Monday, May 9, 2011

12 Life Lessons From a Golf Tournament

During the past 3 months I have been planning a charity golf tournament, as a way of raising money for Operation Rebound and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  I committed to raise $10,000 before September 1, so I’ve been busy planning.  I’ve played in about 5 charity golf tournaments, but never ever planned one.  The past 3 months have been a very unique adventure; I learned a lot of surprising things.  Here are the highlights…

1.     You can’t always believe what people tell you.  The first golf course I contacted assured me they would LOVE to host my golf tournament.  We discussed several dates, picked  a date and time and lunch menu, and during the next 3 weeks, I thought I had my location nailed down.  I was wrong.  Turns out the golf committee wouldn’t approve me having a tournament on a Saturday morning in May.  I spent another 2 weeks trying to change their mind, but to no avail.  After 5 weeks, I still had no event location. 

2.     People are incredibly flaky.  Really, they are.  You just can’t count on people to follow through on what they say they will do.  People who say they will sponsor you won’t come through.  People who say they will golf in your tournament will drop out.  Not everyone can be counted on to follow through.  This is real life.

3.     People are incredibly helpful and generous.  I had a handful of colleagues who really helped out, and volunteered their own time to help plan the event. Other people made generous contributions.  I could not have done this without the help of many other people.  Time is precious and the fact that they donated their time was so incredibly generous. I remain grateful for the generosity of others.   

4.     I hate asking people for money.  I really really hate it.  HATE IT.  Did I mention I hate it?

5.     I hate making phone calls.  In the age of email and twitter and text messaging, phone calls are just SOOOO inefficient.  The person you are calling is almost NEVER available when you call, and then they call you back and leave a message, and you call them back. Playing phone tag just drives me NUTS – it can go on forever.  Phones STINK. 

6.     You can’t really ask people to support something you don’t believe in completely. You have to have your heart in something in order to ask other people to contribute.

7.     People will match the level of energy that you put into something.   Energy is contagious and enthusiasm in contagious.  You can’t fake your energy, either you have it or you don’t.  Energy generates energy

8.     You can’t fake the fact that you care.  You have to really believe in something to generate action in others.  You can’t just go through the motions.  This means you need to know what you really care about.  If you don’t know, then you need to figure it out. 

9.     Sometimes, things just fall apart.  Sponsors cancel, the event costs increase, or other crap just happens.  This goes with the territory.  Be prepared for it. 

10. Sometimes, things just come together and surprise you.  PING came through and Fed Exed me an awesome raffle prize.  Several local resorts came through with free weekends for the raffle.  Some volunteers went above and beyond and some golfers paid for other golfers to play.  Appreciate the positive surprises.

11. You can’t do something important alone.  I’ve relied on 2 key volunteers to help recruit sponsors.  They were OUTSTANDING!  And I’ve been thankful for all the golfers who recruited other golfers to play. 

12. Relationships matter.  Of all the people who have agreed to sponsor the tournament or participate as a golfer, 90% know me directly.  The others are only separated by one degree.  Strangers don’t jump in to help, friends jump in to help.  People help people they know FAR more quickly than they help strangers. 

I’m sure I’ll have a few more things to add to this list – the tournament is coming up next weekend.  Fingers crossed I don’t learn 12 more lessons before Saturday.  For those of you who regularly raise money for charities, what else would you add to this list?  


  1. I too am amazed at the success of professional fundraisers. When I read about the UA Athletic Director's success in raising tens of millions of dollars I am drawn to find out what was said, what was presented to convince someone, albeit a wealthy someone, to part with millions of dollars.

  2. Hi Mark,
    Yeah I cannot even imagine what the life of a professional fundraiser is like. Not my cup of tea. Or soup. :-)