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.
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.
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.
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.