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Making Your Charity Tournament Successful
Part Two: Advice from Professional Tournament Planners

By Eric Tracy - Published in Southern California Golf Newspaper - January 2001

Really successful charity tournaments seem to run flawlessly because there is amazing attention to detail. Planning is one thing, pulling it off is another. I've also learned over the years, the tournaments that grow and return the most golfers every year are organized by professional tournament coordinators. There are simple reasons why; these professionals are terrifically organized people and they pay attention to detail.

If you have a strong organizing committee, sure, you can probably save some money by not hiring a professional. In reality most tournaments are committee-run without outside help. But at what cost? And I'm not talking dollars. There's nothing worse than forming a committee and pounding all your volunteers for up to year with all the necessary details, then asking them to come back and do it all again. Many won't. In lots of cases, forming or sitting on committees can cost you your professional relationships, your time with family and it puts a strain on your client base. Then when your tournament is over and you begin making plans for next year, you have to find a whole new group of volunteers - and golfers - to make it work all over again.

Hiring a professional cuts down on committee burnout. Your event will run smoother and you'll more than make up for the fee you pay a professional because your golfers will want to return next year and they will bring their friends.

If your goal is making more money for your charity you won't do it by cutting expenses. You make more money by raising the level of your event. Knowledge is the key to getting your event to the next level. It's involving someone who does this kind of event planning for a living. You don't have to kill yourself or your friends in putting on a charity golf tournament, no matter how worthy the cause might be. You just have work more efficiently - and sometimes that means you don't do all the work. I honestly believe that the best charity golf planners pay for themselves.

Granted, you may still want to do it your way. That's fine. But the least you can do is hear was the professional charity golf tournament planners have to say about running a successful event and see if they have any better answers.

For this second installment in Making Your Charity Tournament Successful, I've found some of the best and busiest tournament planners in the business and asked them for their keys to making a tournament successful. Here's who they are and what they have to say:

Founder, Corporate Golf Tournaments, Inc. in Irvine
(949) 723-4110 - Email: corpgolf@flash.net

Background: A special education teacher for nine years, she became involved in raising money for Special Olympics every year helping Vince Ferragamo's charity golf tournament. After years of prayer and searching for her purpose in life she decided to start her own business in Irvine. Her clients have included Cadillac, Security Traders Association of Los Angeles, The Marine Institute and Jack Nicklaus Productions where she was the promotional coordinator for the Diner's Club Matches. Daiva's tournaments are always fun and being the only woman in our group, we decided to let her lead off.

Daiva's advice: "I think a charity committee has to have at 8-12 people who aren't afraid to pick up the phone. Sending out invitations to a golf tournament must be followed up with phone calls. Informing them about your tournament is one thing, but help them make the decision to play is even more important.

"I've learned golf tournaments are very relational. Find out where everyone has relationships. Find all the people who you are filling their pocket all year long and then let it be known participation in your event is important.

"And don't count women out. Many times a female business associate may not golf, but her husband does. Use wives as a resource.

"Don't be afraid of e-mail invitations to everyone. In that email ask the person if he's not an avid golfer to forward the email to someone who might be interested.

"Think creatively with themes for the event . Get away from the ordinary. Don't call it Bill's Convalescent Home Charity Golf Classic. Call it the "1st Annual Bahamas Bash benefiting Bill's Convalescent Home. Maybe make your event have a 'Survivor' theme. There's so much competition for golfers from other tournaments, make yours stand out some way.

"Creativity also is necessary in finding sponsorships. If you can't find a big title sponsor, find smaller sponsors who can fund everything from the driving range to the putting contest. Break down all your costs. Then find sponsors for every expense.

"If you know the golf course during tournament play is going to back up on par 3 holes, find companies who want to meet clients, get them to sponsor a hole, then create trivia games, offer mixed drinks, back massages and other demonstrations that will fill the time when the hole is backed up and use the client/sponsor as the host.

