As marriage equality activists await a historic Supreme Court ruling, organizers with Fairway to Equality golf tournament are celebrating their own milestone. Only 20 years old, the golf tournament, with its preceding Calcutta auction, is one of the most successful HRC fundraisers of its kind in the country, said Deiadra Burns, event co-chair.
The Calcutta Auction is being held tonight (Friday, June 5) at 6:30 p.m. at Sue Ellen’s, and the golf tournament is Saturday, June 6, at Buffalo Creek Golf Club in Rockwall. It’s hosted by the DFW Human Rights Campaign Federal Club benefitting HRC.
A Fairway to Equality co-chair for eight years now, Burns has also served on the board of governors of the national LGBT rights organization and was co-chair for Black Tie Dinner.
After she rotated off the BTD board, a friend asked her to join the Fairway’s planning committee. Burns didn’t hesitate.
“I love golf, it’s a passion of mine,” she said.
It’s a good thing she does, too. She’s still at its helm eight years later.
Between reaching out to past participants and creating new ways to engage and sustain donors, planning the event is a full-time job, Burns said. Most importantly, like a good fundraiser, you do it all with one goal: exceeding each previous year’s goals.
Thanks to aggressive efforts over the past years, Burns said they’ve already exceeded those goals. By tying sponsorships to branding, they have created the largest sponsorship program to date.
But fundraising didn’t end after the event successfully sold out in April. Recognizing it would sell out fast and that some people just really just don’t play golf, they planned a “Calcutta Auction.”
Emceed by out comedienne Dana Goldberg, the auction is open to the public. It features vacation packages to Mexico and Hawaii, a private performance by Patrice Pike, dinner for 8 at a private home by Chef Blythe Beck and other opportunities.
Most notably, attendees will also have the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Birch, the former executive director of HRC. Golfers will be able to bid on a chance to have her lug around their golf clubs at the event, too.
Additionally they are selling all kinds of event swag — t-shirts, hats, other things to take away and commemorate the event. But the event isn’t just about golf, said co-chair Ingrid Retzer. “[It’s] everyone being involved and supporting one another.”
She hasn’t been involved as long as Burns, but she’s witnessed the event’s popularity, and fundraising efforts, skyrocket. (Her partner, Jamie Duggan, is a previous event chair as well.)
Both co-chairs praised their fellow event planning committee members for their hard work. “We have a creative and energetic planning committee. Many of don’t even play golf but are simply passionate about the cause,” Burns said.
The diverse committee is especially noteworthy because it represents the event’s unique place in Dallas LGBT history, Retzer noted.
“Our committee includes men and others who remember the AIDS epidemic. A lot of the survivors remember when men were too ill to support the community,” she said.
“Lesbians stepped up to help with fundraising and the equality movement.”
The event has long been popular among lesbians. In its earliest days, it benefitted lesbian programs and organizations. The event began as a benefit for the now defunct Oak
Lawn Community Services and later, Uncommon Legacy, a national organization providing college scholarships to lesbians who otherwise couldn’t afford to get a degree.
Only within the past decade did it become an event for HRC.
But how can Dallas, a big Human Rights Campaign city, afford another fundraiser?
“It’s just the Dallas community. We are very generous and giving as a community to gay causes. I don’t know if there are many cities like ours,” she replied matter of factly.
She noted that everyone in her organization is also part of other local causes. It’s a big event for lesbians for those reasons. “It’s an event that women definitely look forward to every year, but we are inclusive, not exclusive.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 5, 2015.