Horses for causes: tips for raising money to save lives

October 12, 2017
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Supporter Darren Kyle gives some hints and tips for arranging a race night for Anthony Nolan.

I’ve been fundraising for Anthony Nolan for a few years now and I’ve learned that people tend to give more when they are having fun and don’t feel compelled to ‘give, give, give’. That’s why our race nights not only give people a great night out, but also raise lots of money for Anthony Nolan.

Not many people have heard of race nights, and some have fears about gambling and horse racing, but the race nights we run do not involve fleecing people for money or horses being put through excruciating races. We use a selection of old races recorded on DVDs, picked at random each night.

Here’s how it works…

People tend to be more generous when they are happy. So the tickets we sell, which are £6 each, include a fish and chips supper. There’s no profit made on these, the cost basically pays for the food. But it’s important that everyone’s well fed! We have eight races in total and we name each one after local businesses that have contributed prizes for an auction. The final race is the highlight, so we name it ‘The Anthony Nolan Gold Cup’. We also name the horses, and, as much of the audience are family and friends, we tend to name them after people there or jokes that we have, which makes everyone feel involved and gives us all a laugh.

People can bet on as many horses as they like and as many times as they like, we only charge £1 per bet ticket. For each race, 40% of the takings goes in to the pot for Anthony Nolan and 60% is paid out to the winners. There are no set odds before the race; they depend on how many tickets have been sold for a particular horse. This works out great for Anthony Nolan, as they get donations from every race, and the winners tend to become more confident as the night progresses, betting more and more – which means more for even more for the charity!

For the Anthony Nolan Gold Cup we auction off the horses before the race, the winning bid ‘owns’ the horse for that race and collects a bigger jackpot. All eight horses are auctioned, and, as it’s the last race, Dutch courage has kicked in and people start to buy the horses for big amounts of money. Last year was the first race night after our mum passed away. Our mum started the race night idea and this inspired a huge outpouring of giving. For The Anthony Nolan Gold Cup, we named a horse after her – ‘Amazing Maria’ - and in the end the auction came down to two bidders; me and my brother. Eventually, I let him win the horse and he paid a whopping £95 for the privilege (we actually ended up sharing the cost!).

We always have an auction on the night, which local businesses contribute prizes to. That’s included a free meal for two at a local restaurant, signed football shirts, cooking classes and free beauty treatments. Last year our auction alone raised over £1,000! We also have a raffle and sell homemade tiffin for dessert.

The nights have become really popular and we even have to begrudgingly turn people away. We host it at a local community centre, which we get for free due to the huge bar takings. The beauty of the race night is that everyone’s a winner, and when they win, they bet more. In a casino the house always wins, but the difference here is that the house is Anthony Nolan!

Fundraising should be fun and everybody genuinely enjoys and looks forward to our race night and because of this people are more generous – one year a group of work colleagues came over and donated all of their winnings that night back to the charity, which was really heart warming, but also a great sign that people are coming to have fun and support the charity.

We raised over £3,400 at the last one, and an added bonus is that we raised local awareness of the charity.

If you haven’t tried putting on a race night before, give it a go. Everyone has a good night and you can raise money and awareness for an amazing charity. As long as you can drum up local support and get some prizes for an auction, it will be a roaring success!

However you're interested in raising money, you can get everything you need from our Community Fundraising team.