Raising Millions for Charity, And Even More for Golfers

Tiger Woods greets Barbara Bush and former president George H.W. Bush.
Tiger Woods greets Barbara Bush and former president George H.W. Bush. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 5, 2007

The AT&T National golf tournament beginning today at Congressional Country Club is the latest creation of a philanthropic conglomerate that Tiger Woods has built into one of the largest athlete's charities in the nation.

Like most PGA Tour events -- but unlike most other professional sports -- the Bethesda tournament is structured as a fundraiser hosted by an independent charity, in this case the Tiger Woods Charity Event Corp.

The charities that host such PGA Tour events collectively raise millions of dollars for good works in the community. Last year, the PGA and related tours reported having raised a total of $105 million. "We're very proud of that," said Ron Price, the Tour's chief financial officer.

Less well known is that much more money goes toward expenses and operations -- especially the purses taken home by golfers. Tour officials said their average tournament provides golfers with a purse of $5.7 million and, after paying costs associated with the event, generates $1.75 million for charity.

"You can certainly question the validity of calling something a charitable event when so much money goes to individuals," said Sandra Miniutti of Charity Navigator, a watchdog organization that rates nonprofits on efficiency.

Charity specialists say such disparities are not uncommon when it comes to special fundraising events. "It is not unusual for them to be on the expensive side, and relatively slim on the charity," said William Josephson, a New York lawyer who specializes in the ethics of philanthropy.

The finances of Woods's tournament at Congressional are expected to resemble those of the PGA Tour's Wachovia Championship in Charlotte and the Barclays Classic in Westchester County, N.Y., according to Greg McLaughlin, president of Charity Event Corp. and director of the AT&T National.

A spokesman for the Charlotte event said it generates about $1.5 million for charity and paid golfers $6.3 million this year. A Barclays spokesman said that tournament generates $1 million for charity and this year has a $7 million purse. In addition to the purses, tournaments spend millions more on everything from leasing buses to buying gift bags for players.

McLaughlin said that Woods's fundraising is at least as cost efficient as that conducted by other hosts on the PGA Tour. He estimated that the average tournament gives to charity 15 cents out of each dollar raised.

"It's a very expensive business," McLaughlin said. "If you don't put on a nice event, you don't get the people to come back. The goal is to run a great experience . . . and raise as much money for charity as possible."

Woods's Trio of Charities

Tiger Woods's philanthropic operation comprises three charities linked through their finances and leadership. The Tiger Woods Charity Event Corp. raises millions of dollars and funnels it to the Tiger Woods Foundation, the hub of the enterprise. The foundation, in turn, helps underwrite the Tiger Woods Learning Center Foundation, which runs a youth education facility in Anaheim, Calif.

Altogether, the charities report having collected $95 million in the last three years. In the expanding universe of athlete foundations, they rank second in revenue only to charities linked to cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose foundation's growth has been fueled by sales of the wildly popular "Livestrong" bracelets.

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