Dr. Kimberly Clay’s vast experience in academia, cancer research, and public health makes her uniquely qualified to talk about how the path to one’s passion isn’t always a straight line. As part of her doctoral work in 2004, Dr. Kim started an organization with the goal of advancing the health and empowerment of girls through education. “It was never meant to be a full-time thing,” says Dr. Kim, but merely an effort to promote physical activity to prevent chronic disease among girls and women.
But in 2012, Dr. Kim and the Play Like a Girl board of directors formalized and trademarked the organization, launching a national movement to inspire girls to reach their full potential through sport and active play and build a diverse talent pipeline of young women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Though the initial focus of the organization was disease prevention and health promotion, it quickly evolved to more intentionally harness the power of sports. Though she didn’t play sports as a child, it occurred to Dr. Kim that there was a missed opportunity to leverage the skills that girls gain from sport to propel them into careers in the male-dominated world of STEM.
Play Like a Girl exposes young girls to a wide range of career paths while building a network of women upon which they can call for big decisions in their lives. “We’re now seeing girls who started out in our program as 4th graders completing internships in STEM fields,” Dr. Kim says. “We want girls to see the unlimited potential they have within themselves and the limitless possibilities in STEM, which is everywhere and in everything. We help build their confidence and tap into the abilities they may not even realize they have,” through camps, after school clubs, sports clinics, and mentoring opportunities.
A global study of over 400 women in C-suite roles shows the power of sports for girls: Nearly 94% of these women played sports and 54% played through college. Dr. Kim’s passion for meaningful experiences for girls through Play Like a Girl led her to leave behind an impressive research and teaching career—and salary—to do what she was “called to do.”
But as the organization grew and expanded its work so did the need for paid, professional staff and increased funding. Though she lives on a golf course where her husband and sons enjoy golfing, Dr. Kim was resistant to hosting a golf fundraiser, though it had come up in discussions. “I honestly thought it wasn’t a space where we would do well,” she says. But it came down to approach; she explains that she saw it as an opportunity to put the organization’s mission on display in ways people could relate to.
After pivoting its programs and fundraising events due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the board of directors decided to move forward with a golf tournament. With less than a year to plan it’s first golf tournament fundraiser, the board and Dr. Kim knew they needed direction, guidance, and time-saving tools to automate the details and streamline planning and collaboration.
Neither the board nor Dr. Kim’s newly hired administrative assistant had the capacity to launch a golf tournament from scratch, so she took the lead and quickly mobilized a group of connected volunteers to get the tournament off the ground just 12 weeks prior to the event date. Already a recipient of GolfStatus.org email newsletter, Dr. Kim reached out to learn more about the software and get qualified for the Golf for Good program, which gives 501(c) organizations like Play Like a Girl a free event registration website and access to the platform at no upfront cost.
In its first year, Play Like a Girl’s On the Green charity scramble raised an incredible $215,000 to fund no-cost summer programs, laptops and other technology, and general operating expenses. As the organization grows and plans for the future, these funds will be crucial to setting girls up for success. In fact, Dr. Kim presented five young women with $17,500 in college scholarships during the tournament awards ceremony. GolfStatus played a key role in giving the Play Like a Girl team the confidence to jump into golf as a fundraising mechanism. The platform helped board members and volunteers stay organized and automate many of the time-consuming details.
All GolfStatus’s event websites include online registration with integrated payment processing. This eases the burden for planning teams, eliminating the need to process registration forms, checks, and receipts. Understanding that many businesses use invoices and checks, the platform allows event organizers like Dr. Kim to plug that information into the software’s back-end so everything stays organized in one place. “It was great to have all the golfer’s information in the software so we could do hole pairings in advance of the tournament,” says Dr. Kim.
Building Corporate Partnerships
The golf tournament laid the foundation for future corporate partnerships. The planning committee turned an initial disappointment in low team registration into a distinct advantage, offering complimentary two-player team slots to local companies that used the outing for team building and/or a corporate social responsibility initiative. “We paired twosomes from different companies to make foursomes that were mutually beneficial and could be cultivated as long-term donors and sponsors,” Dr. Kim explains. “We were able to use On the Green to introduce golfers to our programs.”
Recruiting Sponsors & Reporting ROI
Play Like a Girl board members and volunteers called on personal connections to identify sponsors for its first-ever golf tournament. They focused on four gateways to sponsors: personal networks of women within a company; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) teams; corporate social responsibility and marketing staff; and corporate foundations. “We leaned heavily on personal relationships,” explains Dr. Kim. Beyond straight monetary sponsorships, several companies provided in-kind donations, including beverages, snacks, apparel, and player gifts. Dr. Kim credits GolfStatus’s digital sponsorship exposure as key to selling the event to sponsors and potential sponsors. “It’s not always easy to show a sponsor that their message made its way to the end user,” says Dr. Kim. Sponsors could see exposure for their brands in real time within the GolfStatus mobile app and event website. “Sponsors need to experience the impact of their investment,” she says, noting that most sponsors have already committed to sponsor next year’s event.
Contests and Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Golf tournaments present a number of opportunities to raise additional funds. Play Like a Girl built several on-course contests into registration, which added to the excitement of the day and helped raise the visibility of the tournament. The putting and hole-in-one contests had separate divisions for women and men. What’s more, players used social media to launch their own peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, which helped to “embed as much fun and friendly competition as possible into the fundraiser,” Dr. Kim says, explaining that teams challenged each other to raise additional dollars for the cause. Over 120 players and guests joined in to compete, have fun, and do some good on behalf of Play Like a Girl.
GolfStatus’s live leaderboards were used the day of the event to instantly sync scores submitted via the mobile app to leaderboards that could be viewed on the app and the event website. “We liked that we were able to give the power of the leaderboards to the golfers themselves,” says Dr. Kim, explaining how golfers could see and monitor their progress throughout the event. The planning team also appreciated the ability to see how the round was progressing in real time, as well as the time saved determining final scores and winners at the end of the day, since there was no need to wait for paper scorecards to be turned in or for the golf course staff to tabulate final standings.
Miss Tennessee USA 2021 was one of several special guests at On the Green. In addition to 18 holes of golf, On the Green featured a junior girls’ golf clinic to personally connect tournament participants with the Play Like a Girl mission. “We wanted our mission to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind; to see, experience, and connect with the girls who would benefit from the dollars being raised,” Dr. Kim says. Several special guests were also on hand, including Miss Tennessee USA 2021 and local female meteorologists who gave the mid-day forecast from the clinic on the practice range. Play Like a Girl On the Green closed with an intimate women songwriters concert.
Looking to Next Year
On the Green featured a junior girls’ golf clinic as a way to personally connect tournament participants with the Play Like a Girl mission. With a successful golf fundraiser now under their belt, the board is busy making big plans for next year. “We know how things work and have seen what GolfStatus’s technology can do,” says Dr. Kim. With more time to effectively promote the event, pursue corporate sponsors, and leverage relationships built in the first year, the On the Green team looks forward to continued success.
About the Golf for Good Initiative
Through GolfStatus.org, the social impact division of golf technology company GolfStatus, 501(c) organizations and those holding events that benefit one can qualify for no-cost access to its golf event management platform. Qualifying organizations and events get a free event registration website, plus features that save time and keep event planners, volunteers, and committees organized. Get qualified here or contact email@example.com.
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