How to Run a Winning Charity Golf Tournament: Free Checklist

Golf fundraisers—especially the popular pairing of a golf fundraiser and a silent auction—are high-grossing events for nonprofits. Who doesn’t love a leisurely game of golf where the prize for winning is the knowledge that you’ve helped out a worthy cause?

While playing in a charity golf tournament is a laid-back way to spend a Saturday, the planning process is a lot more involved. However, with the right strategies and fundraising tools, you’ll be well on your way to pulling off an unforgettable event.

In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to run a successful golf fundraiser:

Whether you’re hoping to cultivate major donors or strengthen your relationships with existing ones, a golf tournament fundraiser can help. Let’s get started!

Charity Golf Tournament FAQs

Before we dive into our golf tournament preparation checklist, let’s make sure you have the basics down.

What makes a golf tournament fundraiser successful?

A golf tournament fundraiser gathers your nonprofit’s leaders and current and prospective major donors for an exciting sports outing, typically consisting of:

  • A round of golf at a local golf course
  • High-energy hole ideas that appeal to all skill levels, such as closest-to-the-pin and “pink ball” challenges
  • Relationship-building opportunities between your nonprofit’s leaders and top prospects
  • A silent auction to bring in extra revenue
  • Additional donation opportunities like purchasable mulligans

Golf tournament fundraisers can be paired with a number of other fundraisers, like peer-to-peer campaigns and fundraising galas, to maximize your earning potential. While this will take some more planning, your nonprofit will quickly reap the rewards and churn out an ROI much higher than a golf tournament on its own!

Plus, you can even make your golf tournament fundraiser hybrid to reach more supporters. Invite your VIP supporters to your in-person tournament, then have the rest of your donors participate online by watching livestreams and engaging in an online auction.

What are the benefits of hosting a golf fundraiser?

A golf tournament can advance your nonprofit’s mission in the following key ways:

Running a golf fundraiser can advance your nonprofit’s mission in a number of ways.

High earning potential

Golf attracts an affluent demographic, with individuals typically having the capacity and willingness to give substantial gifts. In fact, the net worth of the average golfer is $768,400 and 1 in 4 golfers own their own business, indicating that they have large professional networks and can introduce your nonprofit to more donors.

With this in mind, your nonprofit has a prime opportunity to solicit major gifts from several donors at once, allowing you to bring in tens of thousands of dollars. Plus, by offering tiered ticketing packages and additional fundraising activities, like a silent auction or raffle, you can ramp up your giving while providing participants with a fun and rewarding experience.

Enhanced major donor relationships

Golf fundraisers provide a relaxed setting for your nonprofit’s leaders and major donor prospects to interact and get to know each other. As a result, you’ll be able to learn more about their interests inside and outside of your organization and leverage these insights to inform your cultivation and stewardship strategies. Make sure to actively take notes during these conversations so you can reference them in the future.

Increased awareness for your cause

During your golf tournament fundraiser, you can bring attention to your nonprofit’s accomplishments, progress on current projects, and goals for the future. This will help to build your credibility and prove to major donors why you’re worthy of their ongoing support.

Consider pairing your golf tournament with a fundraising gala so you can give more formal multimedia presentations about your fundraising needs and deliver emotional donation appeals. This way, you can keep your golf tournament as relaxed as possible while focusing on what matters most: relationship-building!

Elevated sense of community

Golf fundraisers don’t just provide your nonprofit’s leaders an opportunity to get to know your donors; they also allow your donors to get to know each other. Many of your golf hole fundraising ideas will likely involve putting your golfers together in teams, allowing donors to develop interpersonal connections and feel closer to your nonprofit in the process.

How much can you make from a charity golf tournament?

You can make anywhere from $5,000 to well over $100,000 with a successful golf tournament fundraiser. Keep in mind that a number of variables go into determining how much you earn from your event, including:

  • How much you charge per registration ticket
  • How many major donors and prospects you invite
  • The number of additional fundraising opportunities you provide
  • Whether you secure corporate sponsorships

Corporate sponsorships can significantly reduce your initial planning costs so you can reap a larger ROI. We’ll provide more information on how to secure corporate partnerships in a later section!

