Friday, November 4, 2011

On Being a Responsible Partner to Our Charities

Lost in the downturn
It should come as no surprise that non-profits are struggling in the current economy, right alongside small businesses. With corporate and personal donations down, non-profits are experiencing record deficits in funding. According to the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2011 Survey, 77 percent of charities in The U.S. experienced an increased demand in services as a direct result of unemployment, poverty, and government budget cuts. A staggering 28 percent of charities surveyed report only 30 days of operating cash available to meet the increase. And the demands are predicted to rise even further.

Terminally ill children are being turned away with their wishes unfulfilled. Veterans’ programs are unable to aid returning soldiers with job placement and living assistance. Rehabilitation of children in the juvenile system is underfunded and understaffed.

Our charities are in real crisis.

Where to turn?
In an effort to increase donations and revenues, non-profits and small businesses are adopting new marketing programs to reach an ever-widening group of potential donors. One such marketing program is HEST Technologies Inc. sweepstakes promotional system.

The HEST Technologies promotional system is a certified sweepstakes promotion that allows non-profits to engage in cost-effective fundraising campaigns. The days of expensive mail solicitations are drawing to a close, but sweepstakes promotions are not. Inside community convenience stores, where locals patronize and interact on a weekly basis, HEST Technologies conducts an entertaining and engaging campaign soliciting donations, while working to raise public awareness of the charities and their missions.

Donors in the store make a donation to the participating charity and as a result are automatically entered into the charitable sweepstakes. To immediately reveal the potential prizes, donors may elect to play entertaining games at sweepstakes participant terminal. Upon completion of the session, donors may collect prizes from the retailer.

This unique fundraising method has proven highly successful for the participating charities, as well as the small businesses sponsoring the campaign.

Unfortunately, many pretenders have pounced upon the success of HEST Technologies and tried to emulate the promotional system—tried and failed. The danger with the pretenders’ sweepstakes promotion and the focus of HEST’s petition against such pretenders is consumer fraud; a topic Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbot, frequently warns the public about. A recent announcement from the Attorney General warned of charitable sweepstakes scams concerning Japan’s Relief Efforts. These pretenders are engaged in deceptive trade practices, do not inform the public of the exact number and type of prizes to be awarded, and make false claims to donors about the nature of the fundraising campaign and the charities’ participation.

The suit
In order to protect the public, the non-profits and the small businesses at risk, HEST has filed a lawsuit in the Palo Pinto District Court against several companies pretending to solicit donations through an electronic video sweepstakes promotion.

Appearance is not an element in determining whether or not a promotion is legal or illegal. The legality of a sweepstakes promotion is totally dependent on its creation and operation. The nature of the promotion operated by the pretenders, is in fact, illegal under the Texas Penal Code, based on the devices and method used to conduct the sweepstakes.

Therefore, it will be the continued policy of HEST Technologies Inc. and the businesses and nonprofits we partner with, to protect the public from companies and parties that assert that they are engaged in legal promotions because they have a similar appearance to the HEST program.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Skyeward Bound Ranch and HEST Technologies Sponsor the 2011 Boots and Bandanas Benefit Dinner for Camp Summit

Haltom City, TX (PRWEB) October 05, 2011

Skyeward Bound Ranch and HEST Technologies are the platinum sponsors for Camp Summit’s ninth annual, Boots and Bandanas Benefit Dinner. The live and silent auction event, to be held November 3 at Eddie Deen’s Ranch in Dallas, will raise funds for campers with severe disabilities who wish to attend one of the weeklong camping sessions offered year-round.

At Camp Summit, individuals with disabilities participate in traditional camp activities in nature and the outdoors, with the age of campers ranging from six to 99 years old. Campers are never turned away based on severity of disability including Down syndrome, Autism, mental retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, paralysis, deaf/blind or multi-handicapped. Activities at Camp Summit include: horseback riding, swimming, arts & crafts, nature studies, kaleidoscope, ropes challenge course, and sports and games.

"HEST Technologies is proud of the work Skyeward Bound Ranch is performing on behalf of our communities. We sleep well at night knowing our efforts make a difference," said Chris Canard, President of HEST Technologies.