"For tournament day, sit down or talk prior to the tournament with everyone who's involved in your event and let them know what's expected. Write down their duties. Chart everything. And make sure you give a copy of your tournament day plans to the golf course so they know what's going on and what's expected of them."

"If you are going to hire a professional coordinator, get everything down in writing so there are no gray areas.

President, Golf on Earth in Woodland Hills
(818) 594-7244 - Email: golfonerth@aol.com

Background: A former executive for McDonald's and Blockbuster Video, he has an extensive background in marketing and promotion. All of the events he plans are in the very "high end" category. A former professional golfer himself, he uses his expertise to plan events such as David L. Wolper's "Lanai Cup, "The American Film Institute Golf Classic'' and "The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Golf Classic.''

Steve's advice: "There are multiple goals in fundraising, not the least of which is raising money, but also setting the tone is critical to establishing credibility among the supporters. That's a big goal of mine and should be yours, too. Create an event that golfers can't possibly pass up.
"If someone calls to ask me about doing an event, I have more questions of them than they have for me. Make sure you are as detailed in knowing what you want to accomplish. We're all partners and my job is to bring all the parties together for the objective of a great event. Think of your committee members as partners. Try to gauge who are the more influential people involved - and most of them are golfers - and especially who supports the charity. They'll be the key to your financing.
"To create sponsors from no where is virtually impossible. Cold calling won't work. The people we find have been supportive of other events that the charity does, concentrate on those people.
"As for a size of a committee, my formula is to have one member per sponsorship. It reduces the responsibility of one or two people feeling they have to do everything themselves.
"Once together we have found sponsors, the next step is forming a timeline. A first-year event, will need at least nine months to a year to create a memorable tournament. Once established, you might only need six months. But it's really never too early to start.
"When it comes to the execution of the event on tournament day, I like to take responsibility for everything at the golf course. My advice is work with the golf course, but understand if something doesn't happen the way it should, it reflects poorly on your tournament, so check and double-check. It's really why we do it all, the signs, preparing lunch, setting up - everything. Ultimately you are responsible for your tournament's success. Paying attention to details is the key.''

Chairman, CEO and Director of Healthy America Campaign in Canoga Park
(818) 888-0084 - Email: healthyme@worldnet.att.net

Background: A former high school football coach who also was a graduate assistant at UCLA under Dick Vermeil, DeMaio founded Duraflex Sports fitness products and then Life-Time Management Co., which developed seminars for major corporations.

Tony's advice: "Know the goal right off. All tournaments are not purely for fundraising. Some are recreational events for employees. Some are client entertainment. Some want to increase awareness to their causes within the community. Too many conflicts some into play when some want to golf recreationally and the foundation wants the tournament to be fundraising. They end up with neither. Know what you want to accomplish.

"With budgeting, we do everything on a performa-like spread sheet. Many tournaments just wing it, a recipe for failure. Consider sponsors for 'in kind' donations which can reduce your costs. You may have to give up some playing spots, but do the math. If a company can make the shirts and hats or shoes, and it's already an expense you've budgeted for, if you give up playing instead of case that's a good value in exchange and it reduces the bottom line and saves you time.

"Forming a committee with good contracts makes things much easier. Maybe someone's too busy to make the meetings, but they have good contacts we can use. Play to your committee's strength. The worst kind of board is four guys who don't know anyone. Then your job is an uphill battle.

Don't 'meeting' people to death. Schedule your meetings up front to show everyone how much time they'll have to commit. Form subcommittees on format, sponsorships, golfer acquisition, food and beverage, marketing and public relations, then when you have a full committee meeting you won't waste everyone's time discussing things like how many mulligans to give, that's been determined by a subcommittee.

"The bottom line is to get a clear message out - we're raising money and it's going to 'this cause'. Sometimes it means writing another mission statement. If the people who participate still don't know what the charity is all about, fix that.

