Motorsports Venues - Charities Are Using The Fast Lane To Raise Funds With Events At Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati
BATAVIA, May 20, 2011: Several not-for-profit organizations are adding some zip to their fund-raising efforts by staging kart races at the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati.
The facility is unique not only to the area but also to the world, as it's the only known country club centered around a kart track. Located about 16 miles from downtown Cincinnati at 2848 U.S. Route 50 in Batavia, Ohio, it is open only to its members and not the general public. However, members of the public can still experience racing on the 0.7-mile asphalt road course if they participate in various charity fund-raisers that are held there, or in the private team-building exercises staged there by various companies, including the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati, known as MCC for short, hosted 23 corporate functions and four charity fund-raisers from April through October last year, according to Curt Symmes, the club manager.
"Every one of the charity events has made money for the charity," said Dr. Greg Frese, a former president of the MCC and a current board member. "Chris Blum of the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America said they have raised $77,860 by doing events at the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati for the last three years. He said they've never had a fund-raiser that netted them as much profit the first time they tried it. A turkey shoot was their best fund-raiser before they tried this.”
The Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati is swanky. The karts used for the fund-raisers are not concession karts, but professional Rimo Club karts that cost about $5,300 new. The club also provides helmets for the fund-raisers or corporate events. Participants wear long pants, shirts and closed-toe shoes. They can shower and change clothes in the facility's clubhouse, which features separate men's and women's rest rooms and locker rooms that rival those in NFL stadiums.
The charities usually sign up teams of two or four drivers who pay a fee to compete in the enduro races, which are usually 90-to-120-minutes long. Smaller groups do 15- to 20-lap sprint races. The groups’ size is limited to 100 people, and everyone must sign a liability waiver. The MCC handles the safety briefings, basic instructions, the timing and scoring of the practice sessions and the races, and the flagging.
The charity usually arranges for a catered lunch and/or dinner from the MCC's list of approved caterers or they have companies donate food for meals or refreshments that are enjoyed in a kitchen/meeting room that is connected to a viewing deck.
An awards ceremony is staged at the end of the event to recognize the race winners.
Some charities also sell title sponsorships and track sponsorships in addition to raising money through the fees the individual drivers and/or teams pay in order to participate. Some organize door prizes for the participants, and the track can arrange for photography and videography.
"It's a lot more fun than your typical mini-marathon or golf scramble," Symmes said.
One group that has found such fund-raisers to their liking is the Crable Foundation, which staged its third kart enduro at the track on April 29. This 501(c)3 not-for-profit foundation seeks to teach leadership skills to young people, emphasizing the development of the physical, psychological and spiritual components of their lives, and provides tuition assistance so they can attend Catholic high schools throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. The organization was founded and is run by Bob Crable, who distinguished himself as a two-time All-American football player at Notre Dame before being drafted in the first round by the New York Jets and going on to playing pro football for seven years before injuries forced his retirement.
Crable likes staging kart enduros at the MCC as fund-raisers for his foundation because they’re unique and successful. He said selling sponsorships is the key to making the events successful, but he said it's less work for the not-for-profit foundation than a typical golf outing because the MCC's staff is so accommodating.
"It's been very worthwhile for us," he said. "The reason we do it is that there are so many golf outings; people do their fund-raising things the same way. We try to be unique and differentiate ourselves from other non-profits. I know Dave Campbell, one of the owners; he's a family friend. And once you're exposed to karting and you realize how much fun it is, it's very addicting."
Crable said the costs to rent the track and the insurance required make it "a little higher than some other things," and that's why the ability to sell sponsorships is very important.
"We have four participants on a team," he explained. "The sticker price is a little higher than other things as we charge $2,000 a team, but many of our sponsors are companies that use it both as a way to donate to a charity and to also have a team-building exercise for their employees. We try to find sponsors that will sponsor two teams. It's a competition, but even if they don't win the race the event still has value.
"There's the competitive aspect and the team-building aspect to offer sponsors," he continued. "Ultimately our goal is to have two flights of 10 teams each. The first year we had six or eight sponsors and last year we had 10 sponsors. Once you start getting the sponsors in it becomes a matter of how many karts you can put out on the track. For us the same people keep coming back each year because they have so much fun with it."
Crable declined to disclose how much money such an event makes for the foundation, but he said it's "into the twenties.
"Sponsorships are the key," he emphasized. "We've been able to get the word out through information on our Web site, the contacts we have, and word of mouth."
Although an effort must be made to secure both sponsors and participants, Crable said it's less work for the charity to stage a kart race at the MCC than it is to stage a golf outing due to the MCC's staff.
"When you do a golf outing you have to do the administrative work plus put signs up at every hole and you often end up doing lots of other things that you might not have anticipated, but the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati's staff is very accommodating," he said. "They help hang banners, they put the signs up where they can be seen, they handle the safety meeting in the meeting room upstairs, they show people how to drive the karts, and they run the races. The facility is comfortable and accommodating. We have lunch there as part of our event, and everything is clean and wonderful. We've been very pleased."
Although the Crable Foundation's events are open to any individuals, groups or businesses that want to help support that organization, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati took a different approach to a fund-raiser it held at the MCC last year. Its event centered on members of the Tocqueville Society, a 27-year-old group that is the only nationally recognized philanthropic society that the United Way recognizes, according to Raye Allen, the director of major gifts and leadership giving at the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Each member of the Tocqueville Society contributes $10,000 or more annually to the United Way, a not-for-profit organization committed to raising funds to support human service programs that address critical issues within the community.
"To retain members and to recruit members to the Tocqueville Society, I do 50 to 75 events a year," Allen said. "It's 'one-on-many' recruiting; many is 20. I look for unique events that a majority of our members or prospective members would not have access to otherwise. You can join the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati, but not without a substantial financial commitment. We were interested in holding an event there for the Tocqueville Society because it offers a unique environment and a unique activity.
"We had about 10 prospects there, and that night at our dinner after the races we closed on seven," she said. "The yield rate is always very high at one of these functions because they know going into it what they'll be asked to contribute.
"The Tocqueville Society reflects the community as a whole, and we had people at the karting fund-raiser who like motorsports," she added. "Those same people might not be as interested in a showing of a private contemporary art collection or batting practice with Johnny Bench, but this was right up their alley and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati did a phenomenal job for us.
"When you go into the facility you expect outstanding service, and they came through," she said. "The tracks are well maintained and the clubhouse is what you would expect from a private club; it’s very well done. They provided the karts and helmets, the safety check and the training; they determined who should be in what kart; I didn't have to figure out what kart racing was all about. I got the prospects there with the current members, and they took it from there. They gave me a list of approved caterers and I chose one, and they knew exactly how to work the event. We had a beautiful evening.
"Some of the women who participated were phenomenal; you put a couple of petite women in a kart against men who weigh over 200 pounds, and they definitely proved they could hold their own," she added with a smile. "I'd have another event there sometime, for sure."
Besides the April 29 Crable Foundation event, another charity fund-raiser already on the MCC's 2011 calendar on its Web site at mccofcincinnati.com is the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America fund-raiser on Sept. 22.
For more information on the Motorsports County Club of Cincinnati, call Symmes at (513) 625-7223, e-mail him at email@example.com, or see the club's Web site at mccofcincinnati.com. Bill Kidwell, who is in charge of new memberships, corporate events and fund-raisers, can be reached at (513) 910-8947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.