Emerson U. Fullwood golfed often with buddies at a premier ocean side country club in North Carolina. During one outing, he teed off with Kenneth Johnson, his cousin an attorney out of Greensboro. Growing up, the two men had been taught by their families to excel in school and give back to others. After numerous golf outings, they found their inspiration on the green and decided to launch an annual golf tournament and scholarship to benefit college-bound youth.
“Community service didn’t begin with the Fullwood-Johnson Scholarship Fund. We were giving back already but this golf tournament provided a broader platform that was structured and selfsustaning,” says Fullwood, corporate vice president and executive chief staff and marketing officer for North America at Xerox and one of BLACK ENTERPRISE’s 75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America.
Fullwood personally has given more than $80,000 to charitable and community organizations and education and religious institutions. “We were probably the first generation to move out of the traditional teaching roles to become lawyers, doctors, executives, judges. I think we both felt very fortunate in terms of our accomplishments. Our community and church have always encouraged us to give back. This was instilled in us from a very early age.”
Putting together the tournament presented Fullwood and Johnson with myriad details to consider, including location, fees, trophies, and creating a scholarship criteria. The tournament costs about $5,000 to execute, much of which is covered by contributions. Sponsors donate the trophies, and other individuals are happy to write a check. “Friends say, ‘I’m looking for an organization to contribute to,’” says Fullwood. “You look like you’re doing a great job. Here’s $1,000, $500, or whatever.” Fullwood and Johnson are prime examples of professionals who have embraced Declaration of Financial Empowerment Principle No. 9: to use a portion of my wealth to strengthen my community.
The tournament has garnered corporate sponsors including Nike, Pepsi, and Kodak. Additional funds are raised through individual contributions and other sponsors. The first invitational drew 40 golfers. Today, about 150 come from all over the U.S., generating $15,000 to $20,000 in funding annually. Most players are executives and entrepreneurs, of which about 15% are women, says Johnson. “We have folks from all walks of life,” Johnson adds. “Everybody is enjoying themselves and making contacts.” Since Fullwood and Johnson started the tournament in 1995, they have awarded scholarships of $1,500 to $2,000 to some 30 recipients.
The fee — $100 — is intentionally kept low to attract players and, ultimately, to raise more money. Brian Anthony Price, a junior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, is a recipient of the Fullwood-Johnson scholarship. Such support “puts a lot of pressure and inspires you at the same time,” he says. “When you do well, they expect you to do even better. There’s no margin for error.”
Fullwood advises the following:
Develop a plan, stick to it, and stay focused on the main objective. In order to award scholarships to two or three recipients each year, Fullwood and Johnson need enough golfers and sponsors to