Golf fans won’t be the only ones missing out if the Booz Allen Classic doesn’t find a new title sponsor for next year’s tournament. The D.C. Metropolitan area’s only annual golf event raises funds for hundreds of local charities.
Since its move to Washington in 1980, the Booz Allen Classic (formerly known as the Kemper Open) has raised nearly $10 million for local and national charities. Beginning in 2004, Booz Allen Hamilton arranged for 100 percent of all net proceeds to benefit local and regional charities, including the Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department, the Maryland Special Olympics and Suburban Hospital. Many national organizations headquartered locally are included, but the money is earmarked for use in Washington, Maryland or Virginia.
Booz Allen Hamilton also underwrote the “Birdies for Charity” program, allowing donors to pledge pennies or dollars for each birdie recorded during the tournament.
The money goes toward charities of their choice. The program’s popularity has grown enormously, with donations jumping from $38,000 in 2004 to $250,000 in 2005.
This year, the program’s goal was $350,000. With a total count of 1,885 birdies, the program raised a total of $805,000. One hundred percent of the donations, minus a credit card fee, go to the donor’s selected charities.
The number of organizations involved in Birdies for Charity has also grown. The program initially benefited 49 charities. Today, it provides donations to 285, which run the gamut from groups for senior citizen to those for animal rights, and from special needs youth to the arts.
“The goal is to enable Washington, Virginia and Maryland nonprofit organizations to leverage the tournament and be stronger as a result of their participation,” said program director Lynne Filderman.
“People pledge a few pennies for every birdie scored by pros, and the pros score about 1,600 birdies, so a one-penny pledge is a $16 donation, a two-penny pledge is a $32 donation, and so on,” she said. “It’s a way to involve the whole family, whether you go to the tournament or go online to make a donation. Every day there are updates on how many birdies were scored so you can know what your donation is and how your charity wins.”
The Ivymount School on Seven Locks Road serves more than 7,000 children and young adults with disabilities. This is the group’s second year participating in Birdies for Charity.
“We originally got involved through one of our board of directors members,” said Melissa Prather, director of development for Ivymount. “We met with the Birdies team several times, and from there it really took off. They’ve been our full partners in this. It’s the beginning of a relationship that’s just flourishing.
“Last year we raised over $12,000, which involved engaging our community in the program,” Prather said said. Ivymount located 75-100 donors through mailings, e-mails and the Web. “It’s a good way to reach out to the community and get them involved in our school.”
The Jewish Council for the Aging helps senior citizens to live independently and participate in society. Nearly 30,000 seniors and their family caregivers benefit from the non-profit organization. This is the council's third year as a beneficiary of Birdies for Charity, and in 2005, the group raised $10,000 at the tournament, putting them at ninth place out of all the charities.
"We got involved when a board member told us about the campaign and expressed surprise that we weren't part of it," said executive director David Gamse. "I called Lynne Filderman, and we've been involved with it ever since. Her excitement is absolutely contagious."
Jewish Council for the Aging members raise money for the event by sending out e-mails and newsletters.
"As a regional charity, it's important for us to constantly grab hold of new ideas and test them. …
It's a very good feeling when local charities share their best practices with one another," Gamse said.
The Booz Allen Classic’s uncertain future could mean a dramatic decrease in donations for local charities. Nonetheless, the program volunteers remain hopeful.
“I don’t know what will happen. All I can say is we went from zero to breaking a million dollars over the last two years,” said Filderman. “The community’s shown a great amount of support for the program, and we hope it will live on in some form or fashion.”
"Certainly the Birdies for Charity campaign is a real help to charities like the JCA because we can reach a constituency that is new to us or doesn't tend to give to us on a regular basis," said Gamse. "On that level we are concerned. It would be very sad for something that is picking up steam to cease to exist, but we just have to see what the future holds."
“My concern level is relatively minimal,” said Prather about a possible end to the golf tournament. “I know the Birdies for Charity team and the Booz Allen company really stand behind their efforts to raise money for charities, including Ivymount.
“I’m fairly confident that with the way they’ve stood behind this effort, [Booz Allen] could find another way to engage fundraising in the Washington area.”