Golf Tournament Preparation Checklist: 12 Steps to Follow

Running a golf tournament fundraiser isn’t difficult when you have a clear roadmap. Use this complete checklist to put together an exciting sporting event your donors will love.

1. Set clearly defined goals.

Follow the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goal framework to create highly actionable goals. This will help to rally your team around your fundraising objectives and foster accountability.

Use the SMART goal framework to meet your golf fundraising tournament objectives.

Let’s take a look at an example SMART goal for a golf fundraiser:

  • Specific: Our nonprofit will aim to raise $100,000 during our annual golf fundraiser. This will support our mission to provide disaster relief abroad.
  • Measurable: We’ll use our fundraising software to generate real-time analytics into how much we’ve raised. We’ll also track how many new major donors we’ve acquired versus donors we’ve retained to hone our major fundraising strategy.
  • Attainable: When we hosted a golf fundraiser last year, we raised $70,000. This time around, we’ll be pairing our golf fundraiser with a silent auction, increasing the likelihood that we’ll raise significantly more.
  • Relevant: The funds raised from our charity golf tournament will be used to provide critical food and shelter to communities affected by climate change and natural disasters.
  • Time-bound: We’ll start planning our golf fundraiser 6 months in advance of the event so we have plenty of time to secure corporate sponsorships, reserve a golf course, and initiate relationships with major donor prospects. We’ll host regular check-in meetings to ensure we’re on track to finalizing our plans.

Along with setting financial goals, you might also add engagement-related objectives like:

  • Number of attendees
  • Peer-to-peer participation and sign-ups
  • Traffic volume on your event microsite
  • Social media impressions
  • Social media followers
  • Number of corporate sponsors

Make sure to pinpoint each team member responsible for working on these goals. For example, you might assemble a marketing committee to design your social media campaign for your event and work towards achieving your engagement metrics.

2. Establish your budget.

Put together a detailed budget that outlines your expected expenses, earnings, and the total amount you can reasonably spend on this event. Some of the expenses you can expect to incur for this major fundraising event include:

  • Venue reservation
  • Golf equipment rentals
  • Event fundraising software
  • Mobile bidding tools for your silent auction
  • Prizes and awards for winning golfers
  • Marketing materials
  • Catering
  • Sound or lighting equipment if hosting a dinner/gala

Keep in mind that you can alleviate a lot of your costs by partnering with philanthropic companies. We’ll discuss this in greater depth in the fifth step!

3. Choose your venue and schedule a date.

For a golf fundraiser, you’re going to need a specialized venue: a golf course! If any of your board or staff members are members at local country clubs or golf clubs, you should ask them to reach out on behalf of your organization and see if they’ll supply their space for free or at a reduced cost.

In return for use of the course and clubhouse, you could offer the club sponsorship privileges, such as branding on your website and event marketing materials.

If you can’t secure access to a golf course, don’t give up on a golf fundraiser! Some charity golf outing games can be played elsewhere:

  • Longest drive competitions can take place at a driving range.
  • Putt-putt tournaments can take place at a mini-golf course.
  • Frisbee golf games can be played in any open space with portable flags or in more accessible disc golf courses.

Start your search for a venue early so you secure the ideal location and date for your golf fundraiser. This allows you ample time to negotiate pricing, finalize logistical details, and ensure availability for the scale of your event.

4. Invest in fundraising technology.

Planning a golf fundraiser is a fairly involved process, which can quickly eat up a lot of your team’s time and energy. However, with the right fundraising software, you can streamline crossing off each item on your checklist and more effectively manage your event to optimize outcomes.

The OneCause Fundraising Platform offers a full suite of tools to make fundraising a seamless experience for all event types—from golf fundraisers and silent auctions to unforgettable galas. Let’s take a closer look at the features that set this fundraising tool apart:

OneCause is the best event fundraising software to run your golf tournament fundraiser.

