MOLINE, Ill. — As of Thursday, the Quad Cities is just 97 days away from the biggest summer event in the metro: the John Deere Classic.
That means it's time to start thinking about raising money for charities.
Birdies for Charity will be celebrating its 30th year this year, and the official kickoff is set for Monday, April 3.
News 8's David Bohlman sat down with Birdies for Charity Director Macaela Booth to discuss the organization's cause and how you can get involved.
Bohlman: For people who don't know, what is Birdies for Charity?
Booth: So we like to say that it's the fundraising arm of the John Deere Classic, kind of the John Deere Classic's mission in action with growing those contributions to charity each year. Charities have the opportunity to participate with us.
There's both incentive for them and the donors. Charities pay no administrative cost to be in the program — they're guaranteed a 5% bonus on everything that they raise through the program. And that's been anywhere up to 10% in the past.
Last year, we were able to give 7% on top of everything that they raised. And their donors have the ability to guess the number of birdies that are going to be scored during the John Deere Classic for an opportunity to enter to win a 2-year lease on a Lexus NS. And of course, they also know that their donation is going further through the program, because it's going to be matched up to 5%.
Bohlman: And you guys raised a record amount last year. Remind us about that, and, really, where's the bar set for this year?
Booth: So, 2022 was a record-breaking year again for the John Deere Classic. We raised $13.9 million [that] was generated through the John Deere Classic and Birdies for Charity. So it was a really exciting year. We always like to say, you know, our goal was $1 more because that's such an amazing number.
And we would really be proud, you know, to do anything close to that again. But we always like to be competitive a little bit and do better and more than last year.
Bohlman: And you guys were able to help out 480 some odd charities last year, which is incredible. And this is an important year because it's the 30th year of Birdies for Charity. Talk about how it's really changed over the last three decades.
Booth: So, Birdies for Charity was started in 1993. And if you look at the charitable impact of the tournament itself, from the time that it started, you'll really see some changes in the 90s.
So, in 1993 Birdies for Charity started, in 1998, John Deere came on as the title sponsor of the tournament. So if you were to look at a chart of the charitable contributions, you'll just see it skyrocket. Once it gets to those dates, 98% of the amount was raised after John Deere came on as a title sponsor, which $159 million since the tournament's inception, and thinking about 98% of that happened since 1998, is pretty incredible.
Bohlman: We were talking before the segment about the bonus match, you mentioned a little bit earlier, talk about how important that is for the charities in the Quad Cities.
Booth: It's so important. And it's really what makes Birdies for Charity so unique and successful for the charities that participate in it. And that's why they encourage their donors to donate through Birdies, because their donation has grown, it's really easy to just sign up, and you're matched at that 5%.
And we work really hard to grow the "bonus fund," is what we call it, to be able to provide that growing match, you know, we guarantee the 5%, but we always like to do more than that.
So it's a priority for us this year with these growing contributions, record-breaking years, it's a priority for us to grow that bonus fund as much as possible. And we do that through tournament revenues, special events, direct donations and we have what we call our "Platinum T Club" where donors can donate right to the bonus fund. It supports, we tell them it supports all the charities that participate in the program. And there are tournament experiences that go along with that, too.
Bohlman: And you guys are still looking for charities who really are looking to be a part of this and get some money out of this. How can they sign up?
Booth: Absolutely. We would encourage anyone. Our requirements are that you're a 501(c)(3) organization and that you're within 125 miles of us, also in Iowa or Illinois. So, those are our requirements, very simple and not much. So yeah, we would just encourage you to go to birdiesforcharity.com We have a charity sign-up right there at our top menu, and we just asked for a little bit of information. And yeah, we would just encourage any 501(c)(3) who's not participating to hop on board.
Bohlman: And for those of us maybe watching this at home, and we're wanting to see if maybe our favorite charity is on there. How can we go on and donate?
Booth: Yeah, absolutely. So, birdiesforcharity.com/donate, you'll find a list. If you know their bird number, that's fantastic. But if not, you can just start typing their name and it should populate for you to check to see.
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