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When there are golf ball cannons, giant dartboards, air guns, and other crazy games in addition to a round of golf, it’s not your typical tournament. The annual Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic in Nashville, which over its 12-year tenure has raised almost a half-million dollars for Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, has always tried to add extra fun. “We want to embody the spirit of the kids we’re supporting,” says JR Jernigan, AVP of Special Projects at US Community Credit Union. The tournament is a joint effort between US Community Credit Union and Enbright Credit Union.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions, with a motto of “People helping people.” JR says there’s really no better way to live out their purpose than to help kids through Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals. “Kids deserve the best medical care and we want to be a part of what CMN Hospitals is doing,” he says. CMN Hospitals, which encompasses 170 member hospitals across the U.S., including Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, are equipped to handle any issue a child may face, from the simple to the complex, and maintain the lowest cost ratio possible to help families that need care but are struggling financially.

“As a financial institution, we see how money can impact people’s lives,” JR says of credit unions. He says that in raising money for the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where both of his own kids have received care, they’re truly impacting the community where they live and work. In the past six years, funds raised by the tournament have gone to hospital expansion, including a children’s cancer wing.



Credit Unions for Kids (CU4Kids) is part of a broader partnership between credit unions nationwide and CMN Hospitals, fulfilling the industry’s charge to connect with and give back to communities. In fact, over 1,500 credit unions across the country are part of the cooperative fundraising effort that has raised $195 million in aggregate over the past 25 years.

CMN Hospitals’ work with CU4Kids is unique in that it’s a partnership with the entire industry. While it’s common for larger nonprofit organizations to forge relationships with major corporations and individual businesses, CU4Kids represents broader support from credit unions as a whole. The partnership grew organically from local efforts spearheaded by credit unions in San Antonio and Portland over 30 years ago, notes Nick Coleman, Director of Corporate Partnerships at CMN Hospitals. The idea started to spread across the country and in 1996, the CU4Kids brand was created and a formal partnership established. “The industry motto of credit unions is ‘people helping people and it’s remarkable to see how they care about making a difference in their community,” says Nick.

Nick notes that one of the credit union industry principles is “cooperation among cooperatives” and that golf tournaments held as part of the CU4Kids initiative are a way for them to fulfill this charter. “Credit unions really love this opportunity because golf is a fun way to make a difference in the community,” he says, noting that credit unions often collaborate with other credit unions on shared goals and objectives, as was the case with the Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic.

“Credit unions really love this opportunity because golf is a fun way to make a difference in the community.”

Over the year, JR has always looked for ways to enhance and grow the annual Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic and provide an even better experience for players and sponsors. This year, tapping into the national CU4Kids and CMN Hospitals brands allowed him to reap the benefits of a partnership with golf technology company GolfStatus and its social impact division, GolfStatus.org. The partnership provides individuals, businesses, and major partners such as CU4Kids with access to event management technology that helps credit unions harness the charitable giving power of golf. “The golf tournament is my favorite day to go to work every year,” says JR. “It’s hard not to find purpose in what we’re doing to give back to the community and kids.”

CMN Hospitals’ partnership with GolfStatus, the leading event management and fundraising platform for golf fundraisers, makes it easy for programs like CU4Kids and third parties like individual credit unions to launch a first-year golf fundraiser or enhance and streamline an existing tournament. Its web-based software is incredibly powerful but easy to use, helping tournament organizers like JR save time, and providing tools and avenues to simplify registration for players and sponsors, seamlessly spread the word about the event, professionally brand and co-brand the tournament, and ultimately raise more money for children’s hospitals. More broadly, it’s a tool that ultimately makes it easier for CMN Hospitals to empower its existing supporters to grow the success of annual events in addition to making it extremely easy to grow the Play Yellow program as a whole by assisting new supporters in their endeavors to launch a first-year event. The result is a growing network or third parties large and small who hold golf fundraisers all over the country that benefit their local children’s hospital or CMN Hospitals at the national level.

To get started, JR worked with Ben Parker, Senior Director of Play Yellow at CMN Hospitals, to connect with GolfStatus’s in-house support team and build a professional event website ahead of the tournament. As an event benefiting CMN Hospitals, the Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic was listed alongside Play Yellow tournaments and other major golf fundraisers benefiting CMN Hospitals happening all over the country and hosted and supported by third-party individuals and corporate entities, including the likes of Costco, Ace Hardware, and Marriott.

The GolfStatus platform paid dividends right away, helping JR and his team raise additional dollars by selling the premium technology sponsorship, which provides sponsor recognition on the event website and through the mobile scoring and live leaderboards the day of the tournament. A built-in donation feature opened the door for golfers, spectators, and other supporters to support the tournament via monetary donations to the hospital before, during, and after the event directly from the website and leaderboards, which JR says was a great addition to the fundraiser. In total, the event was able to reach its goal of raising $45,000 for the local children’s hospital!