Event management

OneCause offers a modern, flexible software solution to bring your golf fundraiser to life. Whether you’re hosting a golf fundraiser on its own or pairing it with an auction to increase your fundraising potential, this solution makes it simple to host in-person, virtual, or hybrid events.

Specifically, OneCause empowers nonprofits to launch custom event sites to kickstart registrations and early fundraising, sell custom tickets and manage RSVPs, facilitate contactless check-in and check-out, and track real-time event analytics.

Auction tools

If you’re ready to kick your golf fundraising into high gear, pair it with an online silent auction! As your golfers wait to take their turn on the course, they can pull out their phones and insert bids right from their phones with mobile bidding tools. Plus, OneCause allows you to track and manage your item procurement efforts, create visually engaging item catalogs, and showcase real-time scoreboards to ramp up giving.

Online giving

Create a fully customized donation page to live on your event microsite and bring in donations in advance of your fundraiser. Plus, you can smoothly facilitate peer-to-peer fundraising with the OneCause Online Fundraising Software, enabling donors to create their own personal fundraising pages, share them on social media, and easily collect donations from friends and family.


Donors love nothing more than a convenient giving solution, so why not offer text-to-give? With the OneCause Text-to-Give solution, you can develop a text fundraising campaign that supporters can easily opt into using your unique keyword and short- or long-code. This is a great way to bring in more donations while your golfers are on the course or during your fundraising gala afterward!

Sponsorship management

Sponsors can be a huge lifeline—but you need the right technology to earn their support. OneCause makes it easy to create customizable online sponsorship packages, group and size sponsor logos based on their contribution level on your microsite, and track impressions and engagement to demonstrate ROI.

OneCause has a proven track record in helping nonprofits lead highly profitable golf fundraisers. For example, the SickKids Foundation earned a whopping $250,380 for their annual golf fundraiser to support children’s health, far exceeding their goal of $200,000, with the help of OneCause Event Fundraising Software.

SickKids led an engaging charity golf tournament that earned them over $200,000.

This was made possible by the use of a seamless peer-to-peer site, custom registration and sponsorship packages, and additional fundraising tools that made executing a golf fundraiser a breeze!

5. Secure corporate sponsors.

With a blowout event like a golf fundraiser, you could use a little help covering the operating costs. After all, if you spend the same amount or more than you bring in from donations, then your cause doesn’t benefit from your fundraiser!

You can look to a few different sources for sponsorships:

  • Local companies and large corporations with corporate philanthropy programs.
  • Venues, restaurants, and catering services who might contribute an in-kind donation.
  • Individuals, small businesses, or community organizations invested in your community’s well-being that share a similar interest in your cause.
  • Businesses and major donors you already have a connection with from previous campaigns.

Come up with a list of likely partners who would be interested in sponsoring your event. For example, an environmental conservation organization might partner with a sustainable clothing store. Then, follow these steps to secure corporate sponsors:

  • Write a corporate sponsorship letter: Think of a corporate sponsorship letter like a pitch. Introduce your nonprofit, explain the purpose of your golf fundraiser and how the funds will be used, and clearly express the type of support you’re seeking, whether that’s direct financial sponsorship, in-kind donations, or free marketing. Then, explain what you can provide your corporate partner in return, such as marketing on your event materials.
  • Create open lines of communication: Once you secure a partner’s support, keep them updated on your fundraising progress and how you’re meeting your end of the deal. For example, you might share how many people have viewed their logo on your event microsite.
  • Express appreciation: Thank your corporate partner and demonstrate how their support made a difference in your event outcome. This will increase the likelihood that you secure their support again in the future!

Make sure that you offer multiple levels of sponsorship packages. Not everyone can afford the same level of sponsorship, and you want to ensure that as many sponsors as possible can contribute. With the help of dedicated fundraising software, you can customize different sponsorship levels—such as bronze ($1,000), silver ($5,000), and gold ($15,000)—with increasingly valuable benefits associated with the higher levels.

