The misconception about attending charity events

I was speaking with my husband about charity golf tournaments and in our conversation a very common misconception came up.

It is my husband's belief, and that of many others, that when a charity runs an event that they are making good money on registration alone and the rest of the money is just gravy.

I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to shed some light on how charity golf tournaments - and other charity events for that matter - work when it comes to the finances.

Like I said, this can apply to any charity event, but I am going to use a golf tournament as an example because the expenses are pretty straight forward.

Let's break this down. I'll do it by individual expenses and income so you can see the difference and then I'll tally it up so you can see how much the charity is actually making.

This does not cover all expenses and income opportunities but this not meant to be exhaustive. This is meant to be an example so that golfers - and other charity event attendees - understand that when you attend a charity event there is a reason why the charity asks for donations in other ways at the event. It's not that they are being greedy. It's because this is likely one of their biggest events of the year and the fundraising goals they are looking to meet are often in the tens of thousands. And although the event may seem like a cash cow to you, the charity is likely losing sleep the night before hoping they meet their goals.


Sample Charity Golf Tournament Budget



144 golfers x $125 registration fee = $18,000 (wow! that's amazing)


144 golfers x $$52 green fee = $7,488

144 electric cart rentals x $19 per person rental fee = $2,736

144 dinners x $35 per person steak dinner = $5,040

Total expenses $$15,264 (oy! that's alot to just get everyone on the course and fed)

Total income for the charity from registration - $2736



18 hole sponsors (if we're lucky) x $250 sponsor fee = $4,500 (easy money!)

1 registration sponsor x $750 = $750

1 beverage cart sponsor x $750 = $750

1 activity sponsor x $500 = $500

Total income $6,500 (not bad, even before we get started we're up $6,500)


18 hole sponsor signs x $25 per sign = $450

1 registration sponsor banner x $65 = $65

1 beverage cart sponsor sign for the beverage cart x $30 = $30

2 team registrations (1 for the beverage cart sponsor and 1 for the registration sponsor) x $320 (green fee, cart and dinner x 8 players) = $640

1 insurance payment for a hole in one activity x $150 = $150

Total expenses $1,335

Total income for the charity from sponsorships - $5,165 (thank goodness for our sponsors, they are so awesome!)

Hole Activities


80 golfers participate in Beat the Pro x $10 per participant = $800 (easy money!)

144 golfers participate in 50/50 x $10 per participant = $1,440 (now we're talkin!)

Total income $2,240


1 Pro for 5 hours (yes we pay the pro) x $75 per hour = $375

2 rolls of raffle tickets for the 50/50 x $30 per roll = $60

50% payout for the 50/50 = $720

2 lunch and dinner for the volunteers who help with the 50/50 x $50 ($15 for lunch, $35 for dinner) = $100

Total expenses $1,255

Total income for the charity from the hole activities - $985

Silent Auction


1 golf bag x $100 = $100

1 golf jacket x $65 = $65

3 sets of golf passes x $100 each = $300

5 restaurant gift certificates x $80 each = $400

Total income $865


10 printed pieces of paper to track the bids x $0.20 = $2.00

2 lunch and dinner for the volunteers who help with the silent auction x $50 ($15 for lunch, $35 for dinner) = $100

Total expenses $102

Total income to the charity from the silent auction - $763



150 planning hours split between 2 or 3 staff x $30 per hour average per employee = $4,500

5 staff work hours on event day x 12 hours x $30 per hour average per employee = $1,800

5 staff fed on 3 meals on event day x $60 ($10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, $35 for dinner) = $900

3 staff reimbursed travel expenses x $35 per employee = $105

Total expenses $7,305

Total income to the charity from having staff run the event - -$7,305 (oh boy, there are so many staffing costs)

In case you're wondering why it takes so many hours to plan a golf tournament (or any event) here is a list of just some of the tasks that need to be taken care of to ensure a successful event.

  • research and source the venue
  • do a site visit
  • set up registration
  • manage registration questions
  • beg contacts, friends and family to attend
  • develop a sponsorship plan
  • beg companies to sponsor the event - phone calls, emails, more phone calls
  • create and execute contracts for each sponsor
  • order signage
  • market the event on the website and social media
  • beg companies to donate items for the silent auction
  • drive around to all the businesses that donated for the silent auction to pick up the prizes
  • using the golf course layout, plan the activities and flow of the day
  • coordinate commitment and timing for the guest speakers
  • follow up with sponsors about their commitments to the event
  • send out emails to all golfers to confirm tee-times and other details related to the event
  • send out emails to all sponsors to ensure they have all the details they need to be success at the event
  • pick up all the signage that was ordered
  • create the silent auction sheets
  • write the emcee script and be sure to not forget to mention any sponsor
  • create golf themed centerpieces for the tables at the dinner
  • coordinate the million different allergies and food intolerances with the golf course
  • load up the car(s) the night before the event
  • drive to the event
  • show up at least 2 hours earlier than the earliest tee-time
  • set up the silent auction
  • set up all the hole sponsor signs on the right holes
  • make sure the activities are set up on the right holes
  • manage registration and make all the necessary last minute changes of golfers not showing up
  • shake hands, smile, be kind to all attendees and sponsors over the 5-6 hours of the golf day
  • drive around the course and make sure everyone is having fun
  • check back with the golf course to make sure dinner is scheduled to be on time
  • drive around the golf course again to take pictures for social media
  • greet the golfers as they arrive back from their round
  • point golfers to the bar and the silent auction
  • walk around making small talk about what a great day it was
  • tally up the score cards to determine the winners
  • usher everyone to their seats because we're causing the dinner to run late and the kitchen is getting annoyed
  • emcee the evening
  • talk about all the great work the charity does in the community
  • introduce the guest speaker
  • make a big deal about who won
  • have some fun with the losing team
  • close the silent auction
  • take all the final payments
  • thank everyone for attending as they leave
  • clean up the event space
  • load all the right vehicles up with the gear that needs to go back to the charity office
  • tally up all expenses and income
  • write the final report
  • finalize the budget
  • present the outcome to the Board

Total income for a charity golf tournament

Registration $2,736

Sponsorship $5,165

Hole Activities $985

Silent Auction $763

Staffing -$7305

Total tournament income $2,344 (that's an awful lot of work for $2,344)

Charity events are how charitable organizations survive. If they don't receive donations or host fundraising events they can't do the great work they do in the community. If you agree to attend a charity event understand that you are there to make a donation - often a substantial one. They are hoping you will see the great work they do and become a monthly donor.

If you can't afford to make a substantial donation to a charity here are some ideas of how you can support them further at their charity event:

  • instead of buying a round of beers for your golf buddies buy them each an extra arm length of 50/50 tickets (the charity doesn't get money from the beer cart)
  • if you win the 50/50, donate the money back to the charity
  • if you participate in a money activity on the hole, give them a $20 bill instead of a $5 and tell them to not give the change

"Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference." - Kathy Calvin

Julia O’Grady has big vision, fresh ideas and a proven track record in the events industry. She and her team work hard to exceed client expectations and push ITM Events to achieve greater heights. A driven entrepreneur, Julia also manages the business side of ITM Events including human resources, finances, marketing and writing grant and sales proposals. In taking a high level approach to event management, Julia is able to visualize a project from inception to successful execution. She attracts valuable sponsors by offering meaningful opportunities to engage with participants. Julia uses her keen analytical mind to create incredible events that maximize the available budget. When Julia isn’t planning unforgettable events, she loves travelling the world with her family, staying active, and enjoying fine food and martinis.

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