Nonprofit professionals know the best fundraising events are fun, interactive, and accessible. They bring together supporters and the community in meaningful ways to raise money and awareness for your mission. There’s one type of fundraising event that’s traditional but modern, competitive but fun, keeps people coming back but attracts new donors: a charity golf tournament.
Donors circle their favorite golf fundraisers on the calendar every year as a can’t miss event. They look forward to time spent on the golf course, doing something they enjoy in support of a good cause. A golf fundraiser accomplishes more than simply raising money—lays the foundation for new partnerships, strengthens important relationships, and shares your mission and message with new audiences. Best of all, you don’t have to be a golfer to plan a successful tournament—tools and resources exist to help from inception to execution.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Set Goals
Think about what you hope to accomplish with the golf event; essentially, what does success look like for your organization? Set some clearly-defined goals for the tournament, such as a target number of golfers, number of sponsors, and overall dollars you hope to raise. This will help you better define a budget for your tournament in terms of revenue and expenses.
2. Recruit a Dedicated Planning Team
You’ll definitely want a point person to take the lead on the overall event, tracking tasks, income, and expenses, but it’s in your best interest to recruit others to help with planning, prep, and execution. Your team can provide varying perspectives and new ideas while also better distributing the workload so one person doesn’t shoulder all the planning burden.
Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you can start with staff and board members. You might also expand your team to include dedicated volunteers or active donors, particularly if they are golfers or have connections to potential sponsors.
3. Lean on Technology
The right technology can make planning and holding your golf tournament easier and more efficient, ultimately saving you time and helping raise more money. Look for an event management platform that’s built just for golf events—most ticketing platforms or CRMs don’t have the capabilities to handle the unique nuances of a golf event, like handicaps, flighting, and scoring. Be sure your software solution has the following features:
- Professional, customizable event website. This makes promoting your event super easy—simply share the link all your promotional materials. Share information about the event’s logistics and what it’s raising money for.
- Online registration and donations with secure payment processing. Collecting golfer and sponsor information online saves a ton of time and effort. This information should drop into the software’s backend, where you can track and manage it in one place. This also ensures that you capture important donor data right at registration so you can include it in your nonprofit’s CRM.
- Live-scoring. Golfers should be able to track their scores in real-time through an easy-to-use mobile app. Live-scoring makes finalizing the tournament’s results much quicker and easier, and organizers can track the round’s progress on live leaderboards.
- Push notifications and emails. Keep golfers in the loop about special events, make donation asks, and recognize sponsors throughout the tournament.
4. Determine Specifics
Start by approaching area golf courses with a tentative time of year. Narrow in on a date by looking at course availability, other local events, and the day of the week that will work best for your nonprofit. Keep in mind that a private golf course will be more expensive than a public course, but you’ll likely be able to charge more for registration and sponsorships at a higher-end facility.
Next, determine the event’s format. Most charity golf tournaments use the scramble format, which typically consist of two or four person teams that utilize the best shot until the ball is holed. This format makes the event approachable for golfers at all skill levels, which broadens your potential audience.
Think about tournament add-ons, games, or contests that can supercharge fundraising. GolfStatus suggests selling mulligans (basically a “do over” for a shot) or raffle tickets, holding an auction, having a hole-in-one contest, or adding on-course entertainment and games.
Finally, you’ll want to brainstorm ideas to market your tournament and get the word out about your event. Leverage channels such as Google Ad Grants, social media, email, and direct mail to rally your supporters for your tournament.
5. Build & Sell Sponsorships
Sponsorships are where you will bring in the most revenue from your event. Take a hard look at your event’s fixed costs and build sponsorship packages to cover them. Golf tournaments are unique in that they attract a typically affluent and influential demographic, with a higher than average net worth. This makes your golf event an attractive way for sponsoring businesses to get in front of prospective clients and customers! What’s more, businesses are looking for a win-win when sponsoring events—they want to make an impact on their community by supporting a worthy cause while also benefiting from brand lift and exposure.
Look for connections to potential sponsors on your planning team, board, or through other supporters who might be able to make an introduction. You can also research potential sponsors by connecting with the local chamber of commerce or digging through their social media to find out more about the types of events they typically sponsor. Your sponsorship packages should provide benefits and high ROI for the sponsor, such as logo exposure, social media mentions, or an opportunity to interact with participants or speak at the event. In-kind corporate sponsorships are also valuable for things like pin prizes, player gifts, auction or raffle prizes, or specific event services.
6. Stay Organized
Using a golf-specific platform makes it simple to keep all your information in one place, so your team and the golf facility staff can easily access up-to-date player information, easily make hole assignments, and print cart signs and registration lists. Communicate the day’s schedule with all registrants ahead of time so they know what to expect. You might also develop a master schedule and task list to keep volunteers and planning team members on track with what needs to be done and when it should happen.
Check-in should be appropriately staffed and prepared for a rush of golfers so no one is waiting for long periods of time. You might also set up a donation station at check in and sell mulligans or raffle tickets. Your event website should be mobile-friendly so folks can make payments right on their mobile device so you don’t have to mess with cash.
7. Follow Up After the Tournament
Once the event is over, your job isn’t done! Send thank yous to express your gratitude to golfers, sponsors, donors, and volunteers. Share videos or photos that highlight the day and get them excited about coming back again next year!
Do a deep dive on the outcomes of your event to help you determine any changes that need to be made. Do you need to increase registration fees? Are there other sponsorships to add to the lineup? Did the golf course meet your needs? What other ways can you promote the event? Is there a different day of the week or time of year that might work better? You might also conduct surveys to get feedback from golfers and sponsors to help further inform your strategy for subsequent golf events.
Golf tournaments are a great way to bring in dollars while engaging donors and driving impact. Even if you’ve never planned a golf tournament before, it doesn’t have to be scary! Start by getting your tech platform in place to launch an event website, collect registrations, sell sponsorships, and facilitate a successful, lucrative golf tournament.
About the Author
Logan Foote has been around the game of golf nearly his entire life. He first picked up a club at the age of four, and despite thousands of attempts, he’s never had a hole-in-one. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and pursued a career in sales. Logan came to GolfStatus in 2017, where he channels his passion for golf to help nonprofits raise money through the game. As Sales and Education Manager, Logan oversees a team that works with thousands of nonprofit clients to maximize their golf fundraisers with the GolfStatus platform, and shares his golf fundraising expertise through GolfStatus’s free educational webinars. He lives and golfs in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife and three sons.