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9 Tips to Running a Successful Charity Golf Tournament

I am honored to chair the Greater Washington Business Aviation Association’s (GWBAA) golf tournament for close to 10 years.  Each year, we raise money for the association, the Aero Club of Washington Foundation and Corporate Angel Network.  It is a fun day in support of aviation.  I fell into this job as the president of the association asked me one year, “Hey, Dan. You like our golf tournament.  You are running it next year.”  And I did and have for the last 9 years.  

Each year, I and the team learn more and more.  There are simple steps you can do to make a tournament a success for you and your organization.  Here are some that I can share with you that work for me:

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #1: Use a website to run the golf tournament

When I inherited the golf tournament, we tracked everything with a spreadsheet.  There are several services out there that will generate a website with simple entering of information.  They will also help capture registration information and payments.  Reporting features make it easy to track progress.  I am using

GWBAA page
Sponsorship page for GWBAA’s 2018 Golf Classic. Ordering is completed through the website.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #2: Build on last year’s success

The best place to start for next year is look to who supported you this year.  Your past sponsors saw value in what you provide so invite them back.  Treat them well and make them feel valued.  Be sure to thank your sponsors in front of your players and personally.  Make sure you tell them about next year this year to get into future promotion budgets.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #3: Use your team wisely

No one can do everything themselves.  If you have volunteers, thank them and put them to work.  I have a great team and I am so happy for their help.  They have their assignments and I stay out of their way.  Alexis does our catering coordinating and I leave it to her except to give my final approval. Jot down all the jobs needed to be completed before during, and after and find someone to assign to each.  Be specific about each job.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #4:

Don’t be afraid to try something new

I have tried some wacky ideas for contests to help raise money and fun that flopped big time.  One game was Survivor Ball.  Each foursome was given a specific pink Callaway ball to play.  Each player uses this ball for one hole and the ball rotates through the foursome each hole.  At the end of the day, all foursomes who still have the pink ball drop it off at the awards lunch to be pulled from a bucket for a prize.  Not only did no one bring one back but I lost our foursome’s ball on the first hole with my drive.  HA!  We all laugh about it now.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #5:

Roll with the punches on the day of the event

Running a golf tournament is like a wedding.  You do all you can to prepare for the event but when the guest arrive something will go wrong.  Good organizers just shrug it off and fix what they can.  I play during my tournament because my team can handle things while I goof off.  Sometime during the round, I will get a call asking where a sign is stored or what door prize goes with which sponsor.  We chat it over or wait until I am back.  Weather is another factor.  Nothing you can do about it but rolling with it.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #6:

Number your hole signage

A few years ago, my course screwed the pooch with my hole sponsorship signs.  I gave them a sheet of paper that showed which sign when on which hole.  When I got to the 5th hole (double leg right par 4), I saw the closest to the pin sign.  On the 7th par 3, I saw two hole in one sponsorship signs. After the tournament, I told the course management that if I had not signed a contract for the next year, we would not have been returning.  To combat this issue, I write the number of the hole on the back of each sign with a Sharpie before for handing the signs over to the course.

I am happy to say that for the past two years the courses has knocked my boxes off with their service and help.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #7:

Choose your course wisely

Since the day is all about playing golf, pick the best golf course for your budget.  We have been playing at the same course for the past nine years for a few reasons: budget, improving service, location, course condition, and amenities.  I have been courted by other courses and surveyed our players and association board and no other spot has lured us away.  I am not locked in forever but I continue to spell out our expectations to the golf course so they understand our business is not a gimme each year.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #8:

Look at what other tournament do

Each year, I will spend an afternoon checking out other aviation golf tournaments and see what they do and see if it fits out tournament.  Like anything else in life, I am sure I can do better and learn from what other people do.  Here are some ideas that I adopted/stole from other tournaments:

  • Built a document to show prospects about the tournament.  Saved as pdf for ease of emailing.
  • List of potential sponsors.
  • Contest to try next year.

Charity Golf Tournament Tip #9:

Plan and launch next year this year

The best way to get people to participate in next year’s tournament is to promote it this year.  I make sure I can launch our registration website shortly after we complete this year’s tournament. There is no worse feeling than looking at your sponsorship list three -month out and see it only 50% sold out.  We play in September so I want our website up and promoted by October.  We then continue to promote the event with emails or social media posts every month or every other month.

I like running this golf tournament.  It is for a good cause.  If you are around the Dulles, VA area on September 13th, please join us.  Sign up today at




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