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It's not always easy to keep the fun in fundraiser!

posted Feb 2, 2019, 8:27 AM by Boston Cornhole
Not the Usual Suspects at Some Fundraisers

While the pros were down in South Florida, it was business as usual back in the Bay State with three successful fundraiser tournaments on Saturday evening; each event drew 40+ teams.  Two of them you probably never heard of and the Amesbury event probably should have been kept private too.  Can you guess which one had competitive players and some social media drama?  Of course, we know several competitive players from our events and we also host many fundraisers.  At the end of day, we do not want anyone to be unhappy.  So let’s address the criticism!

The Challenges of Fundraisers

If you run tournaments, then you should be very familiar with the challenges of integrating social players with the fast growing group of competitive tossers.  If you have not encountered this problem, then you may not have as much experience as you think.  In my opinion, you typically see two types of fundraisers.  The first category is composed of cornhole groups hosting tournaments to draw competitive players with the additional benefit of raising some money for charity; these are tournaments that almost always come with good cash payouts.  The second type are charities or organizations looking to provide a fun activity for supporters and raise as much money as possible.  While both models are valiant and we have experience with each, most of our business is working with the latter organizations.  If you are someone who thinks a tournament without cash payouts is crazy, please keep in mind that there is the other side that believes the concept of giving hundreds of dollars back to those who have apparently come to support a charity and raise money is absurd.  And when these two ideologies meet, you have a conflict!

Boston Cornhole's Approach

The Boston Cornhole approach to fundraisers is very simple.  The only payout we concern ourselves with is the fee to host an event.  Entry fees and prizes are always determined by the organization that hires us.  If asked, we take the approach that entry fees and payouts should be consistent with what the target demographic is comfortable with.  Very often organizations tell us that they do not want to attract competitive players.  In these instances, we suggest very modest prizes or even non-cash prizes.  From a planning perspective, we tailor our format to maximize participation and stay within an organization’s time constraints.  A very healthy turnout may mean that double-elimination is not possible and that a hybrid format is required to finish in a timely manner.  In each and every case, our priorities are driven by the demands of the client.

The Amesbury Cornhole Bonanza

Consistent with the guidelines above, the Amesbury Rotary had hoped for an event that would cater to locals and not attract competitive players.  While this event dates back to 2012, the approach the past two years has been to go with gift cards and Boston Cornhole had been asked specifically NOT to advertise or promote the event and we did not.  However, the Rotary did use Eventbrite and Facebook to spread the word among followers.  Unfortunately, while cash prizes were not advertised, the prize structure listed was ambiguous and I understand how this could be misleading; it’s a lesson learned.  But, make no mistake about it, neither did the Rotary nor Boston Cornhole attempt any sort of “bait and switch” as has been suggested.  The organization simply underestimated the cornhole community armed with search engines.   They were surprised and grateful for the turnout of advanced players.  Upon learning of the discontent on social media, they and we are disappointed that the event did not meet everyone’s expectations.

Parting Shots

Like all the cornhole groups across New England, we enjoy running tournaments from competitive contests to events filled with newbies.  My philosophy is straightforward, modest entry fees and modest prizes and I will tell that to anyone who will listen.  I am not a fan of people playing for each other’s money.  Unless you are seen on ESPN (and I don’t mean watching from the stands), I still do not attach a big market value to being able to put a bag in a hole.  Several will disagree with me and I am fine with that.  I am also aware that if I want to host competitive tournaments that I may need to contradict my beliefs to fill the courts.  However, I will push back against vitriol spewed over payouts at a fundraiser.  Such complaints will fall on deaf ears and if prizes are the criteria for which you judge a tournament, I would suggest inquiring about them prior to registration.  Lastly, a big thanks to John and Lisa for masterfully running an efficient tournament in Amesbury.  Forty-eight teams with each team guaranteed four matches and the event wrapped up in 3.5 hours.  Brilliant!