Hey everyone! In case you don’t know me, I am Rachel Ellzey and I am GEM’s Sponsorship Coordinator. My title doesn’t really explain much of my job other than the fact that I coordinate the sponsorship program. I also manage all of GEM’s social media, communicate with donors and I’m in charge of fundraising events here in the States!
Over the past two years, our golf tournament fundraiser, The GEM Classic has become our biggest fundraiser of the year! It has been really cool watching this fundraiser grow since the first year in 2016!
The first year, everything was new. I was learning about golf tournaments in general as well as large fundraisers. Every part of the event felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants, uncertain of how everything would turn out. But God was in control! We had a solid turn out for the first year and raised a good amount of funds! We learned a ton of what to do better the next year, but overall we received good feedback. Thanks to Jesus!
The second year (as you may be able to guess) was even better! We had experience under our belts and grew the event significantly. We had more golfers come out, a professional band to play music and fancy trophies for our winners! We raised more money than the year before, and we knew God was all over it.
But year three… that’s when I felt we were really going to hit our strides. We learned so much from year one and two. I had a whole list of things I knew NOT to do and another list of things we needed to do in the future that we’d never done before. As I started planning this year’s tournament, I truly felt like I had it all together and that we were really going to host an impressive tournament that was going to help us raise significant funds for our students in Mexico.
Then mid-September came around and Hurricane Florence hit the east coast. Did I mention that GEM’s headquarters are in Wilmington, North Carolina? Yeah – it was hit pretty hard. Once the storm passed and all the city’s damages were being assessed, it became clear that we were not going to be able to host the GEM Classic come October 23rd. The course was still flooded and we had no way to know the condition it would be in once the water drained. So many of our supporters live in or around the Wilmington area, and we knew it would not be the right time to ask this community to give.
I was so confused. This was supposed to be the year. We were ready to put everything we learned over the past two years into action and host the best tournament ever. GEM was counting on those funds for various ministry needs. Why did this happen and how were we going to get by?
I really had to remind myself that anytime I am surprised by anything – God is not surprised. He knows everything that is going to happen and has a perfect plan and purpose for each detail. He gave us the idea to host an online fundraiser and be totally honest with all of our supporters. We decided to just tell everyone what was going on and explain the financial needs that we had due to the storm. To me, this was so unique. I love being a part of a non-profit ministry that isn’t afraid to just be transparent about our needs. And I love that we have supporters that genuinely care about what those needs are and that are eager to try and meet them! We had such an overwhelming response of love and concern, and God really used that to show me His steadfast love.
The online fundraiser that we did in place of the tournament lasted three weeks, and we were able to raise a little over $8,000 for GEM. What a huge praise!!! Nothing about this year’s fall fundraiser went according to plan (well, our plan) BUT God’s plan was always unfolding and He provided everything we needed as He always does. Even though we didn’t host an actual golf tournament this year, I still learned PLENTY that will be of great use when it comes to planning year 4. Hope to see you on the course next year!
Rachel lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with her husband and their golden retriever, Chester, the best dog in the world. She loves baking, watching old reruns of Friends and going for family walks. If you have any questions about GEM or would like to talk about sponsoring a student, you can reach her HERE.