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A Santa Barbara, CA, Practice Aids Community Fundraising While Scoring Loads of Referrals

The jewel in the crown is an annual golf tournament that raises money for groundbreaking research.

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EYE & VISION CARE IN Santa Barbara, CA, contributes to vision-restoration research, scores a ton of referrals and brings their community together with an annual golf tournament.

Since Dr. Dawn Woods and Dr. Taka Nomura opened Eye & Vision Care in Santa Barbara, CA, in 1988, the husband-and-wife team (who were joined a decade ago by another married optometrist couple, co-owners Dr. Luke Werkhoven and Dr. Tiffany Corby) have worked closely with a host of local charities to benefit vision-related programs and the community. The jewel in the crown is an annual golf tournament that raises money for groundbreaking research conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, along with the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Last year’s tournament drew more than 100 golfers to the Santa Barbara Golf Club and included activities such as giving folks an opportunity to experience golfing blind.

THE IDEA

According to optical manager Joe Vega, EVC’s community outreach activities began with donations to prescription-eyewear recycling programs run by the local Lions and Rotary clubs. Eight years ago, the business received a letter from a student looking to raise awareness of UCSB’s research activities. Eager to help, EVC teamed up with the Foundation Fighting Blindness and launched Santa Barbara’s annual VisionWalk. Later, EVC crossed paths with Dr. Dennis Clegg, a professor at UCSB. “Once we learned about all the amazing research coming from our own back yard we felt moved to join his cause. The Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Project to Cure Blindness are two amazing organizations we will always support,” says Vega. After two years of the VisionWalk, EVC decided it wanted to do more. It didn’t take this office filled with golf-lovers long to settle on a charity golf tournament to raise funds for the two organizations.

THE EXECUTION

Being golfers, some of the planning came easy to EVC’s staff, says Vega, but making it a reality comes down to sweat and the help of volunteers. “We are very lucky to live in a town that loves helping out, so people and local businesses are very open to allowing us to advertise with flyers.”

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Eye & Vision also benefits from relationships with vendors like Oakley and Maui Jim, who donated prizes and promoted the tournament. They also secure deals from local printing shops on flyers and posters in exchange for promotion at the event. “We have a good online presence with our customers, so we take advantage of that and promote the tournament via Facebook Events and Instagram.”

As with any big project, careful preparation is key, advises Vega. “It seems like a big event but we broke [the planning] up into pieces and as the event gets closer we see it all come together.”

THE REWARDS

Vega says the rewards have been “amazing” in terms of fundraising, the business returns, and bringing staff together. The town “rewards us with a lot of referrals.”

“The love we get from our town is a great reward,” he says, and sales spike as customers come to claim discounts offered by vendors at designated holes on the course. Most important, says Vega, is the satisfaction that comes from contributing to the work being done by the tournament’s beneficiaries.

PHOTO GALLERY (8 IMAGES) 

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Do It Yourself: Organize A Charity Fundraising Event

1. TRWATCH THE COST. Get sponsors on board and sell advance tickets first to gauge interest before making commitments or signing contracts.

2. AS GO WITH THE CROWD. First time out, try a crowdfunding site to ease risk. If you don’t get “X” number of attendees, cancel or reschedule.

3. AS FAMILIAR TERRITORY. Choose a passion of your own and find like-minded partners. If your staff fancies a bowling league, go that route.

4. CIRECRUIT VENDORS.Larger ones have experience at this. EVC’s golf event offers promotions on certain brands at certain holes.

5. GO FOCUS. Beyond fundraising, be clear on your business goals. Are you looking to generate leads? Boost loyalty? Focusing helps you plan.

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After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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