For instance, let smaller contributions earn your sponsors a logo on your website, while larger contributions earn a free ticket and vendor booth at the event. List the prices and benefits associated with each sponsorship level on your website and on any sponsorship messages you send out.

6. Create your tournament program.

Brainstorm ways you can take an average golf fundraising event into a memorable experience that your donors will never forget! A compelling tournament program should consist of:

  • Unique hole ideas that people of all ages and skill levels will enjoy, like speed golf or a blindfolded putting challenge.
  • A theme that unites the entire event experience, such as Tropical Paradise, encouraging golfers to come in their best vacation-themed attire, or Celebrity Golf, encouraging participants to show up as their favorite pro golfer.
  • A variety of built-in fundraising opportunities, such as the opportunity to buy extra mulligans, earn more time during speed golf, or donate in exchange for a professional to take a shot on the golfer’s behalf.

You’ll also want to finalize all of your event’s logistics, including:

  • Tournament format and rules
  • Volunteer support, including roles and shifts
  • Sponsorship recognition on the course
  • Whether participants should bring their own golfing equipment or you will be supplying them
  • Catering and refreshments

Compile all of this information into a printed program that you can share with attendees when they arrive. This should also include a map of where your fundraiser will take place if you won’t be following the standard course so everyone knows where to go.

7. Market your golf fundraiser.

Once you have the logistics all worked out, it’s time to spread the news. Depending on who you’re trying to reach, you’ll need to choose different communication methods. To send invitations to:

  • Current donors, send out emails and direct mail. Always address your communications with your donors’ preferred names to add a personal touch and increase the likelihood of them reading your message.
  • Prospective major donors, reach out directly through a mutual connection or a gift officer at your nonprofit.
  • The greater community, take a multichannel marketing approach to get the word out, leveraging platforms like your email newsletter, social media, and flyers.

Use multichannel marketing to get the word out about your charity golf tournament.

While golf fundraisers are generally geared toward major donors and prospects, you can and should still include donors of all types. For example, if you’re pairing your golf fundraiser with a silent auction, you can open this up to all supporters so everyone feels included and you can maximize your earning potential.

Make sure to share any promotional materials with your sponsors. They can send out information about your event to their own connections, widening your potential donor pool!

Remember that you need to start your marketing efforts early, as soon as you have your venue and date confirmed. You want to give your donors plenty of time to work your event into their busy schedules.

8. Open up registration

You should launch your registration page at the same time you start marketing your golf fundraiser. You need somewhere to send your donors when they decide to attend! Using your event fundraising software, you can kickstart your online registration with:

  • Online ticketing, including options for multiple ticketing levels, coupon codes, and donations.
  • Custom event microsite, to serve as the branded information and ticketing hub for your event.
  • Communications features, for keeping your attendees instantly updated with any changes to the schedule.

Make sure to feature everything your attendees should know about your event on your microsite, including:

  • Your fundraising goal
  • The event’s purpose
  • Description of event
  • Date and time of the event
  • Location
  • Event perks, like branded merchandise or food
  • Registration instructions
  • Donation instructions

By making your event details as clear as possible, you’ll be more likely to attract potential supporters to your event and increase your number of registrants.

9. Focus on building relationships with major donors.

Once your big event day finally arrives, it’s time for you to really get to work on strengthening major donor relationships! Use these tips between gameplay to cultivate relationships with prospects and support your stewardship efforts for existing major donors:

  • Designate staff or volunteers as relationship managers to engage with major donors and prospects throughout the golf fundraiser. These individuals can serve as points of contact, provide personalized attention, and record notes that can be referenced later.
  • Practice active listening and get to know your donors better, such as what they do for work, their family life, hobbies, and more. Respond thoughtfully to them and refrain from steering the conversation directly to your nonprofit. After all, this is an opportunity to know who your supporters are outside of your organization, which they’ll greatly appreciate.
  • When appropriate, highlight your nonprofit’s progress during downtime between shots and share stories, anecdotes, and updates about your impact. Explain your vision for the future and your latest strategic initiatives. This will help donors better understand why their support is necessary for your growth.

