Guest Post By: Christopher Brancato, MA
The Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD) provides support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout northern, New Jersey. We are a nonprofit organization that relies on fundraising to help provide a high level of care.
Like many other charities, we host a variety of events throughout the year to help raise awareness, funds and support for our cause. Our biggest event of the year has become our Wiegand Farm Golf Classic (www.dpd.org/wiegand). The 2018 event will be held on June 25th at Ballyowen, Wild Turkey and Crystal Springs Golf Courses at the Crystal Springs Resort. The Wiegand has become one of the biggest, best and longest running golf outings in the country.
There are nearly 150,000 charity outings, like the Wiegand Farm Golf Classic, held throughout the United States each year. With so many events, competition can be fierce, yet we have seen a steady growth in participation throughout the last several years.
In 2011, 68 golfers came out to the Wiegand, each year since then, event has grown, (2012: 100 golfers, 2013: 143 golfers, 2014: 196 golfers, 2015: 229: golfers, 2016: 262 golfers, 2017: 335 golfers). In 2010, the event raised just over $10,000 and now has become a $100,000+ event, held on three courses.
It truly “takes a village” to develop golf outing, but with the right approach you can boost support of your event, and thus raise more for a cause that is dear to you.
Here are 20 tips to help improve your golf outing
Putting Green: Make your golf outing a yearlong event: If your golf outing is on June 22nd, you shouldn’t begin preparing for this event on June 1st. Set your date and venue early, you might even want to promote next year’s outing at this year’s event. Create business cards, update your event website and create brochures as early as possible. Fiscal years vary from company to company, but you’ll have to reach out to some at the start of the calendar year to have any realistic chance of securing a corporate sponsorship. Make sure to have information about the event with you at any networking event, you never know when you will meet a prospective golfer or sponsor.
Driving Range: Set realistic goals and develop a plan: Meet with your committee or executive team early in the year to discuss your goals for the event and logistics. If you are looking into a new course or venue, make sure to visit several different options and have different packages quoted to see what you are getting for your investment. Reach out to the chairpersons of other outings to see how their golfers enjoyed their experience at the prospective courses you are looking into. In addition to the typical amenities offered, see how the course can help promote your event and find out if they can offer you any prizes for your raffles, silent auction, etc. Develop marketing/outreach plans for specific potential supporters (local businesses, corporations, golfers, silent auction/prize donors, etc.). There are many different potential donor bases and you should identify who they are and how best to reach out to them.
Hole 1: Cultivate a dedicated team/committee: Your committee members are the legs of the event. They should help you obtain golfers, reach out to sponsors, obtain prizes and promote the outing. Reach out to board members, friends and those close to your organization for support. With modern technology, meetings do not even have to take place in person anymore. Committee members feel a more passionate connection to the outing and cause and thus are more likely to work hard to take the event to the next level.
Hole 2: Make your event innovative: As previously mentioned, there are over 150,000 golf outings in the United States each year and you have to do something to stand out. Offer unique prize opportunities, celebratory guests, special contests, anything to give your event its own identity.
Hole 3: Market, advertise and offer promotions: Even if your event has 1,000 golfers on 8 different courses, you have to continuously reach out to new potential supporters. From year to year, you never know which foursome might drop out, or what corporate sponsor you may lose. You have to take into consideration the long term health of the event. Set a budget for paid advertising and keep track of your ROI. Explore different advertising opportunities each year including print advertising, radio advertising, billboards, golf outing websites, most notably GolfTourney.com, and tradeshows. Facebook and Google offer advertising opportunities that you can specifically cater to your potential golfers or sponsors. If you have a limited or no advertising budget, you can still promote your event. Ask local businesses to post a flyer about your outing, find free event listing websites online, market via email; there are plenty of free or low cost options to help promote your event. Some radio stations, news outlets and advertising companies may even barter with you, a sponsorship of your event for advertising. You can even offer a giveaway of a free day of golf to other charity events, with the hope that the recipient comes out to support your event in future years.
Hole 4: Participate in other events: Budget to attend a different event or two each year in the community to learn about what other outings are doing and what other courses are offering.
Hole 5: Utilize social media: Minimally, you should create an event on Facebook for your golf outing, you can share this at no cost and ask your Facebook friends to do the same. If you want to go a step further, create an entire Facebook page for your event. You can even promote this page on Facebook to whatever audience you want. Create a hashtag for your event and utilize it when you are posting on social media. Make sure all posts and pages link back to your event page.
Hole 6: Maintain a positive attitude: Stay positive and keep smiling no matter what the turnout is at your event. When dealing with potential sponsors and golfers talk about the good your agency or organization is doing and not about how funding is cut, or how fundraising dollars are needed to prevent the “sky from falling.” Talk about how contributions from last year’s event have directly impacted your services in a positive way. Always be thankful and appreciative of those who are donating their time, efforts or dollars to your cause.
Hole 7: Lean on volunteers from the community: If you are fundraising for a large organization with many staff members and volunteers who want to be involved with your event, that’s great, but I believe it’s even better to have community partners involved. Offer volunteer opportunities to your sponsors. Many companies have community service requirements and your event could help them fulfill these needs. It can also give them the opportunity to further market their business but putting faces of their company in front of your participants. Having volunteers assist from the community allow you to connect at a deeper level with new, potential supporters.
Hole 8: Assign different roles to volunteers based on their strongpoints: Make sure you have individuals with a variety of skill sets on your committee who can help with various aspects of the event. Certain people might feel more comfortable reaching out to potential sponsors than others. Other individuals might have work related contacts who they are willing to ask to support the event. Offer to work with your committee members and provide them with the draft of a request letter if appropriate.
Hole 9: Honor those who have made contributions to the community, your cause or the event: From staff members, to donors, to volunteers there are many people involved with nonprofits and service groups that help them thrive. Make your fundraising events an opportunity to recognize these people. Recognition of certain individuals might also help boost event participation and revenue. Host a “kick-off” event months prior to the outing and invite your high level sponsors and award nominees to get acquainted.
Hole 10: Give sponsors what they want: Though some sponsorships might be purely philanthropic contributions, other companies are looking for an event where they can be seen and heard. Make sure you create sponsorship packages that create brand visibility and recognize the sponsor at the event. Offer more than just advertising at the golf outing. Promote your sponsors before and after the event. If you can, provide metrics to the sponsor after the event to measure their return on investment. Provide opportunities for higher level sponsors to reach out to those in attendance. Make sure you view sponsorships as more of a “partnership“ than a “gift.“
Hole 11: Make sure your golfers and sponsors feel appreciated: You can never say “thank you enough.“ The Executive Director, CEO, committee members, board members and/or development director should be at the event and should be personally thanking participants for their support. Major sponsors should be mentioned at the event. After the event, all golfers, sponsors and volunteers should be further thanked. The sponsors who do not attend the event should receive a souvenir journal and any other giveaways from the event.
Hole 12: Make your cause the center of your day: Where the committee members are the “legs” of the event, the organization’s mission is at the “heart and soul.” Make sure that those who come out to the event at least know who the outing is helping! Presenters should briefly talk about the impact the organization is making in the community and how fundraising dollars directly support the cause. If possible have service recipients come out to or play in the event. Their smiles and appreciation will go a long way.
Hole 13: Don’t over promote your cause at the event: Though we want golfers to be aware of where their contribution is going and how it is making a difference, we don’t want to be overly persistent. Attendees are already giving to the event, most of them are also purchasing raffle tickets and chances at other in-event contests. Representatives from the sponsoring companies and those who are new to your organization might become dismayed if they are asked for too much. We want our golfers to come back and for the event to have long-term success. On your golfer’s registration cards you can offer a check box asking if they would like to volunteer, or learn more about the organization, but don’t over pursue.
Hole 14: Offer giveaways and contests to participants: Generally speaking, if you are making a majority of your revenue from the cost of golf, you are doing something incorrectly. Most of the funds raised from golf outings come from sponsorships and events (raffles, silent auction, etc.). With that said, you should utilize a majority of what the golfer is paying to play in the event on making the event better. In addition to green fees and food, you should offer additional giveaway items and contests, regardless of whether or not you can get these costs covered.
Hole 15: Make the day fun: Most of the people who are at your golf outing are there to support the cause and enjoy a nice day off from work on the course. You can better their experience by making sure that they are receiving adequate food and refreshments and assuring that a good pace of play is kept. Try not to double up foursomes on par 3’s to avoid long buildups. Send volunteers on golf carts to ask how they are enjoying their day and if they need anything.
Hole 16: Get feedback from golfers and sponsors post-event: Make sure to have all golfers fill out registration cards at the start of the day and obtain their email addresses. Email them a survey the day after the outing, asking them to rate various aspects of the event and analyze the results. Show that you are listening to their requests at future events, should you implement any requested changes.
Hole 17: Don’t be afraid of change: Regular golfers in your event may grow tired of your venue, meal selection, contests or other aspects of your golf outing that have become staples of the event. Make sure to stay connected to your participants and sponsors throughout the year and keep those who are close to the event updated on any changes. Always keep your eyes open for new options or upgrades to the event.
Hole 18: Control the Weather: Your organization or service group hasn’t raised enough money to develop a weather modification program yet? Well, I guess we can’t control everything! Yes, sometimes it does rain on a golf course and or during your golf outing. It’s out of your control, but if you focus on the aforementioned points it won’t make a difference!
To learn more about DPD’s Wiegand Farm Golf Classic visit www.dpd.org/wiegand or call Chris Brancato in the Development Office at 973-406-1104. The 2017 Wiegand Farm Golf Classic will be held on June 26th.