Donation to Tee with First Tee-Jersey Shore

There is a straight line from donation, purchase, bid, and sponsorship directly to the tee. That’s the First Tee – Jersey Shore. First Tee is a national program however each chapter must fundraise to secure and manage its own finances locally. This means that Tara Kelly wears both hats as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer at First Tee – Jersey Shore. This also means that when funds are raised they go directly to programs and onto the greens for the First Tee – Jersey Shore programs.

Their largest fundraiser of the year is naturally a golf tournament paired with an auction and raffle. This will fund help fund approximately 800 kids for the year! Since Tara is a team of one on the fundraising side she stays hyper-focused on the tournament audience and maximizes the income. In 2022 this will be the 16th annual Classic Charity Auction.

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Three pillars that build the tournament foundation are:

  • Cater to the audience
  • Playing real golf
  • Break up the ask

Know Your Audience

First Tee – Jersey Shore and Tara know exactly who will participate in their golf tournament. She is very aware of the demographics, socioeconomic status, golf tendencies as well as personal tastes in food, games, and activities. They are paying for a foursome to play a round of golf, and raise some money for a great cause. The golf is followed by clubhouse fun and food under the patio. It is after the golf takes place that they run games of chance, sell raffle tickets and socialize.

Under the patio is where amusement, auction, raffles, and games of chance take place. This group likes to compete through gameplay and movement.

Through experience year over year they have found:

  • Golf auction items are bid on fiercely. Give the people what they want, more golf! Auction off donated foursomes at local courses, golf merchandise, golf memorabilia, and golf experiences and travel.

  • Sponsorships for the usual and unusual. Tournament sponsorships are typical for the hole, tee, and putting green. First Tee knows what its audience likes, and therefore offers sponsorships for an ice cream truck and cigar station. This is another way for large donors to support First Tee for a reason.

  • Stay and Play are sold out early each year. Instead of just a few hours of golf 8 golfers per on-course Villa, private bedrooms. Arrive, include 2 foursomes of golf, and stay overnight. Chef prepared a private meal at the Villa. 2 foursomes the following day with hospitality for the day.

  • Remove 50/50 raffles. These draw attention but then give away 50% of the income. This has been eliminated from the itinerary

  • Chippo Golf meets both the interests of more gameplay. This is similar to cornhole but played with a golf club claiming the ball towards a board with holes.

Real Golf

Surrounded by the blue skies and green grass lies the golf. When creating the golf tournament First Tee – Jersey Shore realizes that the golfers that turn out to their event come out to golf, real golf! This means a set tee time and no on-course games or distractions. Keeping the tournament in its pure form attracts golfers that want to golf and expect to golf without interference during play. Because the tournament is set up like this, golfers return year after year seeking the same experience.

The golf tournament has a capacity for 160 golfers, tickets open about 6 months in advance, and over 50% of the inventory is sold in the first two months. This gives First Tee cash flow to support the programs that are happening prior to the tournament.

After the game ends most golfers will freshen up in the clubhouse and dine under the patio. This is the perfect time for First Tee to re-share its mission and impact story. They will have many of the kids and teens that are active in the program. They will pair up for Chippo games and get to meet, see and hear how their donations are making a difference.

Break up the Ask

First Tee – Jersey Shore golf tournament has a capacity for 160 golfers, tickets open about 6 months in advance, and over 50% of the inventory is sold in the first two months. When golfers make the payment it feels almost free, or at least forgotten when they arrive at the range for the Classic Charity Auction. Upon arrival, the golfers are offered a raffle donation package. Almost 80% of the participants will buy in. Many times the foursome was purchased as a gift or sponsorship from a business partner, colleague, or friend making the golf outing really free. Those individuals tend to give, donate and buy supporting the cause as well. Since the golf is already taken care of the psychology is, well I might as well give something!

Being in New Jersey the gaming regulations are quite restrictive. Under the patio in-person the raffles, games of chance, Chippo Golf transactions take place. Again, this is way after the time most have purchased the golf fees so this is a new ‘bank’ to enjoy some amusements.

Donation to Tee

Similar to the farm-to-table, Tara likens their fundraising as sponsor/donor/bidder - to - tee. Funds raised go directly to the kids and teen programs immediately. First Tee subsidizes the youth activity making it available to most for a small fee. For those the small fee is still too steep, there are scholarships available. Same philosophy here, donations come in and they go directly to the programs.


Special thanks to Tara Kelly, Executive Director of First Tee - Jersey Shore for sharing her event fundraising experience with us.

First Tee - Jersey Shore enables kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with life skills curriculum, we create learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids carry to everything they do. To learn more visit: https://firstteejerseyshore.org/