Todd Hajduk, left, a member of the John Deere Classic board, speaks with Tim Oloffson of Another Child Foundation in Princeton, Illinois, about Birdies for Charity fundraising information.

Kevin E. Schmidt, QUAD-CITY TIMES

The John Deere Classic's magic continues long after Sunday when the last putts drop, the last pork chops are grilled and the last golf fans depart  TPC Deere Run.

As a result of the PGA Tour event, millions of dollars will be pumped into Quad-City regional non-profits, through JDC's Birdies for Charity.

Final tallies of the 2017 campaign will not be released until October, but last year the tournament raised a record $10.54 million through pledges to 491 regional charities, and leaders are optimistic this year's $11 million goal is within reach.

"At the stage we're at now, it look like the charitable dollars are as strong as ever and we're hoping to pass last year," Kristy Ketcham-Jackson, the Birdies program director, said last week.

The Quad-City tournament has raised a total of $81.2 million since its founding in 1971 with the majority of the charitable funding coming since 1998 when Moline-based Deere & Co. signed on as the title sponsor. 

The 2016 campaign not only marked the JDC's highest charity total ever, but was the tournament's fifth consecutive year of raising more than $6 million for local charities. The JDC also ranked among the top three tournaments in charitable giving and earned the 2016 title of PGA Tournament of the Year as well as its fifth designation as the Most Engaged Community by the Tour.

That continued success actually poses a challenge to the fundraising effort. "When we have a huge increase (in donations) that puts extra pressure on the JDC to generate even more money for the bonus fund," she said.

Deere & Co. covers all the administrative costs of Birdies, which allows 100 percent of the money pledged and collected to go directly to the participating organizations. Area nonprofits also are promised at least a 5 percent bonus but have received a 10 percent bonus for the past four years. Jackson said that is due, in large part, to a matching grant fund provided by the John Deere Foundation. It matches all donations made directly to the bonus fund.

But as total donations grow, so does the dollar amount of the bonus program. "It's our obligation to maintain that high level,'' Ketcham-Jackson said. "It's all because of John Deere and the John Deere Foundation — that is absolutely the number one reason we are successful."

Last year's JDC players recorded 1,982 birdies over the week.

As nonprofits across the bi-state region face new challenges in funding sources, more and more are turning to Birdies as a means of fundraising. 

"Over the last five years, the more we repeat the message that 100 percent of the pledges go to charity and everyone gets a bonus, the more it's sunk into people's minds," she said.

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