Organizing a Derby Party Fundraiser

Develop a Plan!

When you are planning a fundraiser of almost any type, the first thing you need to do is develop an organized plan. Almost all failed fundraisers are the result of poor planning.

A step by step plan will help assure success.

Step number one is to establish your goal.


Establish a Goal

Begin by deciding how many people you can expect to attend, and how much you think they would be willing to spend. Calculate your expected gross revenue and subtract your projected expenses to determine about how much profit you can expect. Another approach is to reverse engineer this idea. Start by deciding how much you want to net, then figure out how much you need to gross and how much you think you will spend to end up with the desired amount.


The trick is to bring in as much revenue as possible and keeping expenses as low as possible while maintaining the perceived value of the experience for the guests. This may seem obvious, but many people fail to approach it from this point of view. It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and forget the ultimate goal of generating a profit. Don’t waste money, but don’t sacrifice quality either.


Define Sources of Revenue

Your main sources of revenue will be as follows:


Advance attendance sales

Horse, Race, and Track sponsorships

Auction, silent or live

Host a bar


Advance attendance sales

You should organize a pretty sizeable sales force for this. Twenty people can sell 100 tickets a lot easier than two people can sell fifty apiece. The price of advance tickets should be lower than they will be at the door. With the Derby, horse sponsorships can be a very important source of revenue. See below.



Horse and race sponsorships are a really good way to create revenue. A nice round figure like $100.00 is common. The sponsor will see his or her name on the race program, and will be mentioned by the announcer as he introduces the horses in each race. Remember, several volunteers will do better that one or two. Ten people should certainly be able to sell three horse sponsorships each.

Another idea is to have a projector and screen, with a Powerpoint display or simple slide show featuring the various sponsors logos. The bigger the screen, the better. Big signs on the walls will also work well. Visit our photo gallery to see examples of this.

With the casino or the Derby, You should be able to pay for the entertainment with these sponsorships. Refer to the “Perfect for Fundraising” section of this site for specifics.


Bar sales

You can also enhance your revenue with bar sales. This option will only be open to you in venues that do not have their own bar. There are two basic approaches to this, the “high end” bar featuring premium liquors, and the “low end” bar featuring wine, beer, and sodas. A common practice is to give guests one or two drink tickets upon entering as part of their cover charge. After that, they will have to buy any additional drinks they desire. The high end versus the low end approach is pretty much a matter of philosophy, reflecting how you want your event to be perceived. You can make money with either.


Silent or live auction

This can be a good, reliable revenue source, because people can walk away with something tangible in their hands. You can also generate pretty high profits if goods or services are donated by local merchants or individual supporters of your cause.

The only negative of this approach is that it can be pretty difficult to organize, and to find gift donors if you do it yourself.

We at Atlanta Casino Events recommend a company that has recognized a business opportunity here, and they will do the entire process for you and they do a very nice job. If that’s not enough, it’s free to you. They simply take a share of the profits, and not an especially big share either. They provide a really hassle-free way to make money, because they do all the work. If you want to find out more about this really excellent service, contact us, and we will put you in contact with them.

Live auctions work well, too. On the upside, they can generate a considerable amount of income. Be aware they require you to suspend all other activities including the casino, and it’s a good idea to have a real auctioneer to pull it off in a professional manner.


Define Your Expenses

This part is crucial. A realistic estimate of what it will cost you to produce your event is absolutely necessary in order to be sure you can show a profit.

Here is an outline of the basic expenses you can expect to incur:


The cost of the Derby

Venue rental expense

Food cost

Bar expense




Clean up


The Derby

We try to price the Derby in such a manner that the cost of the show can be earned through sponsorships. In fact it’s very likely you can sell enough sponsorships to show a profit. See the menu called “Perfect for Fundraising” to see how to do this.


Venue rental expense

Here is where decisions must be made. A hotel will cost a considerable amount of money and you will not be able to have your own bar or food, but they will provide an environment of class and luxury. The same applies to country clubs. Sometimes you can get a corporation to donate it’s offices or warehouse space, or a subdivision can provide a clubhouse. This is where you can really get creative!


Food Cost/Catering

This will be a necessary expense, and you should consider a good caterer in order to ensure quality and to make it easier on yourself and your crew. You’ll already have plenty to do! You will have to decide whether you want a sit-down meal, a buffet, or finger food. It’s very possible to make a prefit here, too. If the total of all ticket sales exceeds the combined cost of the venue and the caterer, you are well on your way to making money. Remember, the Derby can pay for itself with sponsorship sales, and very possibly generate a profit.



Sometimes people get really caught up in this part of event planning, and waste a lot of energy unnecessarily. The fact is a few balloons and Derby-themed items from your local party supply store is usually all you will need.

The Derby stage will be well-decorated, and will be quite impressive. You want your event to have a good look to it and decor’ can help accomplish this, but remember your objective it to raise money for your cause. You don’t want to spend all your profits on extra decor’.

See the video and photo gallery to get a good idea what the Derby stage will look like.


Beverage costs

When providing your own bar, there are basically two ways to go. Option one is to contract with a local liquor store to deliver the liquor with a provision that they will take back all unopened bottles. They might also be able to provide a nice bar and bartender.

Option two is to provide the bar yourself (a folding table is commonly seen) and buy the liquor yourself, hoping you have estimated the amount you need accurately. Volunteer bartenders are an acceptable option as well.



Some high end venues may require you to purchase one day event insurance. This is an important factor to consider when making the venue decision. Be sure to ask about this.



This is mostly a factor for you to deal with when using venues other than hotels or country clubs. Keep it in mind as a potential cost factor.


This is a factor many people do not consider when selecting a venue.

Parking for your customers and vendors is an important thing to keep in mind.

Do not forget to consider this in the planning stages of your event.


Clean up

This one should be easy! Use your volunteers to perform this vital function.


Keeping all these things in mind during the planning stages of your gala will be invaluable in ensuring that you will have a well organized, successful event that will also accomplish your financial goals!