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Teeing it up for charity remains a popular fundraiser

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The raffle table at Silver Creek Country Club in Hellertown at a golf tournament fundraiser for LifePath, a nonprofit that provides homes and services to more than 1,200 people. There is additional revenue to be had from raffles, silent auctions, hole sponsorships and the purchase of mulligans.

After Edmond, Okla., native Zach Tays’ life was cut short in a tragic car accident in 2008, family and friends wanted to do something to honor his memory.

Seven years ago, they set up the Zach Tays Memorial Scholarship Fund, which awards needs-based scholarships for youth ice hockey players in the Oklahoma City area.

In addition to ice hockey, one of the activities Tays loved was golfing with his father, so having a golf tournament as a fundraiser seemed like a natural fit. For the past five years, the scholarship fund has raised $2,000-$4,000 annually through the tournament.

Golf tournaments have been and are still a popular way to fundraise across the country. With proper planning and execution, a group can make a significant amount of money by hosting a day on the links.

A successful golf tournament fundraiser starts with a clearly defined purpose as well as goals. This helps determine the audience for which to market the event, as well as the style of play for the tournament.

“To be successful, tournament organizers need to be clear about their purpose and intended goal in planning and advertising their event,” said Beth Henry, the scholarship fund coordinator. “Those answers really drive how, when and where to advertise.

“Our tournament is really a time of fellowship for Zach’s family and friends,” she said. “We have had competitive golfers attend just to ‘get the win,’ and they were welcomed with open arms, but it did change the look and feel of the day.

“Since then, we have purposely not pursued those types of players again. We really target the [region’s] ice hockey community and friends.”

REALISTIC OBJECTIVES

Knowing and addressing limitations are critical. It is important to set realistic and attainable goals for both attendance and sponsorships.

Kyle Schulz, president of the Deer Creek Schools Foundation, said one of the foundation’s greatest challenges is the limited number of businesses in the Deer Creek community, in northwest Oklahoma County.

“But with the enthusiasm and support of our parents and families, we have been able to reach out beyond our district lines and gain support to make this year’s tournament another success,” Schulz said.

The foundation has raised $10,000-$15,000 annually at its golf tournaments in the past, Schulz said, and is projecting similar numbers this year, despite the change in venue to the Gaillardia Country Club and effect of oil and gas spending and job cuts in the area.

IDENTIFY YOUR AUDIENCE

Having a target audience identified in advance helps determine the type of play at the tournament.

To accommodate a broad range of golf skill levels, a scramble format provides the most appeal and also allows for good speed of play.

For more accomplished golfers with similar ability, a best ball format encourages a more competitive, but potentially lengthier, event.

Similarly, pricing should be based on the value of the experience, as well as the desired tournament atmosphere.

REVENUE SOURCES

The event can and should include more than golf, though.

In addition to revenue generated from player registrations, there is money to be made from hole sponsorships, silent auctions, raffles and the purchase of mulligans.

Meals should be a part of the day and can be offered free to golfers, such as breakfast or lunch.

Some groups include dinner, and some have chosen to do a dinner as a separate fundraising effort either before or after the golf day.

OPTION FOR DINNER ONLY

The Jake Flynn Memorial Scholarship Fund held its first golf event last September, which included lunch, dinner and a silent auction. The fund was established to reward an outstanding student-athlete from two high schools in Minnesota and to honor Flynn, who died in car accident in 2015.

The sold-out event had about $70,000 in net profits. After golf registration spots sold out, an option remained on the event website for people to continue to make donations.

“We knew the golf would sell out, and we knew that there were quite a few people who don’t golf, but would want to come to the event,” said Jordan Flynn, Jake’s brother, a member of the planning committee. “So we offered ‘dinner only’ tickets.

“It was really great to see the outpouring of support from the community from not only the people that golfed, but the people that only came to the dinner and auction as well.”

BASE OF VOLUNTEERS

Volunteers also play a vital role in an event’s success.

“Overall, there is quite a bit of front-loaded work to get everyone registered and signed in for the event,” Schulz said. “We depend on the help of four trustees and six volunteers to address the various tasks of getting the event started, including the inevitable details that pop up along the way.

“Having additional volunteers helps to build camaraderie and can make a difference in the work of the project to be an enjoyable and successful experience.”

REPEAT CUSTOMERS

The overall goal for the event should be to make a lasting impression on attendees so they will consider returning from year to year. Contests and prizes, ample food and drinks, photos and gift bags are all seemingly small extras that can make a large impact on an attendee’s experience.

Meanwhile, the host course can be an invaluable resource when planning the event.

Alsie Hyden, director of golf at Oklahoma City’s Lake Hefner Golf Club, encourages his staff to get as involved as possible with any group planning an outing.

“We want any group that comes out to our course to have a good event,” Hyden said, “because the success of an outing is a reflection of our course.”

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