A charity race night is a popular fundraising idea and a fun way to spend an evening with your charity, club, school or society.
Don’t worry, you won’t need to take a trip to Ascot because charity race nights are typically played using a pre-recorded DVD, meaning all you need is a TV and a venue to get the party started!
You might think that organising a race night is difficult, but we’re here to show you just how easy it can be!
Legal concerns with a charity race night
Whilst a race night can be a lot of fun, it’s important to be aware of some important legal concerns you might come across.
Some of the legal issues you need to prepare for when hosting a charity race night include prohibiting underage people from betting on the races and being compliant with the 2005 Gambling Act.
This involves asking a member of the audience to randomly choose a race from the DVD menu and ensuring that everyone has placed their bets before you inform the audience of the favourite and outsider of the race.
For more information on the legal requirements of running a race night, please read this handy document by the UK Gambling Commission.
Fundraising ideas with a race night
We’ve compiled a list of the best ways to raise money with a charity race night below; including asking for sponsorships, betting on the races and charging people for their ticket entry into the event.
Charge for entry tickets
Charging for entry is an easy way to guarantee that you break even. First, you need to work out how many people you can fit in the venue and therefore how many tickets you want to sell.
Secondly, to work out how much each ticket needs to cost, add up the cost of hiring the venue, buying refreshments and all other costs to set the event up.
If you want all of your donations and bets to count directly towards your fundraiser, then you need to match or exceed that figure through ticket sales.
Obtain sponsorship for each race
Ask local businesses to sponsor every race, for example, if there are 10 races on the DVD, ask 10 businesses to sponsor one race each.
The race can then be named after the sponsor, meaning you obtain sponsorship money to go towards the charity of your choice and the business is advertised throughout the race. Everyone wins!
Betting on the races
The main way to raise funds is through taking bets on each race. In normal horse races, there are many types of bets you can make, each with different returns depending on where your chosen horse places in the race.
As this is a charity race night, your participants aren’t betting to win money back, they’re betting for a chance at the donated prizes. For that reason, making the betting process simple is important.
Whether you’re using a virtual race (an animated one, for example) or a DVD that has been created using real racing horses, you can get people to bet on the horse they think will win.
Before each race takes place you should make the list of horses taking part available for your participants to mull over. Have volunteers stationed and ready to take bets between races, that way nobody misses out!
Set up a table and ask people to bet on the horse they think will win and give out prizes based on the first place winner. Think of it like a raffle and only let one person bet on each horse.
If you have enough prizes, you can give out runner up prizes for second and third place too!
How to organise a charity race night
Our advice will help you to host a charity race night that will make a profit through the sale of tickets and placing bets on horses and will tell you all the equipment you will need to make it a success.
Find a reputable company to host the race night
You will need to hire or buy a race night DVD from a reputable company who will provide all the tickets, racecards and betting slips you will need.
Some companies may even offer a master of ceremonies/commentator for the evening if you plan on hosting a large event.
Choose a venue
You need to be sure when choosing a venue that they are legally allowed to host the event first – try contacting the local licensing authority for advice.
The venue you choose should have the tables and chairs you’ll need for hosting everyone, as well as a bar where people can purchase drinks throughout the evening. They will also hold a liquor licence, so you don’t have to obtain one in order to sell alcohol.
These venues should also have a large TV or projector that you can show the races on so that everyone can see.
Equipment and costs
The equipment you’ll need for the race night will include a DVD of at least 10 races, commentator equipment such as a microphone and speakers, as well as betting slips and racecards.
Food and drink
Deciding whether or not to sell food and drink at your event will depend on how much budget you have to organise the event.
If you’re on a small budget, you may just want to sell low-cost food such as fries and sandwiches at a high price to make a profit.
Some hosts may be willing to invest a bit more money in the initial purchase of ingredients and cooking batches of food like spaghetti bolognese, curry or chilli. These larger meals that can be portioned out and served with pasta or rice can help you to obtain a larger turnover.
It’s important to contact the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ensure that you meet their guidelines for safe food. The FSA website suggests that you won’t need a certificate to serve food at a charity event, but more regular events might need to register as a food business.
Promoting your charity race night
One of the most important steps when organising a charity race night is to promote it properly so that enough people turn up to make it a profitable evening for your charity.
Utilising the power of Facebook is the easiest way to advertise your event to local people, and it’s completely free too.
Set up an event for your race night and share it on local groups and pages and ask people to share it amongst their own friends and family too.
This is a good way to keep track of how many people you can expect to turn up on the night and let them know about future fundraising events.
Put posters inside the sports bar or community centre
If you’re hosting the charity race night at your local sports bar or community centre, you should put up posters a few weeks before the event so that locals visiting the bar are aware of the event in plenty of time.
Many race night DVDs come with free posters to use to advertise the event.
If you use flyers to promote the charity race night, you need to include relevant details such as the location, time, date, who is allowed to attend (no one under 18 to gamble, for example) and which charity or cause you’re raising money for.
If you’re raising money for your child’s school, for example, a great way to promote your race night is to send an email blast to all the parents at the school.
You will need to ask the school to send out the email as you won’t be able to obtain any parents’ email addresses. Due to GDPR regulations, businesses and organisations are not allowed to share any personal information that they hold for members of the public.
The school or business involved will be aware of their own GDPR policy, so they will be in charge of ensuring they don’t break the law.
Other top tips
- Ask for volunteers to help out with the sale of tickets, monitoring the event and keeping an eye out for people trying to cheat and helping out with making and selling food and drink
- Encourage local businesses to sponsor at least one race one month before the event
- Book out the local community centre or sports bar well in advance to ensure you can use it on your desired date
- Make it explicitly clear that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to gamble or bet
- Get an upbeat and fun person to ‘host’ the event and do the commentary for the evening so everyone is engaged throughout the racing