[Case Study] First-Time Golf Tournament Exceeds Fundraising Goal for Habitat for Humanity of Chicago

Organization Snapshot

Habitat for Humanity partners with communities all over the globe to help build homes, with the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Globally, Habitat for Humanity has worked in more than 70 countries and helped more than 39 million people with improved living conditions since 1976. On the local level, affiliate organizations work with trusted partners and residents to improve communities and build strong neighborhoods. In Chicago, Habitat’s commitment is to local families to achieve strength, stability, and self-reliance through housing and development projects. Four in 10 Chicagoans live in declining conditions, making Habitat’s work critical to helping the city thrive.

Chris Johnson, a Real Estate Broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, serves as the President of the chapter’s Associate Board, whose charge is to raise funds for the organization’s work. He’s worked in Chicago’s real estate market for nine years and is intimately familiar with the city’s need for denser, more affordable housing options. Chris says Habitat is helping address these issues, not only through physically building homes and neighborhoods, but by educating people and helping them navigate what can be an overwhelming and complicated process. “It’s not about giving away homes, it’s about creating generational change, a steady and safe environment for families, and building wealth in their home,” Chris says. “There are only so many homes that can be built, but when we’re able to help prepare people for homeownership through education, financial literacy, and sound advice, we can help even more.”

The Challenge

One of Habitat for Humanity of Chicago’s flagship programs is HomeBuyer University, a pilot effort that began in 2019 to break down barriers to becoming a homeowner by helping prospective homeowners understand the process and how to prepare for applying for a mortgage. Funds raised by the Associate Board help underwrite the costs of this program, which is a key part of fulfilling the local chapter’s mission.

After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of an annual yacht party fundraiser, Chris wanted to shift gears and establish a golf event as the board’s main fundraiser. “Folks were exhausted with virtual events and wanted a way to gather safely, and I’ve loved golf since I was a kid,” Chris says, so he dove headfirst into planning a golf event. He knew launching a brand new tournament was going to be challenging, but also knew that they needed to move forward. “I presented a golf tournament to the rest of the board as a feasible way to get a fundraising event done and established.”

Chris, with the help of Associate Board member Brian Doyle of BMO Harris in Chicago and the rest of the planning team, set a conservative goal to raise about $8,000 for the tournament’s first year. Several board members had played in charity tournaments in the past, but no one had experience planning an event.

The Solution

Chris knew there had to be an option for live scoring and easy registration for golf tournaments. A little online research led him straight to GolfStatus. “To take on an event like this in its first year without any experience was a little daunting, but having a tool like GolfStatus that took things off my plate and made the logistics easier to handle was so great,” Chris explains. He wanted one centralized place to keep things organized, take payments, manage sponsor assets, and print cart signs. “GolfStatus had all this and more,” he says.

The Results

The first-year tournament surpassed its fundraising goal, taking in $13,000. It attracted 19 teams for the four-person scramble. Teams live-scored via the free GolfStatus mobile app, which made confirming the final results much quicker and more efficient than relying on paper scorecards. Nine sponsorships were sold through the GolfStatus platform, including the premium technology sponsorship, which boasts premium visibility on the event website’s homepage, live leaderboards, and across the mobile app.

Massive Time Savings

Chris says the time savings the platform provided was invaluable. Every GolfStatus event website includes online registration with secure payment processing, allowing golfers and sponsors to purchase packages directly on the event website, eliminating the need to manually process paper registration forms, handle checks or take credit card information, or track information in multiple spreadsheets. Chris, Brian, or anyone on the planning team could log into GolfStatus and see who had registered or purchased a sponsorship with a few clicks. “Having everything in one place really made my life easier,” he says. “I could focus on the experience and day of things that needed to be handled.” Plus, sponsors can upload graphics and links directly through the event website, saving a ton of time. “Going back and forth with sponsors to get logos and such can really be a time suck,” Chris points out.

Connecting to the Cause

While many people are familiar with Habitat for Humanity, they often have misconceptions about what Habitat does. “People think we give away houses!” Chris says. In fact, families that are selected for a Habitat home are part of the building process and pay a 0% mortgage. “People think it’s a lottery, but it’s a long-term commitment to the neighborhood and community,” Chris says. At the start of the tournament, Chris made a point to speak about what Habitat for Humanity Chicago does and passed out educational materials as folks checked in for the tournament so they had a better understanding of what they were supporting.

Second-to-None Support & Resources

Chris and Brian worked closely with the GolfStatus team to build out the event website, which was provided at no cost as part of the Golf for Good program. Qualifying 501(c) organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, and those holding golf tournaments on their behalf, get access to the entire suite of GolfStatus’s tournament management and fundraising solution, in addition to an in-house support team. “The support team was great,” Chris says. “I had a question early on a Saturday morning and someone answered by chat almost immediately.”

Looking to the Future

Having one year of tournament planning experience under their belts has led to a number of things to improve on for next year’s event. First and foremost, Chris, Brian, and the rest of the team plan to get the event website up and running in the spring for the September event. “Chicago starts to thaw out in April and people are thinking about getting outside,” he says. They also plan to rethink the day of the week of the tournament, which was held on a Saturday in its inaugural year. “Saturday is a great day to play golf, but it was harder to get sponsors to commit to sending a team on a weekend or consider entertaining clients on a weekend,” Chris points out.

He hopes the annual golf tournament will become the board’s marquee fundraising event for Habitat for Humanity Chicago. “I love Habitat. I love being on a job site and watching homes come together,” Chris says. “It’s a lot like what they say about golf—a bad day golfing is better than a good day doing something else. Well, volunteering for Habitat is the same. You’ll work hard but the impact is worth it.”

Golf for Good

Through GolfStatus.org and the Golf for Good initiative, qualifying 501(c) organizations and those holding events that raise money for one can get access to GolfStatus’s full-featured golf event management and fundraising platform at no cost. Get started at golfstatus.org/demo or email events@golfstatus.org.

A screenshot of a golf tournament fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of Chicago


[Case Study] First-Time Golf Tournament Exceeds Fundraising Goal for Habitat for Humanity of Chicago Source