Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Golf Fundraisers Good for Charities, Courses

Apr 01, 2018 09:33AM ● By Vanessa Orr

Treesdale Golf and Country Club

Nonprofit organizations are always looking for ways to raise funds. And while many of them have had success with galas and other party-themed events, a number have turned to golf outings as a way to attract participants while also turning a profit.

“There’s nothing like spending a beautiful day on the golf course socializing with friends while raising money for a good cause,” explained Joseph Conver, general manager, Treesdale Golf and Country Club.

Treesdale partners with numerous organizations that raise money for area nonprofits, including Applebee’s Restaurant, UPMC Health System, Education Management Corporation, Gigliotti Holdings and more. A private club, Treesdale is closed to members on Mondays, which is when it books these outside events.

“From the time the snow melts until mid-October, we’re booked every Monday,” Conver explained of the 27-hole course. Approximately 80 percent of the facility’s tournaments are reoccurring events, with the other 20 percent coming from new organizations.

The Gigliotti Holdings Golf Classic is one of Treesdale’s repeating events. Celebrating its 10th year this August, the classic brings about 200 golfers to the course to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. Each year, the tournament donates approximately $100,000 to the foundation’s general care fund.

“We chose Treesdale for a number of reasons, but the biggest was the fact that it has 27  holes, so that allows us to have a larger number of golfers,” said Tim Piper, vice president of real estate management and development for Gigliotti Properties, adding that about 80 percent of the classic’s golfers return every year.

“People speak very highly of the tournament, but I tell them that it’s Treesdale that makes us look good,” he added. “Both the banquet and golfing staff are very professional, and they make sure that everything runs smoothly.”

While many golf fundraisers have been going on for years, organizations that want to establish one for the first time often need help. Working with a club’s event director can make the process easier. 

“We’ve been really lucky in that so many of our groups have stayed with us over the years, but we see a few new organizations each year as well,” said Sarah Davis-Colussy, private events director at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley. “We’ve done this for so long that we have a really good grasp on how to coach people through planning an event, and we can help them put a unique twist on it. 

“We take pride in our course and the product we provide, and we look forward to these Monday outings as much as our clients do,” she added. 

Diamond Run’s 18-hole course hosts groups from 72 to 144 players, and clients have included West Penn Hospital, the Pittsburgh Social Exchange, the United Initiative to Cure Brain Cancer, Coldwell Banker, Ross and West View Emergency Medical Services and more. 

“I think one of the benefits of a golf outing is that it’s not your basic banquet; people can get outside and do some networking, and it’s really laid-back—there’s no pressure,” said Davis-Colussy. “Because Diamond Run is a private club, it’s also a destination for a lot of golfers; because it’s a fundraiser, they don’t have to be members to play.” 

For the past 22 years, Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh (BVRS) has held its Steelers Alumni Golf Classic at Diamond Run. “Chuck Noll was a member of our board at the time the classic was established—it was his baby,” explained Leslie Montgomery, vice president of external affairs. “Not only are we continuing his legacy, but it’s a very profitable way to raise money; it continues to be one of our highest-grossing events.”

The classic, which includes a continental breakfast, lunch on the course and dinner provided by Diamond Run, allows foursomes the opportunity to play golf with a Pittsburgh celebrity. “People come out because they believe in the mission of our organization and this is a great way to support it,” said Montgomery. “And let’s face it; a day on the course is better than a day in the office.”

The event has raised more than $1 million for BVRS over the past 22 years, with the money going to support the organization’s 14 programs and services.

While most private clubs host events every Monday, public courses like Cranberry Highlands are able to host events throughout the week as well as on weekends. “We host about 50 fundraising events a year, most of which are shotgun events with 72 players or more that take place Monday through Thursday,” explained Daryl Shipos, supervisor of golf operations. “We also host single-tee smaller events on the weekends.”

The 18-hole course attracts numerous alumni organizations, Rotary groups, churches and corporations that raise money for charities that include the Special Olympics and the American Heart Association. “Anyone who has ever run a golf outing, small or large, realizes pretty quickly that it’s a huge undertaking; it has a lot of moving parts,” said Shipos. “We’ve had a lot of experience hosting these events, so we work closely with planners on everything from scheduling to food to where the carts are staged.”

Shipos creates a plan months in advance that is continually updated as the event gets closer. “The goal is that everyone involved in the planning can relax on the day of the event; it just happens,” he said. “Their stress is over because we take it from there.”

Cranberry Highlands has an exclusive caterer that provides food, and groups can choose from a number of specific buffet options, or request a custom menu if desired. “All they have to do it ask,” said Shipos, adding that about 90 percent of groups select from the options available.

One added attraction unique to Cranberry Highlands is GPS-equipped golf carts that Shipos loads with the entire outing so that players can see the layout of the course. They can also keep score electronically and follow the leaderboard to see how their group is doing compared to other teams. Outing organizers can sell ads or sponsorship spots on the GPS unit.

“Golf outings are really a no-brainer for charities, because the earning potential is so high,” said Shipos. “There are so many touchpoints above and beyond the entry fee. There are countless ways to earn money, including ‘Beat the Pro’ opportunities and selling mulligans. We have one organization that uses golf to bring people in, but the fees they collect are secondary to what they raise during their legendary auction.

“It’s also a great opportunity for an organization to have personal contact with their donors—not for an hour or two at a function, but all day long,” he added. “It’s a great way to thank them.”