A charity golf tournament sounds like a lot of fun. But, planning a charity golf tournament is a whole other story. These 11 steps are here to help.
1. Define your fundraising goal.
What’s the only thing that can make supporting a great cause even better? A day on the greens. That’s why hosting a charity golf tournament is such a popular way for nonprofits to raise money. But how do you host a golf tournament fundraiser that meets your goals and leaves your guests wanting to come back? By focusing on what matters.
Before doing anything else, set a goal for what you want your charity golf tournament to accomplish. This will help you decide on the an amount you want to raise and guide you in the rest of your planning decisions. Your goal should be specific, attainable, and just challenging enough. You know, like a game of golf.
Properly defining your goal will make setting up a charity golf tournament a whole lot easier.
2. Plan your charity golf tournament for your golfers.
One of the first questions you need to ask when planning a charity golf tournament is: who do you want to attend?
If your fundraising goal is a bit lower, your tournament might be more of a family event, meaning guests will be paying out of pocket to attend. If you’re fundraising goal is on the higher end, you might want to consider corporate donors, meaning companies will be paying for the tickets.
Your choice of golfer will also depend on who your main donors are. For example, if you rely on many small individual donors from a close community, hosting a family-style tournament probably makes more sense. If you rely on large company donations, your target guests will be corporate groups.
Once you’ve landed on a target audience, you can then decide on the number of golfers you plan on inviting. A charity golf tournament on an 18-hole course can hold up to 144 golfers. 40 golfers is the suggested minimum for a fun and challenging tournament.$^1$
Once you figure out how many guests you think will actually make it—you can use attendance levels of past tournaments or post registration early—you’ll be able to properly estimate quantities, etc. for everything else on your todo list.
Things to keep in mind before going any further:
- Are there any other nonprofits planning a charity golf tournaments happening around the same time? (You don’t want to host your event the same weekend as another charity’s event.)
- Listen to the feedback from your supporters. You won’t be able to please everyone, but you might gain some insights on other events, available golf courses, etc.
- Keep summer vacations in mind. May, September, and even early October might work better for most people.
3. Form a planning committee to help plan your charity golf tournament.
To help you organize your charity golf tournament, and to keep from loosing your mind, we recommend recruiting a core group of people to help you out. The smaller the committee, the easier it is to communicate and be consistent. From there, you can delegate to other volunteers.
In a perfect world your committee will be made up of around five people who have at least a little experience doing the job their responsible for. But, we know that perfect worlds are pretty rare. So, when in doubt, choose people you trust and who you like to work with.
It’ll be nice to have committee members to lead the following tasks:
- Making and sticking to a budget is one of the most important tasks for any event and a charity golf tournament budget is no different. Try and find someone with an understanding of what things cost, is comfortable with numbers and knows how to say no.
- A few things to keep in mind when planning out your charity golf tournament budget:
- Make sure all potential costs are in place ahead of time to allow other committee members to go about their duties freely.
- Be sure player fees cover the majority of the costs.
- Sponsorships and event-day revenues (mulligans, silent auctions, raffles, etc) shouldn’t be used to cover costs but should be considered in your fundraising goal.
- Sponsorships allow you to cut down on costs through cash or in-kind donations and can help make your charity golf tournament more exciting for your guests. Find someone who is outgoing, is well-known (and liked) in your community, and has a basic knowledge of what kind of donations would be the most helpful.
- We’ve put together some possible sponsorship ideas, but ChatGPT is pretty good at brainstorming and making lists for fundraisers.
- The golf course.
- Local sporting goods stores.
- Restaurants or food trucks.
- Municipalities or local governments.
- Local industries (factories, warehouses, call centres, offices, etc).
- Big box stores.
- Grocery stores.
- Car dealerships.
- Regardless of the size of your tournament, your registrar will want to look in to options for online registrations. Free event registration platforms for non profits exist (Zeffy offers free nonprofit event ticketing and event registration forms) and can help keep everything from names and addresses to meal selection and raffle ticket sales organized and documented.
