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November 2022

Reinventing Charity Events

How to add new life (and revenues) to fundraisers 

By Doug McPherson

Chances are good – really good – that when the topic is charity golf events, you’ll be talking about the traditional four-person scramble that lasts six hours and includes box lunches and awards.
 
“Over 98% of the nearly 300,000 charity golf events follow this format,” says Paul Courter, chief operating officer of Perfect Golf Event, a Florida-based company that helps groups manage fundraising golf events.

Is it time you hit the refresh button on your events? GB asked Courter what that might look like, along with other questions.

Q: What are some newer formats for charity events?

PC: Our most popular format is a full 18-hole, par 3 event. We move up the tee boxes, feature hole-in-one contests on all holes and finish with an 18-player shootout. For examples, visit: Islandschoolgolfschootout.com, rbfohgolf.com and Sightintosoundgolfshootout.com.

The advantages are: The event is complete in under four hours; six-person teams offer more networking opportunities; the nonprofit can sell more holes and raise more money; and it’s fun for spectators.

Other format options:
Play nine regulation holes and nine par 3 holes, so move tees up on five of the holes to get nine par 3 holes.
 
Play a full round but add a $1 million shot shootout following the round to end on a high note. These are usually held on a hole near the clubhouse so you get spectators.

Play a full 18-hole round in the morning and a nine-hole par 3 event in the afternoon for casual golfers. Everyone gathers for an awards reception.

Q. Do you have a specific example of an event that used a new format and improved head counts and money?

PC: The Island School event [in Boca Grande, Florida] has been held eight years and the revenue grows each year ($150,000 plus net) and is always sold out. It supports a 52-student, K-5 private school. Thus you don’t need to be a major nonprofit to be successful.

The Folds of Honor [a nonprofit that honors veterans] launched an event three years ago in North Carolina, a competitive market for charity golf events. They introduced the 18-hole par 3 concept and sold out the first year, raising more than $100,000. The attraction is the shorter round and more opportunities to win hole-in-one prizes.

Q. What are common mistakes course owners make in hosting charity events?

PC: Course owners leave a lot of money on the table. This applies to both private and public courses. Charity event organizers all spend money on contests, player gifts and signage. Our experience is that the majority of courses ignore these opportunities to generate revenue. They basically give the organizer a standard contract and set a date. The day of the event, they launch the carts, and after the event, they help with scoring.

If they would provide focus on helping the organizer have a more successful event, they not only would generate more money, but also generate repeat business and referrals.

They should help organizers with technology, format ideas, input on the right sponsorship and player package and marketing tips. A more consultative approach establishes a relationship with the organizer that can continue each year. Also, by helping with the event, they can increase player participation, which increases revenue.
 
Public courses miss a great opportunity to increase business before and following the event. We recommend organizers work with the course on a “preview” day prior to the event that features an introduction to the course, a 30-minute swing clinic and a round of golf with breakfast or lunch. Many players in charity golf events are casual golfers, so this makes them feel prepared for the actual event. In addition, offer pro shop specials on balls, equipment, etc. 

Public courses also miss the opportunity to bring golfers back to their course. Why not provide each participant a special invitation/rate to return within 60 days of the event to play again? Have them invite friends.

Also, call your own course and ask about hosting an event to see how long it takes to get to the right person.

Have a dedicated extension for outings. And track inquiries versus results to learn why a charity chose another course. 

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