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How to Run a Charity Golf Tournament: Free Updated Checklist

FREE BONUS: Download our FREE Golf Tournament Fundraising eBook You can save this resource as a PDF and use it for your organization’s next event. Make your next golf tournament an overwhelming success!

Golf fundraisers — especially the popular pairing of a golf fundraiser and a silent auction — are typically 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 that goes into a successful fundraiser is something else entirely.

For your golf fundraiser to go off without a hitch, you need a solid plan in place months in advance.

That’s where we come in! We’ve outlined the essential steps to planning a smooth golf fundraiser, broken down into three main stages:

  1. Planning and marketing your golf fundraiser.
  2. Executing your fundraising golf tournament.
  3. Following up with charity golf tournament participants.

Strap on your visor, grab your caddie, and let’s get to it!

The first step to a successful charity golf tournament is planning.

1. Planning and marketing your golf fundraiser.

For a smooth charity golf tournament when the day rolls around, you need a plan and a team willing and prepared to pull it off.

We recommend starting your planning months in advance. More involved tournaments with longer guest lists and a charity auction element will need longer.

To see why, keep reading!

Set goals using our golf tournament checklist.

Set your goals.

Set achievable goals for your organization. Setting goals with specific numerical targets is a great way to keep your fundraising team accountable for meeting those goals.

You might state your goals in terms of:

  • Revenue: “We want to raise $4,000 for our cause.”
  • Attendance: “We’re aiming for 100 attendees.”
  • Major donations: “We need at least three donations of more than $500.”
  • First-time donations: “We want at least 20 new donors to attend and give.”

Setting goals with specific numerical targets is a great way to keep your fundraising team accountable for meeting those goals. Numbers also help inform the rest of your planning strategy — after all, you’d market your golf fundraiser much differently if you want a large number of people to come than if you’re looking for a specific number of major gifts.

Choose a venue for your golf tournament fundraiser.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 golf clubs, you should ask them to reach out on behalf of your organization.

You could offer sponsorship privileges, such as branding on your website or event t-shirts, in return for use of the course and the clubhouse. (For more on sponsorships, keep reading! We’ll talk more about those later.)

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 minigolf course.
  • Frisbee golf games can be played in any open space with portable flags.

Secure sponsors for your fundraising golf tournament.Secure sponsors.

With a blowout event like a golf fundraiser, you could use a little help covering the operating costs. After all, if you spend all your 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 cause.
  • Businesses and people you already have a connection with from previous campaigns.

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.

If your tournament is part of your organization’s annual campaign, helping sponsors and supporters of all sizes feel valued is an essential part of growing your annual fund and developing new relationships.

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

Especially if you’re reaching out to a potential sponsor that you don’t have an existing relationship with, you need to make sure your sponsorship request is taken seriously, so take care to get your solicitation messages just right.

Marketing your golf fundraiser is essential for success.Marketing your golf fundraiser is essential for success.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 mail with your donors’ preferred name.
  • Prospective major donors, reach out directly through a mutual connection or a high-level staff member at your nonprofit.
  • The greater community, print out flyers to post at your venue and share a digital poster through your social media channels.

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

Open up registration for your golf tournament fundraiser.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!

The right event fundraising software can smooth out the registration process. Look for features like:

  • Online ticketing, including options for multiple ticketing levels, coupon codes, and donations.
  • Custom event pages, 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.

By implementing the right software, your team can organize all the necessary event details in one place for anyone who needs it. Donors can register for your event and purchase add-ons, and your staff can send notifications to registrants and plan the event.

Make it easier for guests to register for your golf tournament fundraiser.Bonus tip: If you’re incorporating a charity auction into your golf fundraiser, software can help with that, too! Choose a platform that allows you to track, package, and raffle items as well as accept mobile bids while your players are on the course.

Execute your fundraising golf tournament smoothly.

2. Executing your fundraising golf tournament.

You’ve planned your golf fundraiser to a tee. The invitations have been sent and returned. Awesome auction items have been secured. Mobile bidding software has been downloaded and programmed. The day has come.

Don’t let all your hard work in the planning phase go to waste!

Keep this checklist on hand during your golf fundraiser, and you’re sure to pull off a fantastic event.

Volunteers are essential for golf fundraising events.Recruit volunteers.

Golf fundraisers are huge undertakings! Chances are, your staff could use some help with administrative tasks and day-of operations.

