First Tee is So Much More

Published on 19 Apr 2023 by Auctria

First Tee is so much more than golf. Auctria is so much more than auctions. First Tee—South Dakota shares their story for both!

First Tee—South Dakota has run multiple fundraising events bringing in more money and donors to support their youth development program. Kelli, First Tee—South Dakota’s Operations Director, describes the growth in fundraising income is due to:

  • Variety of auction items, includes small to larger dollar items; something for everyone
  • Using graphics to attract and engage bidders
  • Diversity of fundraisers throughout the year

Item Variety increases bidders

Just looking at the numbers you will see an obvious trend, the higher the number of auction items, the higher the number of bidders and the higher the revenue.


So how did they increase the items and bidders?

Personalize the donation request letter. Each donation request letter is personalized. Sometimes it's an intro paragraph relating back to something personal, or how the donation in the past has made a difference. Use the recipient's name in the opening salutation or first paragraph. Reference prior donations if applicable. Customize the tone. If this is a donor that has been around you and your organization and you feel a more casual wording is appropriate then modify. If not you may want to stay with something more formal.

Most importantly is The Ask. When asking for a donation ask for something specific that the donor can feel comfortable with and is an easy yes. Whether it be cash donation, gift card,or goods and services, the easier the better. Remember to tell the donor in the letter how you will recognize them publicly.

Yes, First Tee—South Dakota customizes each letter for each donor! The letter helps tell our story and what outcomes the donation will help with. Kelli tells us that that little extra attention makes the difference and almost all of their donors donate year after year. We also send a thank you letter to the donors and winning bidders at the end of the auction.

See the example below.


Recognize the donors publicly on the event website. First Tee—South Dakota takes the time to publish each and every donor on their event website. The donor logo is then linked to the donor website. They then tell the donor that they are listed on the donor page. Closing the circle of communication gives them another opportunity to thank the donor and let them know how appreciative they are.

Adding a personal touch to the image displayed on the Thank You Donors page can make it more unique and meaningful. (This is an image only, links are not live here.)


Recognize the donors on social media. Take the time to create graphics. Recognizing donors on social media is a great way to show your appreciation for their support of First Tee. It not only helps to strengthen your relationship with the donor but also encourages others to contribute to your cause. Creating graphics that pair the donor with First Tee adds a personal touch to the recognition, making it more meaningful for the donor.

Using Graphics to Attract and Engage Bidders
First Tee—South Dakota uses graphics and video to engage and interact with supporters and bidders. They are very active on Twitter, give them a follow Twitter, firstteesodak. As well as Facebook, FirstTeeSouthDakota and Instagram, firstteesouthdakota. By recognizing donors on social media and creating personalized graphics, you can show your appreciation for their support and encourage others to contribute to your cause. Follow them and watch as they work on the next events.


Canva makes it easy to create professional-looking graphics that are sure to impress your donors. Canva is a user-friendly online graphic design tool that allows you to create professional-looking graphics in just a few clicks.

  1. Choose a template: Canva offers a wide range of templates that are perfect for creating graphics for social media.
  2. Add the donor's name and photo: Upload a photo of the donor and add their name to the graphic. This personalizes the recognition and makes the donor feel appreciated.
  3. Include the First Tee logo: Make sure to include the First Tee logo in the graphic. This helps to reinforce the connection between the donor and the organization.
  4. Customize the design: You can customize the design by changing the colors, fonts, and layout to match your organization's branding.
  5. Share the graphic on social media: Once you've created the graphic, share it on social media to recognize the donor and show your appreciation for their support. Be sure to tag the donor in the post and thank them for their contribution.

Prior to the auction, First Tee—South Dakota published a sneak peek video of what was upcoming. As you can see the colors are bright and inviting. It encourages viewers to want to learn more.

Not Just Auctions

First Tee—South Dakota doesn’t have just one fundraising event, they have many throughout the year. This gives their supporters the opportunity to contribute at different times of the year, and to different types of fundraisers.

  • Memorial Auction and Golf Tournament. Gavin Van Zee Memorial Auction and Golf Tournament was a tribute to Gavin Van Zee was a fun loving, 8 year old with an old soul. He loved the game of golf and had a smile that lit up the room. Gavin was involved in a tragic accident that took his life much too soon. As a tribute to Gavin, the memorial golf tournament and online auction proceeds will go towards scholarship opportunities at First Tee so Gavin's spirit can live on through the game of golf.

  • Austad’s Invitational. An incredibly fun annual 18-Hole Golf Tournament.

  • Women’s Tournament. Focusing on women, this auction paired with a women’s golf tournament. A wonderful selection of items to appeal to those at the tournament.

  • 100 Holes Golf Marathon. Just like it sounds this is 100 holes of golf for a cause.

  • Giving Tuesday. This is a global day of giving, why not provide an opportunity for First Tee—South Dakota supporters to donate. And they did! Raising money for golf in November/December is truly a gift!

Not Just Golf

First Tee is not just golf. First Tee’s mission is developing experiences that are fun as they are meaningful, where kids feel excited to grow, safe to fail, and better equipped for whatever comes their way next. Through personal growth and junior golf programs, First Tee sees kids’ build self confidence, inspiring more active participation in leadership opportunities and events, community involvement, and college scholarships.


Each chapter interprets this in a local fashion. First Tee – South Dakota, is Building Game Changers by empowering kids and teens to be the best version of themselves.

  • School programs that they have been running since 2004. First Tee has been integrating the First Tee School Program into PE classes across the country.
  • Golf and leadership opportunities
  • Academic scholarships

Swing beyond golf and fundraising. Discover the full potential of First Tee and Auctria!

Special thanks to Kelli Sinksen for sharing her expert advice. Learn more about First Tee—South Dakota on their website,

First Tee—South Dakota offers programs which focus on developing life skills using the game of golf as its vehicle. First Tee—South Dakota has programming in Sioux Falls at Elmwood Golf Course, as its main location, with additional program locations in Aberdeen at Moccasin Creek Country Club and Lee Park Golf Course, Brookings at Edgebrook Golf Course and Brookings Country Club, Dell Rapids at Rocky Run Golf Course, Madison at Madison Country Club and Milbank at Whetstone Creek Golf Course.

By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with character-building, we create learning experiences that help kids uncover their inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that they can carry to everything they do.

Our trained coaches not only provide an introduction to junior golf and an opportunity to enhance golf skills, but they also create a safe, supportive, and empowering environment to help your child prepare for life ahead, including friendships, school, college and even their careers.

Through our program, kids will learn skills that stay with them for life: Understanding and managing emotions, Resolving conflicts, Setting up step-by-step goals, Planning for the future, Appreciating diversity, Golf fundamentals and advanced techniques.