Does Your School Need to End the Golf Fundraiser?

When golf became an Olympic sport last year, only a few individuals cheered about it.  The sport that grew in the 90s is now dying a slow death.   According to the National Golf Association, less than one in ten Americans are playing it. Nationwide golf courses are becoming land for housing developments or are being converted into burial grounds. Seasoned golfers are rare, and Millennials golfers are more uncommon.   So, should your school keep its golf fundraiser?
Know Your Donor
If you have prospective and current donors who play golf, then a golf fundraiser is appropriate for your organization. Leaders look at your current statistical information from your golf event – the number of players, the age of players, and other important data.  Ask your potential and current donors do they engage in the game of golf, and how often they do so?  Get to know them, and keep good donor profiles, including age and lifestyle information.
Understand Your Donors’ Lifestyles
Today’s young adults are busy.   Those in their 20s and 30s are working the main job, hustling for side income, and taking care of household tasks.  They are either volunteering or raising children, rarely both.  (According to Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler*, expert authors on Millennials, less than 3% of parents with children under 18 volunteer.)  Don’t expect these youngsters to show up at a golf event that takes all day.
The parents of young alumni are yet busier!  Older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are not slowing down!  Most of them are jumping from retiring from a position with a pension/retirement funds to starting their own business.   Outside of work, they are taking care of household tasks, providing elder care to their parents, helping out with children/grandchildren, keeping up with their friends, and volunteering for nonprofits.  Most of these individuals don’t have time to spend four or more hours on the golf course!
Get People In and Out Quickly
Develop fun special events where people can choose the amount of time they desire at the event.   I volunteer with my local Junior Achievement program.  I was greatly impacted by it, and I can give back to my own community on my own schedule.   A few years ago, the local chapter dropped their formal fundraiser and replaced it with a Beer and Wine Festival.      The event has been extremely popular, attracting individuals who want to support a worthy cause, and enter and exit at their own pace.    Many people would give up their Smartphones for a rotary phone than attend an event which takes up a large chunk of their day or evening.
Hold Off on the Big Event
Donations are due to the passions of your donors.  If school’s alumni are athletes, who don’t play golf, but run, bike, or swim, take a cue from other organizations.   Several schools and nonprofits have realized the power of tapping into athletes who participate in mini-marathons, marathons, and other competitive events.   Donors raise support from their own pool of individuals or businesses, then participate in the event and donate the funds to the school, or organization.
Keep Cost Down
Cost effectiveness is an important aspect of planning special events.   Golf and other fundraisers are a great way for school leaders to build relations with donors and bring in donations.   In this day and age, a sit-down meal may not be ideal.  A three-course dinner may not bring in a high return on investment for your school’s fundraising event, and it might make your event cost prohibitive to younger alumni.   One option may be to contract a local food truck vendor and ask them to sell food items to your event attendees and donate a percentage of the funds to the school.  Another option is to provide light snacks at the event.
Special events allow school leaders to build relationships with prospective and current donors around the mission of the school and the passion of the giver.  Do your research and plan accordingly!
*Millennials with Kids: Marketing to This Powerful and Surprisingly Different Generation of Parents. Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler.