GOLF FUNDRAISING TRENDS & PREDICTIONS FOR 2021

There’s no doubt about it: COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work, and fundraise. Its long-term impact remains to be seen, but as health and safety restrictions and guidelines remain in place heading into the end of the year, organizations large and small are tasked with the challenge of planning amid the uncertainty of the year ahead. Here are eight predictions for golf fundraisers in 2021 and how to prepare so you’re ahead of the curve.

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1. GOLFERS WILL BE EAGER TO PLAY

For years, the golf industry has reported incredibly high latent demand (that is, tons of people who report that they want to golf, but haven’t or don’t regularly). The pandemic, almost at its immediate onset, poured fuel on the fire—challenging folks to get out and play. In fact, the industry as a whole has reported a record season with tee times booked consistently by golfers of all skill levels. This is good news for charity golf outings. Golf fundraisers traditionally use the scramble format, which means golfers don’t necessarily need to be extremely skilled at the game to participate in a charity tournament. 

With a huge uptick in rounds played by both new and experienced golfers in the 2020 season, event organizers can expect to have an easier time filling teams, especially by spring, when winter will be clearing up and folks will be eager to get out of the house.

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2. EXPECT TO SEE MORE TOURNAMENTS ON THE CALENDAR

With many organizations forced to cancel their other fundraising events, a lot was riding on golf fundraisers in 2020 and many long-standing annual events were able to safely press on thanks to some creative modifications and the use of technology. At the same time, many organizations that ended up making the difficult decision to cancel will have high expectations for 2021. Coupled with first- and second-year events born out of necessity during this time, organizations can expect to see not only a renewed interest in golf from donors and sponsors, but a renewed interest in golf fundraising events across the board and more events taking place overall. 

This makes early planning more important than ever. You’ll need to get save-the-dates out with enough time for players and sponsors to act. That means, if you’re planning a spring event, you should get a quick notice out to supporters ahead of year end (especially sponsors, who will be planning budgets). It’s also a good idea to get an event website for your golf outing set up so you can list available packages and supporters can start to actually commit. If you end up needing to postpone or modify the event, an event website designed around the nuances of the golf outing also makes it easy to do so.

3. SOCIAL DISTANCING & OTHER SAFETY PROTOCOLS WILL LINGER

No one can predict with certainty what’s ahead, but there’s definitely some merit in the old adage: Plan for the worst and hope for the best. It’s likely that event organizers and golf facilities will need to continue to modify events to meet capacity limitations, mitigate contact, and ensure social distancing. For golf events, this means using online registration, modified formats where necessary (i.e. tee times as needed), touch-free mobile scoring, and other adaptations that keep your event safe.

4. EXTENDED PLAY & MULTI-COURSE EVENTS WILL BE MORE COMMON

Virtual golf outings are another trend that has taken root in 2020 and will likely continue into 2021. Instead of an on-screen gaming experience like many virtual events, virtual golf outings are played remotely. The event is extended over multiple days and/or across multiple courses so players can essentially donate their round and participate in an aggregate leaderboard without being in the same place at the same time as 100-plus other golfers. One benefit of these modified virtual outings is that they’re particularly convenient for participants, who sometimes can’t make a one-day event due to busy schedules. Virtual events also broaden the scope of the outing so it can include more supporters (i.e. there’s a much larger field size limit). Lastly, these events often require minimal overhead and less planning—making it possible to hold them without a ton of costs, time commitments, or months of advanced notice.

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5. LEADERBOARDS WILL BECOME MORE COMMON

Mobile scoring solved the problem of paper scorecards and the need to touch and pass them around, and there’s likely no going back. Live leaderboards allow tournament participants to score their round in real-time, so players and spectators can see standings at all times. The benefits are numerous: the event becomes instantly more competitive, golfers playing remotely in virtual outings are connected by a central scoreboard, and event organizers are able to sell exposure on the live leaderboard at a premium. What’s more, event leaderboards are a great place to collect additional online donations from event participants and those following along.

6. SPONSORS WILL BE EAGER FOR DIGITAL EXPOSURE

With virtual elements and the adoption of technology, there comes digital advertising and opportunities for sponsor exposure. Digital logo placements are helpful for event organizers in that they’re easy to manage (just plug in a logo on a website, in a mobile app, or on leaderboards) and often have little to no overhead costs compared to signage or branded merchandise. Sponsoring businesses have also shown a propensity to support the technology that helps nonprofit organizations run more efficiently and effectively, making digital sponsorships a key opportunity for events that are evolving to leverage technology.

7. ORGANIZATIONS WILL FOCUS ON CAPTURING EVENT & DONOR DATA

Data has been the big buzz word in the sector for years, but there are some events and programming that seem to escape data capture and tracking mechanisms. The golf tournament has historically been one of those events, but it shouldn’t be. Indeed, the golfer demographic is, statistically, an affluent one. When golfers field a team, they tend to call on their networks and sphere of influence to do so. Perhaps most importantly, the golf outing can be a key entry point for corporate sponsors and partnerships. But none of this works if you don’t know who’s fielding teams, who’s being invited to play as a guest, who’s sponsoring your organization, and where the tournament falls into that supporter’s larger giving history.

The easy fix here is to use a platform that offers an event website with online registration and secure payment processing so you can capture and export that crucial information into your donor CRM. If your organization is fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of peer-to-peer fundraising or events run by third party organizers, capturing this data can be even more tricky, but it’s a huge missed opportunity if you’re not doing it. And, it’s still possible so long as your supporting events use the right technology.

8. TIME SAVINGS WILL BE A CRUCIAL CONSIDERATION

With many organizations facing budget cuts and staff consolidations, fundraising professionals have more on their plates than ever before heading into a high-stakes year. That means constant cost-benefit analyses, it means the ability to delegate is more important than ever, and it means organizations have to get creative to adopt technology to save time without adding more line-item expenses.

Another first for the University of Arizona

The University of Arizona (UArizona) Adaptive Athletics Program continues to challenge the status quo with the addition of the first collegiate adaptive golf program in the U.S. “We have over a 40-year history [of adaptive sports] here at UArizona and now we are trying to expand our reach even more,” said Peter Hughes, UArizona Adaptive Athletics Director. Golf is a popular sport in Tucson, Arizona due to the weather and cost of living. Although Hughes didn’t know much about adaptive golf, he recognized the sport was popular in Tucson and catered to visually-impaired athletes. “We haven’t had adaptive sports for many, many years regarding visually impaired individuals,” said Hughes. “There are a lot of golfers and golf events in Southern Arizona, including the U.S. Blind Golf Association Open in Green Valley. I felt like our program should be furthering this cause. ”In collaboration with local golf simulator business, TeeItUp Enterprises, UArizona’s adaptive golf program was launched in September 2019. Jon Moore, co-founder of TeeItUp, sparked an initial conversation with Hughes about adaptive sports on an airline flight seven years ago. Four years later, Moore’s son, Christopher Schmidt, lost his vision and stumbled upon the U.S. Blind Golf Association. When Moore’s son started competing in tournaments throughout the country, a fire was ignited within the pair to increase participation in adaptive golf.


First Adaptive Golf Program in Collegiate Sports

Moore remembered his conversation with Hughes several years prior and gave him a call to pitch the idea of starting a program at UArizona. Golf marks the seventh sport added to UArizona’s Adaptive Athletics program. The golf team has recruited five athletes, including the newest recruit Bailey Bish.

“It means a lot to me that the University of Arizona has an adaptive golf team. I grew up playing sports, and I have dreamed of playing sports in college ever since I can remember,” said Bish. A Tucson native, Bish grew up on the fifth hole of the Forty Niner Country Club with her younger sister and parents. She joined the Tanque Verde High School golf team during her freshman year. “I fell in love with golf because I get to be outside, and it’s very peaceful and quiet,” said Bish. “It was something I was able to do with a weak right side. My right leg and right arm were the problems and with golf, you just need a strong left side to transfer [weight] onto. Bish is a freshman at Pima Community College studying logistics and supply chain management. She plans to transfer to UArizona to pursue a degree in organizational leadership or regional commerce.

Other original team members such as Jesse Williamson and Christopher Schmidt, as well as other adaptive golfers, will be featured in future posts on our blog. Each has a unique story to tell and are indicative of what adaptive golf holds for the development of adaptive sports and the growth of the sport of golf.

Our new venture to provide lessons and clinics to all of those who wish to enhance their lives through the game of golf.

With the addition of adaptive golf at UArizona, Moore and Hughes plan to help other universities across the West Coast develop programs of their own. “We’ve got proposals on the table right now with four major universities on the West Coast, and it’s our intention to set up a western adaptive golf conference,” said Moore. Moore also indicated that the concept could soon make its way to the Midwest and Southeast US with the intention of one day creating a national conference.

“The more people we can have playing golf, the better it is for our game. The more things we can do to reduce barriers to entry regardless if it’s finances, access to courses or disability, it’s a great thing for everyone who plays golf,” said Jim Anderson, head coach for UArizona men’s golf team. “I think what the adaptive athletics program is doing is pioneering another opportunity for a market of golfers to exist and hopefully figure out a way to provide people with an opportunity or at least attract people to the University of Arizona thanks to this program.”