the big prize, feels like you are wasting your giveaway money.

    Since I am a sponsor of one of the giveaways that Derek is offering, I hope it goes to someone who has a genuine interest in improving their financial life.

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