If your non-profit organization does not have an annual golf outing as a major component of your overall fundraising strategy, I would strongly recommend re-considering your plan.
While some may protest and claim that golf outings are a “dime a dozen”, I would argue that there are dozens of very good reasons why so many charitable organizations have gone this route.
Here are five really good reasons to consider hosting a golf event, or partnering with another organization to plan a golf outing.
1. The Earning Potential is High
The first reason your organization should have a golf outing is that these events are money makers, if they are done right. Golf outings are very well suited to these kinds of additional revenue streams.
Here is a list of eleven ways you can earn money at a golf outing:
- Golfer/team fee
- Corporate sponsorship fees
- Underwriting opportunities (meal, beverage cart, course fee, etc.)
- Merchandise sales (your organization’s t-shirts, hats, hoodies, etc.)
- “On the Course” contests
- Mulligan sales
- General donations
- Separate dinner tickets for those who don’t play golf but just come for the meal
- Revenue from an add-on of a walk-a-thon (held at the same time as golf outing and both groups come together at a shared banquet)
(In an upcoming article in this series, “5 Money-Making Games to Play at your Next Golf Outing” there will be details on some of these. This series is posted each Wednesday in July.)
2. People are Familiar with Golf Outings, So It’s a Natural Sell
Another reason that your organization should have a golf outing is because they have become so popular. As a result of this popularity, you will have an easier time convincing people to attend. Certain incentives like an awesome course, a good crowd to network with, the ability to win some cool prizes, and the chance to escape the office for a day are all reasons people will be very open to your invitation. Of course, people will also want to support your non-profit, as well.
When it comes to fundraising, it’s best to stick to known entities. For the creative people who run non-profits, I know it’s sometimes frustrating to do what everyone else is doing. Where’s the originality? Where’s the stamp of your own unique personality? “Everybody has a golf outing. How boring!”
While the spirit of this thought may have validity, the fact of the matter is that if you want to ensure you raise money, you should stick to the events that are proven to do that very thing. Golf outings are designed to do exactly this.
3. It Offers Opportunities for Golfers to Network
This reason can be a real selling point when you are trying to recruit teams to golf. Not only will your participants want to support your organization, but many of them will also look forward to networking with other golfers who will be in attendance.
I realized this point very early in my non-profit career. I would be making calls, trying to get folks to commit to playing in our outing, and more than a few people would specifically ask me if certain individuals had already signed up or if it was likely they would be signing up. I came to see myself as a kind of a golf outing match maker.
At the time, I was relatively young and working at a summer camp, and I didn’t realize it, but many of the campers’ parents were very aware of who the other parents were in the camp community. Our golf outing was the perfect vehicle for them to get to know one another and potentially create some new business connections.
Once I opened my eyes to this reality, I saw it happening over and over and came to view our golf outing not only as an excellent fundraiser, but also as a service to the parents of our campers and the camp alumni.
Once we actively started to help people make these introductions, the value of our outing increased and in the long run, greatly benefited our non-profit.
4. It’s a Great Chance for You to Have Personal Contact with Donors
From the moment you arrive at your golf outing (as the leader), there are literally dozens of items that need your attention. It is very easy to get pulled into handling one crisis after another. Before you know it, half the day is gone and you’re already exhausted.
If you are the leader of the organization, your first responsibility is to find capable underlings to run your outing. Of course, you will be intimately involved in the pre-planning process, and you can be available for quick questions during the event, but the “day-of” operation should be lead by someone other than you.
On the day of the golf outing, the best thing you can do for your organization is to be an incredibly gracious host. Golfers will be looking for you when they arrive. They’d like to feel welcomed by the “boss”. So, this is exactly where you should be. Greeting people when they arrive, seeing foursomes off at the tee box, milling around the cart corral – these are the hot spots for mixing and mingling for you.
Once players are off and away, a good place to visit would be one of the contest holes, like “Closest to the Pin” or “Longest Drive”. There is always a lot of fun going on at these special holes. You can encourage the players to bet high and really have a good, relaxed time with the players. They will really appreciate the time you spend with them in this way.
(If it makes you feel better, you can take a walkie-talkie or cell phone with you so that you can be reached by your staff in case of a planning emergency.)
I’ve always found that golf outings provide an excellent opportunity to share a few quality minutes with my important (read: bigger) donors. I can run new ideas by them, ask them for advice on a particular project and just make myself exclusively available to them for a few minutes. This has always been well received.
It’s also a chance to build better relationships with those who could become bigger contributors. A few laughs and some sincere camaraderie can go a long way toward developing your donor base.
However, if you’re back at the club house, working on organizational details, you’ll miss these incredible opportunities and in the long run hurt your cause.
5. It’s a Great chance to Honor People at the Banquet Afterwards
Since golf outings usually attract a large number of people from your community, it is a fantastic time to use the banquet after a day of golfing as a time to hand out some of your organization’s most prestigious awards. In fact, if you establish the post golf-outing banquet as your organization’s premier ceremony, you could draw people just to this event itself.
The mood is perfect for it. Everyone is gathered, they’ve spent a day in the great outdoors, having fun, and enjoying each other’s company. At the banquet, all the participants come together to share a meal and swap stories from the day of golfing.
As the leader, you can first hand out all the golf-related awards from the contests like “Closest to the Pin”, “Longest Drive”, and of course, all the teams who won the different divisions. This will be a good segue into the more serious recognitions.
When I worked for the summer camp, this is when we passed out our “Thomas Bean” award, which went to the person who best exemplified the ideals of a servant leader for the year. We would always have some wives and even mothers who would come to the banquet just to see the “Bean” award passed out. It became a great tradition.
I would recommend that you have a volunteer whose sole job it is to take pictures all day long. Of course, many pictures should be taken during you award ceremony.
If a golf outing is planned and run correctly, it can be a day filled with joy, excitement, humor, good will, and generosity. You can improve existing relationships with donors and develop new friendships that could lead to future support. You can also help develop the bonds that exist between people inside your community, and at the end of the day, you can raise thousands of dollars for your non-profit.
If you’re not running an annual golf outing, I would strongly urge you to get in touch with some local golf pros and leaders of other non-profits to inquire about their experiences and suggestions.
This article is part of the Golf Series
Here’s a list of each of the articles in this series:
1. Three Important Steps to Planning a Charity Golf Outing by Jim Berigan
2. 5 Reasons Why a Golf Outing Can Benefit your Non-Profit by Jim Berigan
3. 5 Money-Making Games to Play at your next Golf Outing by Jim Berigan
4. Interview with Kevin McKinley, Golf Pro at Treetops Resort, Gaylord, Michigan by Jim Berigan