Major gifts are the largest contributions that your organization will receive, and your major donors’ ongoing support can make a significant impact on your ability to meet your goals. By showing a genuine interest in your supporters and building a rapport, you’ll be more likely to acquire and retain their support.

10. Send thank-you letters.

Now it’s time to follow up on those relationships with an immediate message thanking them for attending. Your thank-you letters should include personal details such as:

  • Donor’s preferred name and title
  • Amount and type of gift
  • For major donors, something specific written by a staff member who interacted with them at the event

Your letters should also recap:

  • How much money you raised in total
  • Any other exciting metrics (like number of sponsors, total number of attendees, etc.)
  • How the funds will be used to advance your mission

While you should save time and cut down on costs by sending digital thank-yous to other donor types, it’s recommended that you handwrite your major donors’ letters. This adds an extra personal touch to your communications.

11. Reflect on your event’s performance.

Looking back at your goals, determine whether you hit your key performance indicators or not. If you did meet your goals, great work! Collaborate with your team to think through how you can raise the bar and increase your fundraising potential for your next event. If you didn’t meet your goals, take a deep dive into any gaps in your existing strategies.

For example, let’s say you didn’t meet your attendance goal and, as a result, fell short of your overall fundraising goal. This could indicate that you need to improve your marketing and pre-event communications in the future, such as by creating more engaging promotional materials and connecting with more major donor prospects in advance.

You can also factor in qualitative insights from your supporters to hone your event strategy. Consider creating a post-event survey asking your attendees what they liked and what they would like to see next time. Then, factor these insights into your event preparation checklist for the future. Your donors will appreciate that you took their feedback into consideration!

12. Share public acknowledgments.

If you thought event marketing takes place only before your golf fundraiser, think again! The conclusion of a successful fundraising event provides you with an incredible opportunity to share with the world how amazing your nonprofit and your donors are.

Take advantage of your mailing list, press releases, and especially social media profiles to share:

  • Updates: Did you reach your fundraising goal? Tell your supporters how much they helped you raise! You might share your fundraising thermometer from your event microsite to provide a visual representation.
  • Photos: Did you take photos at the event? Tag your golfers and sponsors so they’re sure to see the updates!
  • Feedback: What did your attendees have to say? Share the positive feedback you received!
  • Sponsors: Who were your sponsors? Be sure to give them all the acknowledgment they paid for!
  • Volunteers: Who helped out in their free time? Everyone deserves to know how hard they worked!

Keep your nonprofit in the front of your donors’ minds, and make sure your supporters who didn’t attend are convinced that they should make it next time.

Best Practices for Increasing Your Golf Tournament’s ROI

Now that you understand what items you need to cross off your preparation checklist, it’s time to cover some best practices for increasing your fundraising potential. Let’s take a look at our favorite strategies to make any golf fundraiser a success:

Pair your tournament with other fundraising activities.

Your golf fundraiser doesn’t have to be a standalone event! In fact, pairing it with another popular fundraising idea can help you engage more supporters and maximize earnings. Consider adding any of these fundraising campaigns and events to your agenda:

  • Silent auction:silent auction and golf fundraiser go together like peanut butter and jelly. Consider opening up your online silent auction for bids a week before your golf fundraiser so you can start making headway on your fundraising goal. Then, keep it open during the golf tournament so golfers can make bids during downtime on the course! With mobile bidding software, golfers can set maximum bids, receive outbid notifications, and engage in your auction all from their phones.
  • Fundraising gala: Conclude your golf day with a fundraising gala! This is a great opportunity to further your relationship-building and prove why your nonprofit is worth major donors’ ongoing support. Provide dining and entertainment for your guests and fill the night with speeches from your leaders that highlight your nonprofit’s accomplishments and needs.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising: Encourage well-connected donors to serve as ambassadors for your cause and create their own peer-to-peer fundraising pages. This way, they can improve your nonprofit’s visibility and bring in more revenue for your golf fundraiser in the process! Work with dedicated peer-to-peer fundraising software to make this process a breeze for your team and your donors.
  • Raffles: Raffle off items during your gala, auction, or charity golf tournament itself that will appeal to your donors and inspire generosity. For example, you might offer golf-related prizes like new golf clubs or luxury golf getaway packages to renowned courses. Make sure to partner with corporate sponsors to cover these costs!

During your planning process, consider which fundraising ideas will appeal to the greatest number of donors. You can adapt any of these fundraising events to fit your nonprofit’s specific needs and audience’s preferences.

Infuse friendly competition.

It’s more than likely that your golfers will appreciate some friendly competition on the greens! Take your golf fundraiser up a notch by gamifying the event to spark increased engagement levels and giving. For example, you might:

  • Incorporate various on-course contests and challenges. Examples include longest drive, closest-to-the-pin, hole-in-one, putting challenges, and trick shot competitions.
  • Organize team-based competitions such as best ball, scramble, or alternate shot formats. Encourage participants to form teams ahead of the contests or randomly assign them to groups. This will help to boost your donors’ sense of community and belonging at your organization.
  • Create leaderboards to track scores and standings throughout the tournament. Display real-time scoring updates at strategic locations on the course and on your event site, allowing participants to track their progress and stay motivated to perform their best.

The right event fundraising software will also give you access to built-in gamification tools like:

Leverage these gamification tools to make your charity golf tournament more engaging.

  • Fundraising thermometers to track progress on the way to your goal.
  • Participant dashboards to give your peer-to-peer fundraisers insight into how their campaigns are performing.
  • Digital leaderboards featuring the top fundraisers or donors.
  • Milestone badges to acknowledge when your fundraisers hit certain milestones.

Offer your winners exciting prizes that will incentivize them to give these contests their all, like branded merchandise, discounted tickets to your next event, or new golf gear.

Reach out to prospective major donors.

Major donors’ support is at the heart of your golf fundraiser’s success, and if you don’t have a ton of prospects attending, you might need to reevaluate your major donor fundraising strategy. To identify prospective major donors that you can invite to your fundraiser, use these tips:

  • Appoint a major gift officer to spearhead your major gifts program, track fundraising metrics, draft major gift proposals, manage your cultivation and solicitation strategy, and create a stewardship cadence.
  • Conduct prospect research to find people with the philanthropic willingness and financial capacity to give major gifts to your organization. Take a look at wealth indicators, like real estate ownership and business affiliations, and philanthropic indicators, like history of giving to organizations similar to yours or engagement history with your nonprofit.
  • Leverage board networks to get connected with other affluent individuals who may fit your donor persona. Encourage board members to take on an involved role and reach out to prospects directly and set up meetings to get to know them.

As you get connected with qualified prospects, record notes about their interests and track each stage of your relationship-building in a CRM. This way, you can effectively tailor your outreach and engagement efforts to each major donor prospect’s preferences. When it comes time to invite them to your golf fundraiser, draw from what you already know about your prospects to appeal to their interests and encourage their attendance.

Get Started with OneCause

If you’re looking for a modern, flexible solution that will make crossing off each item on your preparation checklist as simple as possible, look no further than OneCause! The OneCause Fundraising Platform is designed to simplify the entire fundraising process and make giving convenient for your donors. With its built-in auction tools and engagement drivers, you can easily take your golf fundraiser to the next level and deepen your engagement!

OneCause comes with a full suite of comprehensive features to make any fundraiser an unforgettable experience, including:

  • Integrated ticketing for seamless online registration
  • Express check-in and check-out with QR codes
  • Mobile bidding capabilities to keep the bids flying in
  • Segmented communications to connect with supporters
  • Donor insights and metrics reports

Take a look at this versatile all-in-one fundraising platform that meets and exceeds the expectations of today’s donors.

All New OneCause Fundraising Platform


Wrapping Up

Running a golf fundraiser is sure to make for a memorable experience your donors will love. Remember to work through this checklist in advance and keep your audience’s preferences in mind so you can boost engagement, resulting in more revenue for your cause!

Eager for more resources on putting together the perfect golf fundraiser? Check out our additional resources: