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October 2021

Nonprofits find nearly 4 billion reasons to like golf courses

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By Doug McPherson

Practically any golfer can share at least a few reasons why he or she likes the sport. But it turns out, even a category of nongolfers have found golf to be quite worthwhile: nonprofits.

“Golf's impact on the nonprofit sector is nothing short of impressive,” said Logan Foote, education and development manager at GolfStatus, a golf technology company in Lincoln, Nebraska. “Golf contributes nearly $4 billion annually to charities each year.”

We Are Golf, a coalition of organizations that advocates for the sport, backs what Foote says and reports that nearly 12 million people participate annually in 143,000 events at 12,700 facilities.

Greg McLaughlin, CEO of the World Golf Foundation which administers We Are Golf, said tournaments have become “an essential function for many nonprofits and that golf events in the U.S. raise $3.94 billion. Over the years, we’ve seen golf and philanthropy have become inextricably linked” because of all the participation in charitable tournaments.

What’s more, We Are Golf says 86% of the nonprofits that hold golf tournaments find those events to be important elements of their fundraising efforts.

Foote adds that it’s not only charities that benefit from those tournaments – courses can boost both their bottom line and community image when they host fundraisers.

“Tournaments can often be scheduled on low-traffic days, such as Mondays, guaranteeing revenue through contracted green and cart fees, as well food and beverage and pro shop sales,” Foote said. “These events also bring in golfers who can become regulars or members. And beyond the dollars and cents, outside outings present opportunities for positive public and community relations.”

McLaughlin said that as golf continues to build its core audience, “one of the most important factors in driving returners is creating an atmosphere where everybody feels welcome, without regard to skill level, background or status. The game’s future is rooted in community and our focus should remain on reaching the entirety of our community. The industry – and the game – will be better for it.”

Lauren Gstalder, managing director of distinguished partners events for the American Cancer Society (ACS), adds that golf courses play an important role in ACS fundraising.

“They set the tone for the experience that ACS offers guests and attendees, which in return, drive our fundraising efforts,” Gstalder said.

She adds that hosting ACS tournaments at courses often offers  “an amenity-rich” experience which leads to “a high return rate of players, guests and sponsors year after year, who are all committed to eradicating cancer.”
Gstalder says ACS works to attract “influential corporate executives or philanthropists” and by hosting an ACS tournament, courses gain access to ACS supporters to showcase their courses.

This year Gstalder says ACS expects to hold over 40 tournaments and plans to expand that number to 50-plus in 2022.

“And our golf portfolio is positioned to raise $10.5 million with our top tournament raising $1.5 million,” she said. “Our top 10 tournaments raise over $250,000 each and our average tournaments raise $150,000.”

Of course, ACS is just one of many nonprofits tapping golf to raise funds. Foote shares these examples:
 
St. Luke's Children's Hospital:https://golfstatus.org/golfforgood/st-lukes-health-foundation-uses-technology-to-grow-its-35th-annual-golf-fundraiser

Christian Adoption Services: https://golfstatus.org/golfforgood/case-study-christian-adoption-services-expands-golf-fundraising-through-technology

First Tee Omaha: https://golfstatus.org/golfforgood/offering-the-best-golf-event-experience-with-technology

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho: https://golfstatus.org/golfforgood/case-study-virtual-golf-fundraiser-tournament-ronald-mcdonald-house-charities

Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center: https://golfstatus.org/golfforgood/golf-fundraiser-helps-outdoor-program-offset-lost-revenue

Foote adds that GolfStatus puts a heavy focus on golf fundraisers and that it works with thousands of nonprofits nationwide through its social impact division, GolfStatus.org, which taps technology to make hosting fundraisers easier for course owners and operators.

“We also work directly with golf facilities on planning fundraisers,” Foote said. “We serve as a conduit—connecting new event organizers or folks looking to expand to multiple events or otherwise in need of a facility with golf courses interested in taking on additional outside outings.”

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