When Will Nonprofits Learn to Match Event Choices to Likely Audience?

Not another golf tournament! That was my internal reaction when a friend of mine told me, last week, that the charter school her children attend was holding a golf tournament last weekend as a fundraiser.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard stories of fundraisers frustrated by trying to talk members/donors into attending a golf tournament when really only one or two of the board members are interested, or the group has always held a tournament and is afraid to stop, and so forth.

But I was prepared to suspend judgment. I asked her to fill me in on what happened, afterwards. (Notice I didn’t offer to attend. Golf? Me? Don’t think so.) Her answer:

“One lesson we already learned: don’t have a golf tournament for a charter school with a liberal/hippy type parent base! We only filled half the golfer slots–which is why I played.

“But it was fun, and they had contests on some of the holes for prizes–closest to the pin, longest drive, hole in one (of course I didn’t win any). The hole-in-one prizes are bought with special golf tournament insurance. And we had a dinner and silent auction afterward. People could come to the dinner even if they didn’t play golf. I think we made about $10,000 from all of it put together (50 golfers, 50 dinner-onlies).”

So, not bad as a final monetary take, and some good planning around making it fun for the people who came. But I stand by my original thinking: If you’re going to hold a fundraising event, don’t design the event first and then try to drum up attendees; look first at your attendees’ interests and then figure out what would draw them to come join in.