Strong links

Golfers unite for the greater good at U.S. Venture Open

Posted on Jun 30, 2017 :: Connections
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Bill Bohn has hit the links for charity events plenty of times, but he’s never encountered anything on the scale of the U.S. Venture Open. 

“There’s a lot of golf outings. There is nothing like this,” says Bohn, executive vice president, private and institutional services for Associated Bank. “It’s just really a first-class, well-orchestrated event.”

Associated Bank is one of the original sponsors of the event, which has raised more than $33 million in its 31-year history for the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, which fights poverty in Northeast Wisconsin.

Greg Vandenberg, director of giving and community engagement for U.S. Venture Inc., says the event brings together like-minded individuals and companies all working toward community betterment. The golf outing, slated for Wednesday, Aug. 9, is held at six different golf courses throughout the region and culminates in a reception and dinner at Van Abel’s in Hollandtown.

“It’s really neat that there’s this core social responsibility that binds these businesses and individuals together,” Vandenberg says.

While the focus of the event is raising money for charity — this year’s goal is $3.7 million — the day also provides a unique opportunity for people to network. “As many of us know, golf is a great way to spend a large, concentrated amount of time with a small group of individuals,” Vandenberg says.

Attendees have ample time to mingle, starting with the kickoff the afternoon of Aug. 8, where golfers can redeem their gift and enjoy complimentary appetizers, drinks and live music. This provides an opportunity to meet new people or reconnect with familiar acquaintances.

“I literally get to connect with, it’s got to be 50 or 100 clients there,” Bohn says.

The event, which brings in up to 900 golfers each year, typically draws CEOs, CFOs and senior leaders. However, Vandenberg says many companies also use the event as an employee recognition incentive, and he praises the way it draws both influencers and employees who make a difference within their companies.

Vandenberg says the day also provides an opportunity for nonprofits to communicate to businesses about what they do, and representatives from those organizations make up some of the ranks of the 235 volunteers who work at the event.

STEP Industries, which aids people in alcohol and drug abuse recovery, receives funding through the Basic Needs Giving Partnership and has been able to build three sober living houses as a result. Michelle Devine-Giese, STEP Industries executive director, says the organization sends volunteers each year, and she likes the opportunity to give back to businesses that support nonprofits.

“It’s full circle,” Devine-Giese says. “We would not have those three houses without that event.”

Chad Hershner, senior director of regional philanthropy at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, echoes this. His organization serves as a platinum sponsor for the event, and Children’s Hospital and Catalpa Health both have received several grants from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership.

“The driving thing for the event is the impact it makes not just for the community but for the entire region of Northeast Wisconsin,” Hershner says.

Bohn says the Open is easy to get behind and support. Since U.S. Venture pays for all the expenses for the event, every dollar raised goes directly to a charitable cause. “It’s a really efficient, direct way to make a difference.”