Lowcountry charities that receive money from Hilton Head Island's annual PGA Tour golf tournament could earn extra cash this year -- but they'll have to work for it.
The Heritage Classic Foundation, which runs the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, is changing the way it handles charitable giving. In the past, it awarded outright grants. This year, however, a large chunk of the foundation's charity will be contingent upon recipients raising money on their own.
Stan Smith, chairman of the foundation's charity committee, said the matching-funds model allows the tournament to stretch the dollars it gives by asking the community to partner with it to raise donations.
"It's a win-win situation for the charities," Smith said. "If they can raise some money through their own efforts, then the foundation will reward that. It creates an incentive and gives the community an opportunity to support charities even more."
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The program comes as a $1.5 million grant from the Verizon Foundation expires at the end of the year. That money was to be disbursed over three years, beginning in 2011. Each year, $500,000 is split between the Heritage Scholar Program and local nonprofit organizations that focus on education, health care or domestic-violence prevention.
Verizon or its corporate predecessors sponsored the Heritage from 1987 through the 2010 tournament.
The Heritage Classic Foundation donated about $1.5 million to charity last year and has given about $23 million since its inception in 1987.
Smith said the foundation will still provide some outright grants this year, using the Verizon Foundation and some tournament proceeds.
But most of its awards will be made through the foundation's new Champions Fore Charity and current Birdies for Charity programs.
Under Birdies for Charity, participating charities ask supporters to pledge a small amount for each birdie made during the RBC Heritage. In addition, the Heritage Classic Foundation will distribute $100,000 among those charities.
In 2012, 1,228 birdies were made by PGA Tour golfers, generating $379,170 for local nonprofits. A total of $3.6 million has been given out since the Birdies program began in 2000, according to the foundation's website.
Under Champions Fore Charity, the foundation hopes to increase charitable dollars generated by the RBC Heritage by offering "exclusive benefits" in return for donations of $1,000 or more to nonprofits listed at www.heritageclassicfoundation.com. The foundation will then match donations of up to $5,000 it receives by 20 percent, with a cap of $125,000 for each charity, Smith said.
For instance, if Volunteers in Medicine raises $125,000 through Champions Fore Charity and $125,000 through Birdies for Charity, the Heritage Classic Foundation would contribute $50,000, Smith said.
In return, those who participate in Champions Fore Charity will have "the select ability" to purchase two credentials for the Heritage Champions Club for $850. The Champions Club replaces the old Tartan Club, which was established in 1999 to rally community support for the tournament.
The credentials grant access to the club's hospitality tents, skyboxes and VIP parking, Smith said. One hundred credentials are available for purchase because of limited parking, he said.
People who give to Champions Fore Charity will also be recognized in the spectator guide, have skybox seating for opening ceremonies and earn discounts on clubhouse or grounds badges, golf apparel and dining.
Betsy Doughtie, executive director of The Deep Well Project on Hilton Head, welcomed the change. The charity has long benefited from the foundation's charity.
"It's a fair way of executing their charitable giving, and it will benefit Deep Well and all the charities that participate," Doughtie said. "It's a new and different way of doing things, which is fine. It certainly benefits us. And, we understand in these tough economic times foundations need and want their money to go farther."
Other Beaufort County nonprofit groups contacted Friday declined to comment until they hear more from the Heritage Classic Foundation during a meeting Friday.