HEST Technologies, Inc., a sweepstakes promotions software development company founded in 1997, partnered with Skyeward Bound Ranch in 2010 to create the Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes. Donors participating in the sweepstakes not only impact special needs kids and children with terminal illnesses, but with their charitable contributions, donors receive free entries into the sweepstakes which qualify them for a chance at cash prizes.

Skyeward Bound Ranch affords campers and their families the opportunity to grow personally and master strong techniques to reinforce a higher standard of individual success. Through its fund raising benefits and charity auctions, Skyeward Bound Ranch raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, enabling multiple camps across Texas to sponsor young people as part of a year-round retreat program.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NEW Pricing from HEST!

Haltom City – In response to changing customer needs in video sweepstakes, HEST Technologies is announcing a tested and approved line of re-certified PCs, available immediately at a drastically reduced price. The re-certified PCs, while pre-owned, continue to meet HEST’s standards for performance and reliability and will run the Sweepstakes Management Software, both on the game terminals and the Point of Sale systems. This reduction in hardware costs will enable sweepstakes operators to spend more of their start up funds on building the business, rather than hardware.

The line of PCs are re-certified HPs with a built-in one year warranty from the date of purchase. The monitors, also HP, are new and have a three-year warranty.

Order today and take delivery during the BEST sweepstakes season since 2008!!

$645.00 - Sweepstakes machines / game terminals:
Includes (1) Re-certified HP/PC with 1 year warranty – Keyboard – Mouse – New HP 20” LCD monitor with 3 year warranty – Speaker bar – 25’ Patch cable.

$1595.00 – Route Point of Sale (for 10 game terminals and less):
Includes (1) Re-certified HP/PC server with one-year warranty – Keyboard – Mouse – New HP 20” LCD monitor with 3 year warranty – POS printer – Router – (8) Port Switch – Card Swipe - Cash drawer - 25’ Patch cable.

$1795.00 – Point of Sale (for more than 10 game terminals):
Includes (2) Re-certified HP/PC servers with 1 year warranty – Keyboard – Mouse – New HP 20” LCD monitor with 3 year warranty – POS printer – Router – (8) Port Switch– Card Swipe – Cash drawer - 25’ Patch cable.

$1795.00 - Recharge Station
Includes (1) Re-certified HP/PC with 1 year warranty – Keyboard – Mouse – New HP 22” LCD touch screen monitor with 3 year warranty – JCM bill validator – Upright black cabinet - 25’ Patch cable.

$2495.00 - All in One Point of Sale/Recharge Station
Includes (1) Re-certified HP/PC server with 1 year warranty – Keyboard – Mouse – New HP 22” LCD touch screen monitor with 3 year warranty – JCM bill validator – Printer – Router - Upright black cabinet - 25’ Patch cable.

Options:
22” monitor in lieu of 20” (+$45)
22” Touch screen monitor in lieu of 20” (+$125)
Card swipe (+$65)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Recommendations for Video Sweepstakes Regulations

The advent of electronically conducted sweepstakes has brought on some unique challenges for law enforcement across the country. The main problem encountered is how to determine if the sweepstakes is being conducted in a proper manner. Since it is conducted electronically there is no real proof to determine if the prizes are actually awarded. With electronic sweepstakes, all prizes are offered and awarded on a computer and the prizes are paid in cash. Therefore, no paper trail is available to determine if consumer fraud or deceptive trade practices are being committed by not awarding the prizes that have been advertised.

Sweepstakes Rules

The rules for conducting a sweepstakes are quite consistent across the country. The sweepstakes must have a beginning and ending date, state the requirements for participation, restrictions for who can enter, when and how the prizes will be awarded, etc., but the most important requirement is to identify the prizes that will be awarded and to provide free entry to all who request it.

The last two requirements are the most commonly violated. Typically, software companies will create programs that either don’t make all prizes available to all participants, or do not award all the prizes. This would be like someone creating a sweepstakes and advertising they were giving away a yacht to entice everyone to participate, then not giving away the yacht.

Since there is no paper trail, law enforcement must look at the software being used to conduct the sweepstakes and award the prizes. The software companies that have entered the sweepstakes business are quite ingenious in their methods of making the software look like it complies with typical sweepstakes regulations when in fact their focus is entirely on making the games play just like they were in a casino.


