Beaufort County nonprofit agencies are reporting mixed results from changes to the Heritage Classic Foundation's charitable-giving formula that took effect earlier this year.
Charities that quickly changed tactics in response to the new model seem to have benefited the most. Agencies that rely on smaller donations have, in some cases, received less money than they did under the previous system.
"This year we did not get as much," said Jean Heyduck, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry.
Last year, Literacy Volunteers received more money when the Heritage Classic Foundation -- the nonprofit organization that runs Hilton Head Island's annual PGA Tour event -- gave lump-sum grants.
This year, the foundation asked agencies to have donors send money to the foundation, which would match those contributions by 20 percent, then send the total along to the agencies.
Foundation board member Stan Smith said he expects that, ultimately, local charities will get more money this year than last year.
"We will have to see the final numbers to see how that plays out," Smith, chairman of the board's Charities Committee, said Friday.
Officials at some agencies said the new procedure already has yielded more in donations part way through this year, compared to all of last year. That's because they mobilized their donors to take advantage of the 20 percent match, and because the charitable donations funneled through the foundation can continue throughout the year.
The foundation, which conducts the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, announced in January that it no longer would award outright annual grants to partner charities the way it had in the past.
Instead, the foundation pledged a 20 percent match on private donations made through the "Champions Fore Charity" and "Birdies for Charity" fundraising programs.
Under Birdies for Charity, participating charities ask supporters to pledge a small amount for each birdie made during the tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links. In 2012, 1,228 birdies were made by PGA Tour golfers, generating $379,170 for local nonprofits. Figures for the 2013 event weren't available yet, Smith said.
Under Champions Fore Charity, donors who give between $1,000 and $5,000 to local charities through the foundation receive exclusive benefits during tournament week, and the charities those donors choose received the donation amount plus the 20 percent match from the foundation.
The purpose of the change, which puts more of the fundraising onus on the charities, is to promote charitable giving and to "stretch" those dollars with the 20 percent match. "It was just to encourage people to support charities on the island," Smith said.
Lili Coleman, executive director of Bluffton Self Help, said she encountered a similar charitable-giving format with the Buick Open, a PGA Tour event held for many years near Detroit.
"Across the country, any golf event like the Heritage usually tries to show the sponsor that the community is behind the event, and this is how you do it," she said.
It's not clear yet how much the foundation will give the local charities, in part because donations for the Champions program are accepted and matched year round.
Coleman said Bluffton Self Help has earned almost 10 times as much from the Heritage under the new model -- $427 in a lump-sum grant last year and about $12,000 thus far from the two programs, including the foundation's 20 percent matches.
Coleman says she sent an email blast to all donors notifying them of the changes and spread the word using social media.
"It worked well, but it worked well because we did something different," she said. "We decided we would really promote it. I think that's all you have to do. As an agency, you have to get behind this and notify donors that this is going on."
Betsy Doughtie, executive director of The Deep Well Project, said her agency has received about $3,500 from the foundation this year and is on pace to surpass the $5,000 grant it received last year.
"I think we will do at least as well, if not better than the year before," she said, noting that the agency experiences a spike in giving during the holidays.
Heyduck, of Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry, said her agency received "substantially less" with the new formula. She attributes that to donors being unaccustomed to the new format and the fact she had just been hired when the changes were announced.
"It was a change, and I think there was a transition," she said, adding that few of the agency's donors give $1,000 or more to qualify for the Champions program.
More changes are in store for the foundation's charitable giving.
The foundation could decide later this year to delay its 20 percent match on Champions donations for several months if it is running low on funds, Smith said.
And starting next year, individual charities will receive the 20 percent match for up to $150,000 raised through the Birdies and Champions programs, down from the current $250,000 cap.
Although only a few charities are close to raising that much this year, Smith said the foundation wants to avoid getting "too extended."
"We are just going to evaluate each year for that and see how it goes and make sure charities understand each change we make is based on how we are doing," he said.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.