"Look at running a tournament as a linear process. It's Plan, Action and the Tournament, or, P.A.T. Some plan too much and on tournament day it falls apart no matter how much attention is paid to detail during committee meetings. The action part is going out there and getting the plan done, doing all that needs to be done, so it's important to get your committees active. The tournament part, is putting it all together, scoring the touchdown. Be prepared for the mountain of details on tournament day. That's what we do. If you're not going to hire someone, make sure you assign an "event coordinator".

President, Independent Events & Media, Inc. in Calabasas
(818) 224-3673 (FORE) - Email: iemgolf@earthlink.net

Background: More than 20 years experience with sports and special event management, many of them golf related. He has helped more than 100 charity tournament for the American Red Cross, Childhelp USA, The Heart Fund at Cedars Sinai, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Youth Foundation, USC School of Gerontology, The Jewish Federation and the Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research.

Bob's advice: "A committee's strength in numbers is only as good as each person's Rolodex, and the strong chairman is the one who can be the peer pushing the others to make phone calls and following up on details.

"The selection of the golf course is like picking the star. A private club still has some cache and it allows charging more for you entry fee. But there are plenty of other courses that as attractive or more because they offer more schedule flexibility and may will allow you to bring in outside products. I'd turn away any venue that doesn't have an efficient staff and will be there to fix things that you can't always control.

"Selling out a tournament was very difficult in this year. I think you need to keep expectations realistic. If a sponsor had $100,000 to spread out last year, now they'll have $75,000. They'll still be supportive but maybe not for as much as in year's past. I think everyone's excited about 2002. However, a lot of charity money in 2001 went toward the events of Sept. 11, so maybe in 2002 some of it will flow more into local charities.

"Many golfers are repeaters in charity events. When a golfer gets maybe 15 invitations in the mail, they lay them all out and say, 'That was a good one, that one went smooth.' That's what golfers remember. Make sure a golfer leaves your event feeling it's the best experience of the year. That's what we try to accomplish at every tournament we organize and it all comes back to the details. A special event isn't special when people aren't organized. Don't leave anything to chance. Remember sponsors won't come back either if things don't run right. Serve your sponsors well. That is why our company is invited back year-after-year, we pay incredible attention to details and we keep the sponsor satisfied.

"Communication is also very important and when it breaks down, it can hurt an event. An extra memo or fax can clear up future problems before hand. If makes everyone's life easier.''

Golf Event Management Consultant for Non-Profit Organizations in Valencia
(661) 799-7940 - Email: hartmire@pacbell.net

Background: A professional YMCA director for more than 15 years, he was involved directly in staffing eight golf tournaments that went so well he decided to form his own company. He now produces about 15 tournaments annually.

David's advice: "The single most important aspect of a tournament's success is the committee, and the most important part of the committee is the volunteers. Not only those on the committee, but those you will call on to help you find golfers, find donations, and find sponsors. Volunteers want to be productive and you want them to maximize their time. It's a tricky relationship. So try to set up an environment that they know their time will be used to the maximum efficiency. If all they have is an hour, make sure it isn't wasted.

"Your volunteer base comes from people who are already involved and you see already in the community. Almost everyone wants to put money back into the community. The problem I see most with using volunteers is committees either expect too much or they delegate too much. Recognize that volunteers can also offer contacts and business relationships, utilize those.

"Sponsors also need to feel their gifts are properly recognized. They understand an association with your cause can be beneficial to make sure they get the
recognition they deserve. Their logos have to be displayed prominently to all get the benefit of the relationship. You have to keep these companies involved and make them feel it's not just a relationship based on their marketing. It's important who asks them to become involved from within your group and who keeps them involved.

"I've also found that 90 percent of the golfers for an event come from within. You can do general promotion and advertising, but it's not that usual to find someone willing to spend $250 for golf from the outside who wouldn't rather spend less and go somewhere else. There has to be a connection to the charity or the individual who asks so rely on networking.

There you have it. Advice from people who run charity tournaments for a living, 15-20 events a year. Either learn from them or turn to them. There is a reason they've all been in business for a long time.

For more information on running your charity event, contact Eric Tracy at erictracy@earthlink.net

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