How the sweepstakes is faked


There are two typical approaches that are taken by software companies in creating their prize pools. The most common method of creating prize pools is to create a unique prize pool for every play level of every game. A typical software company will have approximately 25 games and each of those games will have approximately six play levels. That means there are 150 different pools of prizes that are accessible only when a player selects a specific game and a specific play level. This is a problem for both paying and non-paying participants. Let’s say a customer purchases $5 of Internet access time and is given $5 free entry into the sweepstakes. If the customer plays the free entries at the $1 play level then they are not provided access to the prizes in any of the other pools either above or below the play level selected. This is a problem especially for the grand prize which is in the $8 play level pool, inaccessible to the customer, because they do not have enough money to enter. Therefore, they are not given the opportunity to win the grand prize unless more money is spent. This method of operating does not provide equal dignity to all participants.

This problem is accentuated when customers are provided with a free entry in the sweepstakes. Typically, the free entries provided by operators of electronic sweepstakes are $1. This means the player is restricted to participating in those play levels at $1 and below. All the prizes for the play levels above $1 are not made available to the customer. Therefore, the customer has not been treated with equal dignity with paying participants who have paid to play at a higher level.

All participants shall be provided with the same opportunity to win the prizes advertised and all prizes must be awarded. If no one ever plays the highest play level, then the prizes will never be awarded. This is the yacht example all over again.

The single prize pool

The second method of constructing prize pools is a single prize pool. Some software companies do operate a single pool of prizes, however their approach to prizes being awarded is quite inventive. Typically, when a software company creates a single pool of prizes, the game is driving the results, not the other way around. That means the game determines the result by looking to the pool for the result closest to what is displayed by the game. When the prize pool has become approximately 50 percent depleted, the game can no longer perform in the desired manner. The answer to overcoming the problem is to dump the balance of the pool and start another pool. When this occurs half of the prizes are never awarded even though they have been advertised. Once again this constitutes consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.

So how can we entrust operators to conduct a sweepstakes in a proper manner whereby all prizes are awarded and all participants, both paying and non-paying, are treated with equal dignity? The answer is to require everyone to operate from a single finite pool of prizes and to require the operator to completely deplete the pool prior to commencing another sweepstakes. The only caveat to this requirement is that the pool of results be reasonable in size. Some prize pools can contain billions of prizes to allow the game to play well indefinitely, allowing the operator to claim they are operating from a single pool. Prize pools should not contain more than 1,000,000 entries.

If states wish to protect the public interest, they should consider adopting regulations for testing and certification of electronic sweepstakes. Once created, software companies can submit software to third party testing agencies for review and certification. These agencies can provide reports indicating the level of compliance with state regulations.

States can elect to inspect the operating locations to determine if the software was certified. When a software program is created, or anytime it is modified, a unique File Check number is created at the same time. This File Check number can be verified on site by running the File Check program on the server. If the number doesn’t match it is either a different program or the program has been changed.

HEST strongly recommends the following requirements be incorporated into regulations to ensure against Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices:

1. All games operated in a single physical address shall be operated from a single finite pool of results.

2. The single finite pool of results shall reside on the server for the location, not on the games.

3. The single finite pool of results must be on-site and not at a remote server or data center.

4. All results shall be drawn from the single finite pool at the time of purchase or donation, prior to playing the games.

5. Free entries shall be drawn from the same pool used for paying participants and in the same manner.

6. The finite pool of results shall be totally depleted by participants prior to generating a new pool.

7. The maximum pool size per location shall be 1,000,000 entries.

8. Only prizes contained in the pool shall be advertised and awarded.

9. Changing the play level on the games shall not change the prizes available or the prizes awarded.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Video Sweepstakes Can Do Good! HEST and Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes Raise Nearly $250,000 Benefiting Children with Severe Disabilities

In the midst of seemingly endless headlines surrounding the legality of video sweepstakes and Internet cafes, HEST Technologies Inc., the sweepstakes industry innovator and leader, is pleased to announce its continued fundraising success on behalf of children with severe disabilities.

Through its patented video sweepstakes retail promotional software and key partnerships with convenience stores across Texas, HEST has reached out to tens of thousands of donors, spreading the mission of Skyeward Bound Ranch: to provide social interactive activities for special needs kids.

The donations, raised one dollar at a time in family businesses, help fund special cruises, trips to Disney World, and camp activities throughout Texas for families and their children living with Autism and terminal illnesses.

“The sweepstakes promotion has been hugely successful for all parties,” said Chris Canard, President of HEST Technologies. “It impacts the convenience store in a very positive financial way, enables the store’s customers to participate in a sweepstakes contest with great prizes, and assists families in need. Everyone wins!”

Through its successful partnership with HEST, Skyeward Bound Ranch is spreading its focus outside of Texas to work on a national level with organizations such as Autism on the Seas. These new programs will offer financial assistance to families in nearby states who wish to participate in social activities, but cannot otherwise afford to.

“Because of you [Skyeward Bound Ranch and HEST], hundreds of families are being blessed with a dream vacation and respite from the everyday trials that this special challenge has brought to their lives,” said Michael Sobbell, founder of Autism on the Seas.

The donations raised through the Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes have sent over one hundred families in Texas on dream vacations. In addition, hundreds more have participated in the interactive camp activities funded by the sweepstakes.

"The sky is the limit," said Dalace-Skye Duvall, the founder of Skyeward Bound Ranch, on the charity's ability to raise donations and fund special needs children all across the Southern United States.

HEST Technologies was founded in 1997 and develops video sweepstakes promotional systems for retail businesses. HEST’s video sweepstakes software is authorized in several states to conduct video sweepstakes promotions in conjunction with the sale of retail products.

Skyeward Bound Ranch was founded 10 years ago and is a rising special needs activities and care programs provider in the state of Texas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

HEST and Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes Raise $71,000 benefitting Children with Autism

In partnership with Skyeward Bound Ranch, a Texas 501(c)(3) providing social interactive activities for special needs kids, HEST Technologies Inc. has raised over $71,000 benefitting children with autism and their families. The funds raised through the Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes, will send families on a seven-day, seven-night Caribbean cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The cruise, which will set sail on April 10, is coordinated through Autism on the Seas, an organization dedicated to facilitating vacations for special needs children.

The cruise is one of several run in conjunction with Royal Caribbean, providing families that suffer with Autism, Asperger’s and sensory overload issues, a vacation that safely integrates new experiences into daily life in a relaxed and friendly environment. Autism families will work with professional staff, participate in activities designed for children with autism, and enjoy parent-to-parent networking.

For the families participating in the cruise, the opportunity to take their children on a vacation with others living with autism is a rare and treasured opportunity, both because of cost and venue. The insulated environment onboard the cruise ship allows the children to be themselves and the parents to relax. “It’s a chance to act like a normal family with people who understand,” said Alan Fowler, a father with an autistic son and a frequent traveler with Autism on the Seas.

The cost of the cruise is paid for by organizations like Skyeward Bound Ranch and the Skyeward Bound Ranch sweepstakes. “It’s unbelievable what we can do now because of HEST and The Donate Zone,” said Dalace-Skye Duvall of Skyeward Bound Ranch. “Because of our sweepstakes and contributions from donors, we are funding sixteen cruises this year for families living with autism and terminal illnesses.”

HEST Technologies (http://www.hesttech.com), a sweepstakes promotions software development company, partnered with Skyeward Bound Ranch in 2010 to create the Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes. Donors participating in the sweepstakes not only impact special needs kids and children with terminal illnesses, but with their charitable contributions they receive free entries in to the sweepstakes which qualify them for a chance at cash prizes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CONTEST!!

Who: to our existing customers
What: consistent and timely communication regarding HEST and its software
When: daily updates and weekly reports
Where: Facebook, Twitter, and our Website
Why: because our customers asked for it

Sign up to follow HEST on Facebook and you could win NASCAR memorabilia!

To facilitate communication through daily updates and weekly reports, HEST is holding a contest to encourage customers to sign up on our Facebook page. There, customers will find not only the most recent updates and information on HEST and its software, but the latest news regarding video sweepstakes around the country.

The contest begins February 9, 2011 and ends March 9, 2011.

To enter, simply follow our Facebook page (HestTech) and leave a comment, letting us know you were there. Your name will be entered into the drawing and one random customer will be chosen on March 9 to win a set of NASCAR tires straight off vehicles that raced at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Contest sponsored in part by Skyeward Bound Ranch, a Texas non-profit dedicated to providing outreach and recreational services to special needs and terminally ill children across Texas.