Many of us are familiar with the traditional way of running a night at the races, which basically involves showing horse races on a screen and have people bet on them. There are specialist companies that will do all the work for you. They usually charge about $300-$500 for the privilege.
Prior to the night you sell the horses to individuals, as well as getting local businesses to sponsor each race. Races usually have either 8 or 10 horses. About $10-$15 per horse is the normal price and $50-$100 to sponsor a race.
I would recommend selling horses for about 7 races and then have an 8th race on the night where the horses are auctioned off. Create a program, which lists all of the races, horses, owners etc. Give humorous names to the horses and their owners! You can also get program sponsors in addition to the race sponsors. You usually give a small prize to the people whose horse wins the race.
What most community organizations don't realize that there are a couple of alternatives to getting a person from the company to run the night for you!
Like most nonprofit fundraising events you can consider running it yourself. The specialist company will supply you with the materials such as tapes, tickets and projector, but you do all of the work on the night. It's a lot easier than you might imagine. You'll have different colored tickets for each of the horses. Each ticket has a number on there. You sell the tickets at $1 each.
Recording the bets is the most important task. You need one person to take the bets for each horse number. They need to stick with the same colored tickets for each race. The night at the races company usually supplies them numbered as Horse 1, 2, 3 and so on. Each ticket has a sequential serial number. The recorder should write that down before taking any bets for a race and then again when the betting is closed. Subtracting these two numbers will tell you how much has been bet on each horse.
Once all of the bets have been taken for a particular race, then write down the total bet on each horse and the total figure bet on the race. You'll need these to work out the odds. The odds also depend on what percentage you want to pay out. Calculating the odds is best explained by an example:
Let's say the following amounts were bet on the race:
Horse 1 - $54
Total - $346
Now we are going to pay out a maximum of 50% (i.e. $173). The odds for each horse are calculated as follows:
Divide the payout amount by the amount bet on the horse. You're odds are that value - 1. Here they are:
Horse 1 - $173 / $54 = 3 (-1) = 2/1
No matter which horse wins you won't be paying out much more than your set maximum (in some cases considerably less).
The second alternative to the normal way of running a night at the races is not to use tapes at all! You can get little wooden horses made (even blocks of wood) and attach 15 meters of string to each. To run a race you just line up the "horses" with the string fully extended and then the horse owners must wind the string onto a baton until their horse crosses the finish line. Very easy, a lot of fun and very exciting! The betting is the same. You can even make your own tickets.
My community organization regularly raises $2000-$3000 on a night at the races. For the amount of effort that takes very few other nonprofit fundraising events can compete!
A night at the races is one of the most reliable nonprofit fundraising events you can run. When you're compiling your list of nonprofit fundraising events make sure this is one of them!