- When done correctly, you won’t have to worry too much about the promotion of your charity golf tournament as most players should come from word of mouth. But, you may want to assign someone to look after updating your website, making flyers, any signs or informational materials you’ll need during the event, etc. and (if need be) getting the word out there.
- Hosting a charity golf tournament takes a lot of work and that means a lot of volunteers. Finding someone to recruit, assign, guide, and keep track of your charity golf tournament’s volunteers is an important step in setting up a charity golf tournament.
4. Outline your charity event budget.
A clear budget (with a little wiggle room) will help you attain your fundraising goal or maybe even exceed it! You’ll want to keep your overhead investment at a necessary and reasonable level—and knowing where and what to spend your money on will help with that.
Always build a buffer into your event budget of at least 10% for unexpected expenses.
- Ally R. Potel
Sponsors can be a big help here. With the help of your designated sponsorship committee member, create sponsorship packages with different levels and associated perks. Make it clear what sponsors are getting for the different amounts they choose to donate. When outlining your budget, be sure to include:
- The golf club. (Potential sponsorship here.)
- Food and drinks. (Will this be included with the golf club?)
- Perks, merchandise and goodies for guests.
- Equipment rentals. (Speakers, tents, chairs, tables, BBQs, etc.)
- Any unknowns that may come up—it’s a good idea to set aside around 10% of your budget for any unplanned costs that pop-up.
Two members of the planning committee should be in charge of tracking the banking accounts for the event. Whether you already have a separate account set up for your events or you need to open a new one for the tournament, all payments made and received in the account should be monitored to make sure the budget is being respected.
You’ll also need to decide how much you will be charging your guests. Golf tournaments are some of the pricier fundraising events for donors so, again, sponsorships and the type of deal you make with the golf course can go a long way to keeping the ticket prices reasonable for the type of participant and event you have in mind.
Last point: it never hurst to do a little market research to see how much other tournaments are charging and what the price of a ticket includes.
5. Find the right local golf course.
One thing that can make or break the success of your tournament is the golf course you choose. We know, no surprise there. But we’ve got a few things for you to keep in mind when choosing your golf course.
First, you want to work with a golf course that understands the importance of your tournament, and with a staff that will provide a memorable experience for your guests! If you can, try to choose a sought after course—especially for more corporate charity golf tournaments.
Let the type of guests and tournament guide your short list golf courses. It could even be a members-only course to make it a unique game for attendees who may not normally play there.
Reach out to any contacts you may have on the boards of various golf courses and ask about what they offer in terms of fundraising event packages. Golf courses that host events often have employees dedicated to assisting you with your event, which will make your job easier!
Helpful considerations when choosing your golf course:
- Does this course match the type of player you are trying to attract? For example, a more exclusive club may be suitable for tournaments with corporate guests.
- Does the tournament package being offered work within your budget?
- Is it close enough to the guests you want to attract? For some, making a long drive or having to book a hotel might take the fun out of their experience—or add to it!
For some of your donors, what’s most important is not choosing the greens, but the venue for the party afterward! This is where all of your guests will end up (keep in mind that some won’t be golfing and will only come for dinner) and where they’ll pass the afternoon and evening. The day of, your work will be a little less stressful when it comes to the golf course, because your guests can entertain themselves with their game and the staff and volunteers on the course will take care of the rest. At the dinner, you and your committee need to take the reigns and make it a party they won’t want to leave.
If you’ve found a great golf course that doesn’t have the right venue for the after party, you can always look for a venue close by or consider asking the golf course if they’ll let you host a BBQ, food trucks, etc. on site.
One last thing, once you’ve confirmed everything with the golf course and any other necessary venues, insist on signing a contract. This will ensure that hosting your charity golf tournament goes as planed and you’re both clear on your expectations and the cost.