When you show up to your venue, you want to make sure that you have an expert volunteer force. Schedule a training session at the venue the night before your event to train your volunteers on:

  • The venue, including parking details and the location of important rooms.
  • Your software, especially check-in and mobile bidding features.
  • Your donation process, for golfers who want to make contributions on the spot.

With an army of prepared volunteers to help with your administrative and operational burden, your staff will be free to deal with any unexpected circumstances.

Register your golf fundraising participants and sell day-of tickets.Register your golfers and sell day-of tickets.

Start the day of your golf fundraiser off on the right foot by ensuring that onsite registration goes down smoothly.

Luckily, with your online event fundraising software, you don’t need to export your guest list to any third-party check-in solution — or, worse, print it out to slowly check in attendees by hand. 

When checking in your donors for a golf fundraiser, you might need to consider the following:

  • Equipment: Did they bring their own clubs, or will they need to rent a set?
  • Extras: Did they reserve any extra shots or a caddie ahead of time?
  • VIP: Are they a sponsor redeeming a guest pass or other perk?
  • Teams: Did they register as a team? Are all team members here?

With the right event fundraising software, all of this information and more is available in seconds from a mobile check-in station, making the check-in process quick and easy. Your golfers can get straight to the game!

Bonus tip: The best fundraising software will also facilitate day-of ticket purchases. Why leave someone out if they show up, excited to play, just because they didn’t register ahead of  time?

Golf fundraising software should be tested and ahead of time.Demo your software.

Golf fundraisers are often paired with charity auctions, offering nonprofits a variety of avenues to collect donations. Try incorporating mobile bidding options for your golfers while they’re on the course!

But to hold a successful mobile charity auction, your bidders need to know how to participate. Everyone knows how to hold up a bidding paddle, but not everyone has used mobile bidding software before.

Be sure to show your charity golf tournament attendees how to use your mobile bidding software.Demonstrate how to use your software before sending golfers to the first tee, explaining how the software handles:

  • Real-time bidding.
  • Text notifications.
  • Raffle tickets.
  • Maximum bids.
  • Receipts.

Make sure a few members of your staff or volunteers familiar with the software are available on the course to troubleshoot if golfers need help.

Don't forget to follow up with your charity golf tournament players.

3. Following up with charity golf tournament participants.

Your guests had an amazing time. Even more importantly, you reached your fundraising goal!

Now it’s time to follow up with your golfers. Don’t let them think you’ve forgotten about them after they showed up and played for your cause.

Use these strategies to stay in the front of your donors’ minds even after they’ve left the course.

Send thank you letters and surveys to your fundraising attendees.Send thank you letters and surveys.

Don’t let your golf fundraiser start and end your relationship with your donors. Hopefully, you got plenty of face-time with your donors while they were paying and bidding.

Now it’s time to follow up on those relationships with an immediate message thanking them for attending. Your thank you letters, whether you send them through the mail or over email, should include personal details such as:

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

You should also include a survey in your thank you letters. Ask your attendees what they liked and what they would like to see next time. Fundraising and thank you letters are always an excellent opportunity to learn from your donor base and update your strategies. This can help you continually improve your fundraising events and market your next one with quotes of positive feedback!

Quickly process donations made during your golf tournament fundraiser.Process payments promptly.

Nothing frustrates donors more than waiting around while their financial contributions are processed.

Make sure to show your donors that you care about them enough to put their minds at ease. They will appreciate seeing their contributions promptly reflected in their banking statements!

Make sure you’re using a payment processor tailored to the needs of nonprofits, like SmartPay Anywhere by OneCause!

Follow up after your golf fundraiser with public thank yous.Share public acknowledgements.

If you thought marketing for your nonprofit was just for 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. Plus, your donors love being publicly acknowledged. They’ll be looking for updates about your fundraising goal, too.

If your tournament is part of a larger campaign, create a page to host a fundraising thermometer! They’re an easy and effective tool for tracking progress, sharing on social media, and acknowledging your donors.

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!
  • 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 acknowledgement they paid for!
  • Volunteers: Who helped out in their free time? Everyone deserves to know how hard they worked!

Follow up after your golf fundraiser on social media.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.

Do you feel prepared to tackle your next golf fundraiser with confidence? It’ll be your best one yet!

In the meantime, read over these additional resources:

Mobile Bidding & Online Auction Software Demo Request