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Finding Sponsors For Our Golf Tournament

Finding Sponsors For the past four years, boosters at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C., have hosted a golf tournament at the community's most difficult course. In 2010, they used sponsorships to more than double their profits--well before the opening tee-off.

By Bryan Yokley
President, Ardrey Kell High School Athletic Booster Club
Charlotte, N.C.

In the current economic times, the most challenging part of organizing a golf tournament is finding sponsors. As a general rule, the entry fee should cover the cost of the event, but if a tournament is going to succeed as a fundraiser, organizers need to focus on local businesses. Without corporate sponsorships, you're not going to raise any money.

Every spring at Ardrey Kell, we hold a golf tournament as the primary fundraiser for our athletic booster club. Our strategy is to make this tournament a community event, and because we're still relatively new--our school has only been open four years--it's important to use this event to build community support, with a lot of involvement from the business sector.

This year, with a new group of organizers in charge, we started working five months in advance. That was the key to reaching our goal, and that lead time was an important part of lining up support from local businesses, which may need to include donations in their annual budgets. With that advance planning, we were able to work out a strategy, identify potential sponsors, and make the asks well ahead of time.

We wanted to find corporate sponsors for each hole, so we started by researching what other charity tournaments charged and what their sponsors received in return. Some tournaments were actually charging a lot more, but given our strategy to make this a community event, we decided to place ourselves toward the lower end of the range.

We decided to charge $300 for each hole sponsorship, and managed to cover all 18 holes, plus a few that had dual sponsors paying $300 each. We also had eight tournament sponsorships, which cost $1,000 apiece. Each hole sponsor was given signage and a ticket to the awards dinner that concluded the event, and tournament sponsors were given additional signage along with four player spots, four dinner tickets, and unlimited range balls.

Our pitch to businesses was simple but effective. As a public high school, we need the help of the corporations around us. Their customers are our students and parents, and if we're going to keep our community vibrant, we need to support our schools, because that's why people want to live here. If our schools fail, so will our community and our businesses. It's an emotional appeal, but we do it tactfully, and businesses have been very glad to support us, even in the current economy.

That sponsorship is worth more than just a monetary contribution, because once a business comes on board, we know they'll spread our message to their employees. That helps make this fundraiser feel like a community event, which is part of why this year's tournament sold out in advance.

We also use corporate contributions at the event itself, which includes lunch, dinner, and a silent auction. Over the four years we've been holding this tournament, we've steadily improved the quality of the food, which is included in the $125 entry fee. The country club that hosts the event allows us to bring food from outside, which is one of the main reasons we chose them--instead of paying for catering, we're able to solicit food from local restaurants, which helps our bottom line.

This year, Chick-fil-A provided box lunches and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, which started right here in Charlotte, donated steak dinners, which were a big hit. We work hard to recognize sponsors by including their names in all our publicity, announcing them at our sporting events, and encouraging families to patronize their restaurants. Typically, we'll hold a special night, when we say, "Such-and-such supports our school, so if you go out to eat there tonight, you'll return the favor."

Last year, we raised a total of $8,000, and our initial goal was to reach $15,000 with this year's tournament. Instead, we raised over $20,000, and the largest single reason was corporate sponsorships. Businesses made a big, big difference in helping us exceed our goal, and for next year, we've set an even more ambitious goal: $30,000. is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.