6. Reserve the golf course.
Speaking of contracts… It’s one thing to ask for one, it’s another to know what to look for before you sign it. We can’t help you with all the finer details, but here are a few things to double check:
Date and time:
If you can, consider being flexible with these. If you’re open to a date that is less busy for them (a week day or early or late season) because your attendees are retired, you might just get a discount or coupons for your charity golf tournament.
Make sure what’s included for each guest’s ticket price. This could be golf balls, score cards, carts, gratuities, etc.
Settle on the unknowns:
When do they need your guest numbers by? Can they accommodate any changes?
Get a clear breakdown per golfer. Make sure it includes food and drinks (if that’s part of the deal). Gratuities, service fees, etc. Decide when deposits and final payments are needed.
Cancellation and weather policies:
This one’s important and easily overlooked. Make sure there’s a clear understanding of their rainy-day policies an what’s the last date you can cancel or make changes.
7. Begin promoting your event.
When it comes to getting golfers to attend your event, word of mouth works wonders! But, if that doesn’t sell all the tickets, there are a few different audiences you can reach out to come support your organization. (And not everyone has to play golf.)
Supporters of your cause:
Your donors want to support your mission and your cause, so they’ll be more likely to participate in your event. One idea to attract them is to offer separate ticketing for your engaged donors that don’t golf: tickets for the dinner afterwards, silent auction invites, raffle sales, etc.
They might not know about your nonprofit, but they won’t pass up a great day of golf. So, be sure to sell it as more than just another day on the greens. Tell them how they get to do what they love AND support a great cause AND a delicious meal afterwards. Treat is as an awareness campaign to attract potential new donors.
Locally known personalities:
One way to make your event even more memorable is to get a local celebrity to attend! Reach out to some well known personalities in the area and let them know how they can make a difference. If they support your cause, they’ll be able to attract donors that have the means to make larger contributions and up your overall awareness. Reach out to athletes, TV personalities, musicians, politicians, etc. Reach out for those you know like to golf or who’re known to take part in charitable events.
You can attract a younger crowd by offering tickets for golf lessons from the course pro, a BBQ, food trucks add activities like raffles, auctions, local bands and more. They may just hear about how much fun the day of golfing was and choose to pick up golfing for next year!
Our tip: Come up with some incentives to get guests to buy tickets early! You’ll need to give a deposit and pay for the spots on the course early, so you want to make sure you have a minimum number of attendees. Offer early-bird prices, free drink tickets, exclusive merchandise, free raffle tickets, anything you can think of so people buy and commit early.
8. Choose a free event registration and online ticketing platform for nonprofits. (Such as Zeffy.)
This may sound like we’re promoting ourselves, and we are. But, hear us out. Choosing a nonprofit event ticketing platform that fits your needs while saving you money is an important step in organizing any charity golf tournament.
You’ll want an platform that’s customizable so you can create as many different ticketing options and events as you need. This will give your supporters the opportunity to contribute what they can and allow you to attract a variety of current and new donors. And, most importantly, help you keep track of sales, attendees, meals, raffle tickets, merch sales, etc.
A few examples of what Zeffy (or other event registration platforms for nonprofits) can help you with:
- Event ticketing for half a cart, individuals, dinner only, or just donations.
- Raffle ticket sales.
- Meal choices and dietary restrictions.
- Group creation and peer-to-peer fundraising options.
- Tax receipts.
Our tip: You might be unsure about the amount you can issue on your donors’ tax receipts because of the many benefits guests receive during the event. The Government of Canada provides a clear breakdown of what to consider when issuing tax receipts for your charity golf tournament. They use great examples to show what should be deducted from the receipt and what doesn’t need to be included. Be sure to check it out!
Most ticketing platforms will cost you around 7% of the ticket price. Zeffy's different. Zeffy doesn’t charge any fees (we even cover transaction fees) for any of our services. So, 100% of what is paid actually goes to your nonprofit.
9. Find additional fundraising ideas for your charity golf tournament.
Make your charity golf tournament even more successful by adding additional opportunities to give to your cause—and if those opportunities are original, it’ll also make your golf tournament unforgettable.
Mulligans are “do-overs” for your golfers—but you probably already knew that (we had to look it up). Allow your golfers to redo a bad swing by selling mulligans. For example: mulligans for $5 each or 5 mulligans for $20.
For an added bonus, print some creative mulligan cards using images, golf puns or jokes to be given to judges when a mulligan is used by a player. These cards can also be labeled as raffle tickets, so if the player doesn’t use them all up on the greens, they have a chance to win a prize at dinner.
Sell tickets to attendees (golfers and dinner-only guests alike) to participate in a skills contest. Make sure you have some prizes for all skill levels. Skills can include chipping, closest to the pin, long drives, ball in the pond (allows those with less experience the chance to win), cart driving skills, etc.
Beat the pro:
Challenge your players to “beat the pro” by having a pro golfer or student-athlete set up on a random hole. When golfers get to that hole, they can donate a little more to challenge the pro. Have a prize for the winners such as 10 raffle tickets, drink tickets, bragging rights, merch, etc.
A massage station:
A full day of golf can sometimes be long and gruelling on players’ bodies. Set up a relaxation and massage station at one of the holes. Players can choose to get a massage instead of playing the hole so your golfers will be able to finish their game and be ready for the dinner later that night!
Contact a physio or massage therapist that might be willing to volunteer their time.
Refreshment/drinks stations on the course:
Keep your players comfortable and refreshed and provide them with a reason to not take the game too seriously—it’s for a good cause after all.
Set up a drink and snack station about halfway through the course so players can take a break and unwind. Know a local distillery that needs publicity? Invite them to set up a stand and hand out their newest products for free.
10. Recruit volunteers.
Work with your volunteer committee member to recruit volunteers to help you plan and run your charity golf tournament to keep it running smoothly. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and ensure their tasks and schedules are clear so that your volunteers can prepare and know what they’re going to be helping with pre, post and during the event.
We definitely haven’t thought of everything, but here are a few tasks to find volunteers for:
Setting up and taking down at the golf course:
Designate volunteers to set up for the day. The staff at the course can help guide them, but be sure to prep them yourself too with:
- A welcome committee: Designate a group of volunteers to make sure your golfers are welcomed, registered, and coordinated when the arrive.
- Set up tents around the course for sign in, rest stations, fundraising activities, and snacks and refreshments.
- Identify volunteers in charge of handling the cash boxes for the fundraising activities.
- Assign volunteers to prepare goodies for the golf carts. This also ensure everyone has everything they need for a memorable game.
- Placing signs around the golf course. Since attendees may not know the golf club well, we suggest you make signs (include your organization and sponsor’s logos for an added touch) to help players find their way around!
- Any in-kind donations and labels for players’ lockers.
- Remember to ask volunteers to stick around after and help with the takedown and clean up.
Have two volunteers for each game or activity set up on the course. Make sure there’s one person supervising that all games are going well and that volunteers are being supported and receiving snacks, refreshments and breaks from the sun.
Recruit some volunteers to help sell snacks and refreshments to players. Selling beer and other alcohol can be a great way to increase fundraising revenue during the tournament and at the dinner afterwards, especially if an in-kind donation has been received from a sponsor.
You’ll also want some volunteers to watch over the silent auction, help with the raffle, and just generally be available to help your golfers if they need it.
Preparing the dinner:
Setting up and taking down the after tournament fundraising dinner is just as much work and needs just as many volunteers.
The event space will need to be set up and decorated so your guests can seamlessly transition from golf to what ever you have planned post golf.
Find volunteers to help with decorations, seating, etc.
11. Say thank you.
Thank everyone. Your volunteers, the golfers, donors, the golf course, your sponsors. This probably isn’t news, but a friendly reminder never hurts.
ChatGPT can help you write your thank you emails, but a personal touch is always a good idea.
Some helpful links on how to organize a charity golf tournament.
Here’s a recap of all the documents mentioned in this article: