9 tips to guarantee you'll birdie your next golf event

By Vanessa N. Glavinskas
The Rotarian
Photos by Alyce Hensen and Monika Lozinska-Lee/RI

May 2006

Admit it. There's only one club you love more than Rotary. It's probably Big Bertha, but it could be the 905T or the r7. It's likely in your trunk right now, just waiting to hear you utter those two little words: tee time.

Golf. To most Rotarians, there's nothing like it. The game of greens is the most popular sport among readers of The Rotarian. So why not channel your passion into profit? A golf fundraiser can generate thousands of dollars, attract new members, and bolster Rotary's image. Thinking burgers and birdies already? Grab your golf pencil and note the following nine tips for planning an exceptional golf fundraiser.

1 Timing is everything

The best day for a golf fundraiser isn't always the day with the best weather. Consider planning your event for the "fringe months" surrounding the high season, says Roylene Gallas, director of annual giving for The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

"September is usually the best month in Chicago," she says. "There's still good weather, but people are back from summer vacation and in the back-to-

school mind-set, so their schedules are likely to be less hectic."

To draw a crowd, schedule your fundraiser for a slow day in your area. You don't want to hold an event on the same day as a big parade or, worse, another golf tournament. Read your local newspaper or contact your chamber of commerce for a community events calendar.

Once you have a few target dates in mind, work your Rotary connections to gain access to a private course or country club in the area. The chance to play a normally exclusive course will get the die-hards drooling.

"The most important thing is to plan ahead," Gallas says.

"Start a year in advance scheduling dates so you can get the best course at the best time."

2 Cast a wide net

Don't limit the invites to your golfing buddies. If the fundraiser benefits a local charity, ask the charity for a list of donors who might want to participate. Hold a "best ball" or "scramble" tournament to open the door for more participants at diverse skill levels. Some tournaments even provide alternative activities for nongolfers such as bocce ball, lessons with a pro, or lunch buffets.

When you distribute invitations, make sure people can donate even if they can't attend. For example, the Rotary Club of Carlsbad Hi-Noon, Calif., USA, plans a formal donor dinner the week before its June 2006 tournament to honor major contributors, even if they don't play in the event.

3 Insure your prizes

A substantial prize for a hole-in-one looks great on a brochure. (Think Mercedes or Mediterranean cruise.) But what happens if someone actually wins? Do your proceeds vanish? Not if you buy hole-in-one insurance.

Here's how it works. The tournament organizer contacts a company like Advantage Golf, which specializes in assisting golf tournaments, and tells the firm about the prize, the hole's yardage, and the number of players. The company calculates a premium, and the tournament organizer buys an insurance policy to pay for the prize if someone wins. Often, the company not only underwrites the prize but also decides what it will be. Policies usually start at about US$300 for a $5,000 prize, says Kerstin Murphy, operations manager of Advantage Golf's Colorado office.

"We have a hole-in-one prize at every par three," says Jeff Maen, who plans the annual golf tournament for the Rotary Club of Denver Cherry Creek, Colo., USA. "We once had a person win a vacation to Jamaica, so the insurance was worth it."

In addition to insuring against the perfect shot, many tournament assistance companies provide scoring systems, gifts for participants, online registration, and signs for sponsors. They can be good one-stop shops if you're looking to simplify your planning or just want a bit of expert advice. To find a tournament consultant in your area, check with the Golf Tournament Association of America at www.gtaaweb.org.

4 Sponsor everything

Many tournament organizers don't realize just how many things they can sell to sponsors. First, every hole has a price. You can sell the same hole to multiple sponsors simply by listing several logos on one tee sign. Prize holes (those with hole-in-one or closest-to-the-pin rewards) count as premium property and should go for more.

All fliers and marketing materials also should name sponsors. The Rotary Club of Winnipeg St. Boniface-St. Vital, Man., Canada, prominently thanks its donors on all marketing publications. The club also offers gold, silver, and bronze tournament sponsorships at different price points. The gold sponsorship costs the most but comes with the highest profile and includes special benefits, such as free registration for several participants.

Also consider including a putting event or shoot-out contest and offering a company the chance to sponsor it. For example, the event could become the "Wal-Mart $10,000 Shoot-Out" or the "Callaway Putting Challenge." During your sales pitch, don't forget to offer sponsors a link on the tournament's Web site or a special mention during the event dinner.

Where do you find all of these sponsors? Start at your weekly club meeting and branch out from there. The most well-connected person in your club should be in charge of sales.

5 Raise more with a raffle

After all the holes are played, tournament organizers often hold a dinner at the clubhouse or, better yet, find a local caterer to donate a meal. (But make sure the food is good: You want to leave people salivating for next year.) Before dinner is served, hold a raffle or a silent auction of donated items.

"We display our raffle items up front, and you drop a ticket in the box in front of [them]," says Walt Waggener, president of the Carlsbad Hi-Noon club. He notes that fundraisers benefit from people's tendency to buy more than one raffle ticket to increase their odds of winning.

As the guests enjoy dessert, thank them with a goody bag. Fill bags with pens from your local bank, chewing gum from the convenience store, and tees from the golf club. There's no need to buy anything you put in a goody bag: It's more free publicity for your sponsors.

6 Pinpoint your niche

"The calendar in Winnipeg is so crowded with fundraisers, you could probably play a golf tournament every day in the summer," says Kent Magarrell, incoming president of the Winnipeg St. Boniface-St. Vital club. "You have to differentiate yourself."

Magarrell's club finds a place in the crowd by helping a charity that benefits local residents. "We choose a worthy cause in our area and approach people in the same area where the charity is located," he explains. "Every year we choose a different charity."

Another club got noticed by adding a twist to its annual tournament. The Rotary Club of Long Beach Island (Ship Bottom), N.J., USA, opted for a miniature golf tournament to involve the whole family. Other clubs might get wacky by holding a winter "polar bear" tournament, using bright pink golf balls that stand out in the snow, or planning 24 hours of "marathon golf," with teams competing to see who lasts longest.

7 Remain flexible

The seven Rotary clubs in Cobb County, Ga., USA, hold a golf tournament every year. Although the tournament primarily promotes fellowship, the clubs use any leftover money to fund local service projects. But when Hurricane Katrina hit land last August, everything changed.

"Several thousand people were evacuated here," says Sally Platt of the Rotary Club of Marietta-Metro.

The clubs issued a countywide call to action to change their tournament's focus. Instead of benefiting local clubs, the event's proceeds would be used to brighten the holiday season for hurricane evacuees. Club members revised fliers and brochures within several days. Once word spread, registration skyrocketed from the usual 250 to more than 400 Rotarians and their family members.

"We applied for a joint District Simplified Grant and partnered with a local organization called Cobb Christmas," says Platt, explaining that the grant allows districts to request up to 20 percent of their District Designated Fund for a grant to support projects locally or internationally. "The end result was so cool. We were able to take care of more than 1,000 families for Christmas. We supplied boxes of food for everyone and four gifts per child."

After the success of the 2005 event, the Cobb County clubs are looking for a local cause to support with next year's tournament. "You can't overlook your own community," Platt says.

8 Remember Rotary

You've been meaning to tell your Saturday morning golf buddies about Rotary but couldn't find the right moment. Inviting them to your club's fundraiser is an ideal way to bring it up.

At the tournament, make sure all participants receive information about Rotary and The Rotary Foundation so they understand where their money is going and how they can continue to help. Be sure to keep a mailing list of past golfers for recruitment purposes.

9 When it's all over, relax

Then clean off your clubs, iron your golf shirt, and start planning next year's event.

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