Here's an idea: Cancel your hospitality tents at the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup tournaments and stop inviting agents to watch the world's best golfers while you wine and dine them. Instead, ask those independent producers to fork over $2,000 to play in a local golf event.

Not the best marketing advice you've ever heard? The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies did it, and is reaping rewards in producer and customer loyalty, positive brand recognition, and community good will as it helps out hundreds of large and small charities across the U.S. and Canada.

What Goes Around

Jim Berger, president of the Insurance Alliance agency in Houston, is one producer who has gladly paid to participate in local tournaments for the past three years. His return: more than $100,000 donated to Houston area charities.

How does it work? The local tournaments are held by Chubb branch managers in the U.S. and Canada and serve as qualifying rounds for the Chubb Charity Challenge, a two-day tournament held annually in November. Those hefty participant fees go directly into the charity pot for the national event, creating a purse of more than $500,000. The money gets divided among all the teams, first-place ($50,000) to last ($3,000), all of which are playing for charities they have chosen themselves.

Chubb took the hundreds of thousands of dollars that used to be spent on hospitality at USGA and PGA events and now pays for 40 winning foursomes from the local competitions to travel to the tournament finals. They stay and play at an upscale resort and, of course, Chubb wines and dines them. But now the company's return on the investment is clear: so far, $1.3 million delivered to 200-plus charities, plus the good will and loyalty of producers at the 500 agencies that have participated.

“Chubb's No. 1 goal with this event is to give back to the communities in which our producers conduct business and where our customers live,” says Terry Cavanaugh, managing director and senior vice president, Chubb & Son. “It also provides a vehicle for agents to support their favorite charities, and for Chubb to support the agents.” Just as important, Chubb's executives and branch managers get to spend quality time with those independent producers: Each branch manager joins his or her winning foursome for the final event, making it a tournament of fivesomes. And by the time the last ball drops, Chubb is writing checks to dozens of charities. “Everyone's a winner,” is a mantra of the event.

Share the Wealth

The Chubb Charity Challenge evolved from a local tournament that Cavanaugh held in 1991 when he was branch manager at Chubb's Murray Hill, N.J., office. “Chubb was being asked to contribute money to agents' events, but each event benefited just one charity,” Cavanaugh explains. “The Chubb Charity Challenge created an opportunity to contribute to a greater number of charities.” The local tournament went regional in 1999, and national the following year.

Responsibility for that inaugural national event, held in November 2000 at Caribe Royale Resort Suites and Convention Center in Orlando, fell to Lorraine Struck, corporate planning manager at Chubb & Son in Warren, N.J. Struck streamlined management of the meeting by relying on Golf Event Management in Somerville, N.J., for help with the tournament rules, format, scoring, and everything else that happened on the fairways. (See sidebar, page 25.) And while she doesn't plan the local events, she worked with GEM to create a manual and a comprehensive Web site to help branch managers hold their tournaments in accordance with the final tournament rules. (She also created a Web site for attendees of the national event, including everything they need to know, from travel information to suggestions for attire.)

Struck is the one who keeps the program fresh, high-end, and held in the spirit of friendly competition. She plans her opening receptions to get those goals met right from the start. (See sidebar, below.)

Count Those Beans

Considering the money involved, Struck also has to run a squeaky-clean operation, with paperwork showing every penny that comes in going back out to a charity. The charities, she notes, “must be social-service organizations that have a tax-ID number and provide outreach to the community, not someone's alma mater or child's soccer team.”

Branch offices must sign up at least five foursomes in order to hold a local tournament, which represents $10,000 to the national pot. If a branch gets additional participants (some attract 20 or more foursomes), the extra money can be contributed to the Chubb pot or given to local charities. The critical point: All the money gets donated.

In many cases, participants are able to hand over big checks to organizations close to their hearts. Jim Berger is an example. His 25-year-old son, Travis, has Williams Syndrome, a learning disability that prevents him from living on his own. But he can go to camp at Camp For All, an organization outside of Houston that provides a camp experience for kids and young adults with disabilities or chronic illnesses. In 2002, Berger's team placed second at the Chubb Charity Challenge, earning a $35,000 donation for the camp. In 2000, the winning team, from Birmingham, Ala., donated $40,000 to United Cerebral Palsy, a charity it chose because an agency worker's daughter has CP.

Tears flow freely at the awards banquet, Struck notes, when a video is shown of the previous year's donation recipients. “The agents are really into this now,” Struck says. “It brings them such pride to know they are part of a wonderful cause, and they're having a good time to boot.”

