Birdies for Charity funds at risk if golf tournament ends
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The future of the Booz Allen Classic may be in question, but one thing is certain: If the tournament becomes just a memory, area charities will lose a generous benefactor.
Birdies for Charity, the official fund-raising program of the tournament, set a goal this year of raising $350,000 for 285 Washington metropolitan area charities.
But even before the first tee off on Thursday, the pledged donations have doubled to $765,000 for charities ranging from the Strathmore Hall Foundation to Potomac-based Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN).
‘‘We believe we’ll break the million dollar mark this year,” said Lynne Filderman, program director. ‘‘It works because it’s a unique and fun way to engage people during a professional sporting event.”
Aside from the Birdie program, about $500,000 for charity is also raised in the more traditional manner via sales of tickets, corporate tents and boxes.
But with Booz Allen Hamilton ending its sponsorship of the tournament and no other sponsor yet named, area charities are facing the end of a beautiful relationship.
One of those beneficiaries, the Ivymount School in Potomac that serves special needs students, received about $10,000 over the past two years and used the money to buy library books and equipment.
Because it’s a proven success, Washington Golf Charities, the nonprofit behind the program, hopes to keep alive both the tournament and the fund-raiser it supports.
‘‘We’re optimistic we’ll have a new tournament sponsor and the [charity program] won’t disappear,” said Marty Russo, nonprofit chairman and former Illinois congressman.
Established by Booz Allen when it became the tournament’s sponsor in 2004, the nonprofit acts as host and administers the tournament’s charity programs. Kemper Sports Management of Chicago manages the event.
Russo said he expects a new sponsor will be announced in a month or so.
‘‘In conjunction with Kemper [Sports Management], we’re working hard at hard at finding another sponsor,” he said. ‘‘The problem is people don’t see the urgency of signing on when [the next tournament] is 18 months away.”
Russo said Booz Allen deserves credit for taking the tournament’s fund-raising to a new level over the three years of sponsoring the event.
Since the company is headquartered in Virginia, it decided early on to donate all the funds to local charities. Since 1980 when the tournament first moved to the Washington area, longtime sponsor Kemper Insurance and in 2003, sponsor Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group, a Washington D.C.-headquartered investment bank, raised a total of $8 million for local and national organizations.
Keeping the funds local added to the allure of the Birdies program by connecting the tournament to charities residents care about, Filderman said.
Although the program got off to a ‘‘slow start” in 2004 and raised $38,000 for 49 charities it more than made up for it last year, she said.
‘‘We set a goal of raising $100,000 for 200 charities and ended up raising $251,000,” Filderman said. ‘‘It was a success because we introduced corporate sponsorships and with 200 charities, there’s a broad brush of charities to choose from. People like choice.”