Churchill Downs Incorporated Foundation

OVERVIEW: Best known for the Kentucky Derby, this corporate funder makes grants in its home state of Kentucky and other communities where the company operates. Funding interests are public health, art, and education.

FUNDING AREAS: Public health and welfare, art, education

IP TAKE: Louisville has to share the spotlight with other cities that CDI works in, but art and education are the top local causes for this gaming funder. Grant seekers should prioritize the Louisville metro area in their Kentucky proposals.   

PROFILE: When it is time for the Kentucky Derby, many people think of horse racing, over-sized hats, and mint juleps, but there is also a grantmaking foundation tied to the century-and-a-half tradition behind this horse race. Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) owns the namesake racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, but that is not all. It actually owns five racetracks, six casinos, the largest distributor of casual games in the world (Big Fish Games), the nation’s leading online wagering business (TwinSpires.com), and other gaming entities. The company employs over 5,000 people in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, and Washington. Its grantmaking arm, the Churchill Downs Incorporated Foundation, seeks to nurture its “neighbors through engaged, consistent and positive community relations.” The foundation awards grants in the communities in which it operates, largely in Kentucky, where the organization is based.

The foundation and company have made millions of dollars in grants and in-kind contributions each year to its areas of interest, which include public health and welfare, art, and education. Louisville’s thriving art community is a priority for this funder. It has also made significant contributions to local education in the Louisville area and for the prevention of breast cancer. Its horse racing roots influenced donations to thoroughbred retirement and health services for employees that work with horses. The company’s employees also put in thousands of volunteer hours each year with community nonprofits.

Most grants range between $5,000 and $50,000. A few sample Louisville grantees include Metro United Way, 3rd Street Preservation, Dare to Care, Horses and Hope, and Sullivan University.

The company’s foundation page has minimal information for grantseekers, but all grant requests must be submitted through the CDI community relations request form. This is a very straightforward form that requests an organization’s basic information, the specific project in need of funding, and amount requested.

In the past, the CDI Foundation has also hosted 50/50 charitable gaming raffles to raise money. Since its establishment, the CDI Foundation has donated over $2.2 million to its charitable partners.

Austin Miller and Phil Milliner, both of Louisville, have served as directors of the foundation. Dana Johnson served as the senior director of community relations until 2015, and Liz Harris once was the foundation’s vice president and executive director. Lauren DePaso is currently the best point of contact for grantseekers, as she has been the director of corporate communications and the director of community relations. 

General questions can be directed to 502-636-4400 or CommunityRelations@kyderby.com. Mail correspondence should be directed to Churchill Downs Incorporated, Community Relations, 600 N. Hurst Bourne Pkwy Suite 400, Louisville, KY 40222.

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