By Paul Heaton
Principal, eAdvancement Consulting
There are more than 200 golf tournaments in July being promoted on Eventbrite.com – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Search Google News for “golf tournaments,” and you’ll find scores of feel-good stories about worthy causes that benefited from a tournament.
If your organization is serious about fundraising (and especially if you are at a smaller organization with limited resources), I invite you to take a serious look at whether you are getting as much out of your golf tournament (or any special event fundraiser) as you think.
To find out, ask these five questions:
1. Is the “net” really what you think it is?
Income – expenses = net…right?
Since time = money, if you aren’t assigning a cost to the staff time involved in planning a golf outing, then you don’t know your true bottom line.
Tally the number of staff hours spent planning, and multiply that times an average hourly salary (don’t forget benefits). One organization I know did the math, and it amounted to 900 staff hours – or roughly half of one full-time position.
Don’t forget to calculate your volunteers’ time as well. If you could transform that volunteer time into something more productive, how might that be of greater benefit to your fundraising efforts?
2. Can (and do) participants donate more throughout the year?
The majority of participants likely are capable of making much larger gifts. Do they?
If so, great! Then consider the tournament an important stewardship event, and plan it accordingly. Although it might make some money, don’t call it a fundraiser.
Set follow-up goals. If at least 10 percent of your participants don’t also make a significant (for them) contribution elsewhere during the year, and another 10 percent make some sort of additional gift, then you don’t have the right people at your event.
If most participants attend only the event and do not make an additional donation, then they are not true supporters. They are golfers.
3. How does a golf tournament align with your mission?
Does your organization provide under-represented populations opportunities to golf? Does it advocate for water preservation or eliminating pesticides? Those missions can be demonstrated and reinforced during a golf tournament.
But if you cannot make a clear, direct correlation between a golf tournament and your mission, then it is time to find something else.
Connect your donors to your mission. Create an event that shows the impact of their philanthropy. It will be more meaningful and more memorable.
4. How is a golf tournament advancing your DEI efforts?
If your organization is serious about diversity, equity and inclusion, take a serious look at the demographics of who participates in your golf tournament.
Imagine the results you could achieve if you devote all of the time, energy and resources that you put into a golf tournament into your diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. For me, this is the most compelling reason to consider alternatives.
5. How can you raise more money while spending less?
Be honest with your supporters.
Yes, you want to show them a good time, but let them know how much it costs and how much time it takes to put on an event: Door prizes, food, soliciting sponsors, silent auction items, selling tickets. How long is your to-do list?
Ask them which is more important: food and swag…or devoting more of their registration fee to your mission. (And remember that, since participants are receiving goods and services in return, you are obligated to deduct the fair market value from their entry fee when issuing a donation receipt.)
Explain how much more you could do with the money it takes to put on the tournament…and how much more good you can do with the time you’d save by not having to plan such an elaborate event.
Start by scaling way back. People are there for an afternoon of golf and to support your organization. Call it the “No Frills” tournament.
The questions are not difficult…but the answers might not be well-received.
Your golf tournament likely is a sacred cow – beloved by a boss, a board, or maybe a major donor. Transitioning the event (which doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating it) can be easier with some external advising. We are happy to help you find the answers to more meaningful and productive fundraising and organizational success: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell me what you think: email@example.com.