Says Cavanaugh: “The Chubb Charity Challenge involves agents, brokers, and Chubb customers. They enjoy the competitive nature of the event, and since each team plays for a different charity, players become emotionally involved in the tournament.”

Struck has her own video crew on site capturing the two days of play and working in a montage of every charity represented by the teams. Participants get a copy of the video to take home with them. They also leave with lots of branded giveaways to remind them of the event and what they accomplish with the help of Chubb. “I want to build memories,” says Struck, “and I try to make each year a new experience.”

Chubb's Format Choice

One of the most important choices in planning a golf tournament is what format to use. Diehard golfers will push for individual stroke play (everyone plays his or her own ball) while the less experienced of the group would be a lot more comfortable playing a scramble (everyone hits a drive on each hole, but then all players hit their second shots from where the best drive landed, and so on, with one score recorded for the group).

A two-best-ball format, which is what Chubb uses, combines the best of both. Everyone plays his or her own ball, but only the best two scores on each hole are counted. That takes a lot of pressure off individual golfers while still allowing everyone to keep his or her own score. The format also fosters a team atmosphere, as different golfers may shine on different holes. Handicaps come into play too, so in some cases it may be the higher handicapper whose score is counted on a particular hole.

Opening Night

The opening reception sets the tone for any program. Lorraine Struck, corporate planning manager, Chubb & Son, Warren, N.J., has specific goals for the Chubb Charity Challenge opener every year. She wants to get attendees' adrenaline pumping and rev up their competitive spirit while echoing the resort's location.

She also really wants to keep them out of the ballroom. Workable al fresco venues are high on her site-inspection list.

In addition to reconnecting with colleagues and Chubb execs that first night, attendees also have a chance to start collecting cash for their charities through contests. First prize for each of the contests described at right was $2,500; second prize was $1,500; and third prize was $1,000.

2001 Hall of Fame

World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla.

Venue: Hall of Fame and grounds

  1. Closest-to-the-pin on the island green
  2. Putting contests

2002 Wild West

Loews Ventana Canyon, Tucson, Ariz.

Venue: Coyote Corral

  1. Rollin' Roper: Participants sat astride a “horse” and attempted to rope a mechanical calf.
  2. Money Grab Bag Game
  3. Quick Draw Shootout: Electronic scoring revealed the fastest fingers

2003 Vegas-Bound

Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, Nev.

Venue: Terrace alongside the 8th green

  1. Putting contest
  2. Ball-retrieval contest in lake

Go-to Guys for Golf

The Chubb Charity Challenge is all about golf. Lorraine Struck isn't. Chubb & Son's corporate planning manager has a lot on her plate for the annual event, but she outsources the tournament operations to Golf Event Management of Somerville, N.J. Joe Huchko, director of operations, says GEM acts as an arm of Chubb, working with the resort's golf director on everything from ensuring proper scoring to booking beverage carts. Huchko also takes care of some critical grunt work, verifying the handicaps of the 200-plus golfers.

GEM has been part of the Chubb Charity Challenge since Terry Cavanaugh, Chubb's managing director and senior vice president, created it as a small, statewide event. Today, 40 local tournaments are held by Chubb branch offices, with the winners of those tournaments traveling to the finals every November. GEM and Cavanaugh came up with a unique way to keep the branch managers intimately involved: Each manager plays with his or her winning foursome in the final rounds, making it a tournament of fivesomes.

Huchko says GEM works best early in the process, even before the decision to have a tournament has been made. In some cases, he points out, a day-long clinic with a pro might be the best way to get golf on the agenda. GEM will want the answers to questions such as:

  • What is the overall purpose of the meeting?
  • What is the goal for the golf event? Fun? Camaraderie?
  • What level of attendee will be participating?
  • Are they all golfers? Do you want serious competition or is rapport-building more important?

If budget is an issue, he notes, contact GEM before you pick your dates or site. Off-peak bookings reduce greens fees.

Of course, the upscale resorts insurance conference planners use have professional golf staffs who run tournaments all the time. Why not just hand over your list of foursomes and let them handle things? It's an option, Huchko says, “but they'll do it the way it works best for them. They are vital, but we will let them know how your company wants the tournament presented. We speak their language, and we know what's acceptable and what's possible.”

GEM charges a flat fee determined by the amount of work involved. Go to or contact Huchko or owner Greg Porcino at (800) PAR-GOLF.