Non-profit organizes camel race to raise money for its mission

20160121_131831[1]Recently, I’ve been working with Boys & Girls Club of Watertown on a project, and a few months ago staff asked me if I wanted to schedule my January return trip around their Camel Race fundraising event. Of course my answer was “Heck yeah!” I’ve been doing resource development and non-profit work for almost two decades, and I have never seen a camel race to raise money for charity. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So, today’s post is all about my experience, and it is an opportunity to share picture.
Spoiler alert . . . my camel won (I named her Carmen, after the somba singer dancer of Chiquita Banana fame, and you can see her pictured to the right)!  🙂
What is a camel race?
20160122_205458[1]In a nutshell, a camel race is a game of chance. It involves betting, dice rolling and moving decorated camels through a race course. Here are a few details:

  • Event sponsorships are sold to area businesses
  • While different sponsor levels come with different benefits, every sponsor is asked to decorate a camel shaped piece of plywood
  • Participants purchase tickets to attend the event (in addition to the camel races dinner is provided)
  • Before dinner, there is a social hour where attendees are asked to vote for the best decorated camel (of course people vote by placing dollars in ballot boxes in front of each camel)
  • There are also opportunities to purchase raffle tickets before dinner
  • Camels are segmented into different races (there weren’t more than six camels per race because there aren’t more than six sides to a dice) and each camel is assigned a number between one and six
  • 20160122_205516[1]Two very large fuzzy dice are rolled and the numbers rolled move the camel with the corresponding number one space forward on the race course (e.g. if a two and six are rolled then camel #2 and camel #6 each move one space)
  • The winner of each race competes in a championship race at the end of the evening
  • Event attendees place bets on which camel will win each race
  • There is software that determines the odds and payout ratios based upon what people bet

If you are still scratching your head and unsure of how this event works, then here is how the organization describes the event in their FAQ document:

How does the race work? Camels will move a space along the racetrack when their assigned number is called out as a result of a throw of two really large dice. Every time your Camels number is called out, they get to move a space. First Camel to move 10 spaces wins the Race. Attendees are allowed to bet on each heat using their camel bucks.”

While this event was unique, I walked away thinking it was kind of like a cross between a casino night and Duck Race fundraising event.
For the record, I LOVED this fundraising event. I give it a big gold star for fun and creativity.  🙂
What did the camels look like?
I love how excited and creative event sponsors got with their camels. The following are a few thumbnail snapshots I took with my cell phone (there were at least 30 camels and I just don’t have the space to share all of them . . . my apologies).
20160122_171636[1]     20160122_171639[1]     20160122_171644[1]
20160122_171648[1]     20160122_171652[1]     20160122_171655[1]
20160122_171700[1]     20160122_171705[1]     20160122_171707[1]
20160122_171711[1]     20160122_171717[1]     20160122_171727[1]
20160122_171732[1]     20160122_171749[1]     20160122_171814[1]
Is a camel race the answer to ALL of your fundraising challenges?
The short answer is . . . NO.
20160122_205535[1]Special event fundraising is:

  • time consuming
  • volunteer intense
  • costly (e.g. it will cost your organization between 50 cents and $1.30 to raise $1.00 when you consider both direct and indirect costs)

This doesn’t mean your organization shouldn’t host a handful of (read this as one, two or possibly three) well planned and executed special events through the year. Because you should! However, it needs to be done in conjunction with a diversified resource development plan that also includes an annual campaign, private foundation grants, government funding, corporate giving, family foundation support, major gift strategy as well as periodic efforts focused on capital, endowment and special project initiatives.
For more information about developing your organization’s annual resource develop plan, here are a few links you should check out:

In addition to folding your special events into a well thought out RD Plan, your organization should always be looking at the “return on investment” (ROI) associated with your special events. Keep in mind the Association of Fundraising Professionals advocates that you keep your cost per dollar raised to under 50 cents.
Click here to access an awesome ROI measurement tool developed by Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) for its local affiliates.
What is the most unique special event fundraiser you’ve ever seen? How does your organization integrate special event fundraising into its fundraising program? How reliant are you on funding that comes from your events? How do you assess ROI? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences?
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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