Event website

Secure online registration for players and sponsors

Mobile scoring with sponsor exposure

Live leaderboards with premium sponsor exposure

Additional fundraising revenue from sale of technology sponsorship

“We had never taken card payments online before, but it really saved time and made it easy for people,” JR says. What’s more, everything was organized in one place in the software’s web-based backend, making it easy to keep track of teams and sponsors without having to pull information out of one system and into another. Since the tournament attracts credit unions from around the state and vendors from all over the region, the ability to securely and responsibly collect golfer and sponsor information is important to the continued growth of the tournament. It also allows for a simpler, more modern registration experience for players and sponsors, who can browse available support opportunities and reserve their spot in the tournament with a few quick clicks or taps.

“We had never taken card payments online before, but it really saved time and made it easy for people.”

Switching to a central, web-based, golf-specific event management platform saved JR and the planning team a ton of time and effort by automating and streamlining most of the administrative tasks associated with the golf tournament. When it came time to print cart signs, scorecards, and alpha lists, for example, JR simply used the pre-formatted professional printouts in GolfStatus. “It was really nice to hit a button and be done with it,” he says. He points out that online card payments, auto-generated receipts, and the ability to manage paid registrants in one place also eliminated the need for a lot of the usual administrative paperwork and follow-up. “It was all taken care of in the GolfStatus platform,” JR says.

One major benefit of using GolfStatus is the ability to sell a technology sponsorship, a premium sponsorship opportunity that offers exposure in multiple areas, including the event website, within the live-scoring app, on the event’s live leaderboards, and on the event’s cart signs, scorecards, and other printouts. This premium exposure opportunity was an immediate draw for the state’s credit union trade association. “From a visibility standpoint, the tech sponsorship was a great way for the Tennessee Credit Union League to show that they’re standing behind what credit unions are doing across the state to support children’s hospitals,” JR says.

“From a visibility standpoint, the tech sponsorship was a great way for the Tennessee Credit Union League to show that they’re standing behind what credit unions are doing across the state to support children’s hospitals.”

The steady outpouring of sponsor support for Vanderbilt Children’s from vendors has been especially rewarding for JR and the planning team. “Most of our sponsors have been with us since the tournament’s beginning,” he says. He explains that in many cases, a credit union new to the event comes on board, has a great experience, and the next year gets another involved, creating a snowball effect of support. What’s more, sponsors loved the digital exposure they saw on the event website and mobile scoring app. JR and the planning team were also able to send push notifications with sponsor messages throughout the tournament, which added an extra layer of exposure to sponsorship packages.

Sponsors of the Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic were listed on the sponsorships page of the event website, giving them digital exposure before, during, and after the tournament.
Sponsors of the Credit Unions for Kids Golf Classic were listed on the sponsorships page of the event website, giving them digital exposure before, during, and after the tournament.

This was the first year the tournament had used mobile scoring or live leaderboards, and from the feedback JR and his team received, it was a hit. “Everybody thought it was really cool,” he says, pointing out that the ability to see what folks were shooting also gave him an opportunity to kickstart conversations with golfers as he made the rounds throughout the course. Wrapping up the tournament and finalizing the results was also much simpler with the majority of the field using the app to score. Because scores automatically populate the live leaderboards, there’s no need to wait around for scorecards to be turned in or golf staff to tabulate final results.

The Credit Union for Kids Golf Classic raised even more money as a result of the Miracle Match program from CO-OP Financial Services. The program encourages credit unions and others to create and participate in fundraisers for local CMN Hospitals and supplements the dollars raised with additional funds. “CO-OP matched $10,000 of what we raised,” says JR, noting that they’ve donated at least $100,000 in total over the tournament’s 12-year tenure.

One of JR’s goals for the tournament has always been to have fun and keep people coming back because of it. The event has grown from just 12 teams in its first year to 35 total teams, thanks in part to the event’s memorable games and extras. “We do what we can to be a different golf tournament and people love it,” says JR. In fact, 17 of the tournament’s 18 holes include some type of additional activity, like teeing off on a toilet or amid noisemakers, kicking velcro soccer balls on a giant inflatable dartboard, and using an extra-long or extra-short driver. Prior to COVID-19, patients from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital also attended the fundraiser, which created a powerful cause connection for golfers and sponsors. Hospital staff and leadership teams have also been in attendance to share the impact that the tournament has helped make.

Nonprofits and charities—as well as individuals and businesses holding golf fundraisers that benefit them—can qualify for an event website and no-cost access to GolfStatus’s event management and fundraising technology through the Golf for Good program. Learn more and get qualified here or email [email protected].

Longstanding Golf Fundraiser Unites Credit Unions To Raise Money for Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). GolfStatus.org. https://golfstatus.org/golfforgood/case-study-collaborating-through-golf-longstanding-golf-fundraiser-unites-credit-unions-to-raise-money-for-childrens-hospital 



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