Back in 1999, when Yardapes was a small company, the seven or eight employees would get together about once a month to go golfing and let off some steam. “We used to call it the Hack Fest because some people could barely swing a club or hit the ball, so we’d just go have fun and then have a cookout afterward,” says Shayne Newman, founder and owner.
Then, an employee suggested turning the Hack Fest into a charity event, and after two or three years of talking about it, Newman decided to just go for it. Now in its 13th year, the annual YardApes Quad AM Golf Classic is a huge success, benefitting nonprofits in Connecticut to the tune of $43,500 since 2006. “We’ve had a lot to learn but we’ve been really successful,” he says.And that’s just one of many projects YardApes employees take part in. Newman is a big believer in the idea that if you do good things, good things will come back around. But once the company started giving back, he realized how much recognition the company would get from the community and the landscaping industry. Not to mention the team-building aspect of volunteerism.
“The one thing we didn’t realize is what a team-building opportunity it is,” he says, adding that employees are not paid for their service time. “That was a big part of the concept for me because I wanted people to really know what it feels like to give back and to feel good when somebody appreciates what they did volunteering their time.”
And it really works. About 75 percent of employees sign up for volunteer events every month, including the annual golf outing.
The first year out of the gate, the golf tournament raised $10,000, and Newman says he couldn’t believe it. Although there were some tough years during the Great Recession, the tournament has recently been back on the upswing. This year, the tournament will benefit the Pratt Nature Center, and it’s off to a good start, raising a few thousand dollars just a week after promotions started.
Employees donate their time to organize and run the event, but the whole idea is to break even on the player fees – the company aims for 100 registrants – and donate the money raised through sponsorships, raffles and a silent auction. Right now, entry fees are $250, which covers the cost of renting the course, providing meals and some gifts for the gift bags given to each player.
YardApes starts off by contacting past donors and players to see who’s interested. The company also reaches out to some of the vendors they spend a significant amount of money with.
“My feeling is if we spend $40,000 to $100,000 with you, I would hope you could do a small donation to our charity golf event,” Newman says. “That’s kind of the concept.”
Some clients donate as well.
“They gain even more confidence in doing business with us,” Newman says. “They see us doing a good thing for the community and they really appreciate that. I never realized that. I thought it was all about doing a good job on their property and making their life easier, but it really means a lot to them and they take pride in having us as the landscaper that takes care of their property because we’re good guys in the community and we give back.”
For the silent auction and the raffle, YardApes asks local businesses to donate prizes. The more expensive items become part of the auction while the less expensive donations go up for raffle. At the end of the day, about 75 percent of the funds raised come from sponsorships and the other 25 percent of the funds come from the silent auction and raffles, Newman says.
Pick good partners.
YardApes switches beneficiaries about every three years, and while the company’s employees do 80 to 90 percent of the work, they ask the nonprofits to pitch in as well to show their support. The Pratt Nature Center was also the beneficiary of the golf outing last year.
The company also asks the nonprofits to help recruit golf teams to get the registration over the hump. Without some extra help, the expenses can have a negative effect on the bottom line.
“The Pratt Nature Center stepped up big,” says Newman, who is also a member of the board. “They were a huge help with the extra work and effort they put into it. They were very appreciative of the effort that we put in, so it was a good relationship. We’ll probably do them for the next few years and we want to try to help everybody so we kind of take it one year at a time.”