Chirag Patel doesn’t know much about the game of golf. He’s never picked up a golf club, and he’s never attended the John Deere Classic golf tournament.
But the Deere & Company Information Technology (IT) analyst is considered a MVP in the eyes of the Classic’s Birdies for Charity program director Kristy Ketcham Jackson.
In the past 10 years, Birdies for Charity has seen tremendous growth, from raising $1 million annually to $8.8 million for Quad City-area charities. Thanks in large part to the Birdies program, the John Deere Classic is first among regular PGA TOUR events overall in per capita contributions, and consistently ranks among the top five overall on the TOUR.
With more than 20,000 individual donations designated to nearly 500 charities in recent years, the Birdies program needed help in modernizing and streamlining its IT systems. “The time was right to evaluate all of our processes and prepare for our continued success,” said Kristy.
The Classic reached out to the John Deere Foundation to inquire about some IT help. That request made its way to John Deere’s Global IT group, and eventually, the employee resource group LOTUS (Lead, Organize, Teach, Unite, Support).
Simplify and Improve
Enter Chirag, an active member of the LOTUS community involvement sub-committee, who helped design a mobile app for Deere & Company’s corporate United Way campaign last year. Chirag and Kristy began meeting in late February to review current IT processes and to identify ways to make the Birdies program more user friendly and efficient, particularly by reducing the amount of manual data entry. “We were able to come up with a plan to deliver short-term and long-term changes,” said Chirag.
“Chirag devoted a great deal of time making sure he understood all aspects of our program, then very quickly was able to identify improvements we were looking for, as well as many other reporting improvements we hadn’t even thought of,” said Kristy.
When I started this volunteer project, I thought I wouldn’t have time, but once I got started, I found the time. It was very satisfying, and inspired me to do more volunteer work.”
By early May, and after approximately 45 hours of volunteer time, Chirag was able to deliver updates to the Birdies system that will help Kristy manage her growing business. A significant change, Chirag says, was to create a new partner donor account system, for those who donate a minimum of $1,500 and in turn, receive tournament credentials allowing special access to the Classic. “The Birdies staff recognizes the value of this donor group and needed an efficient way to track Partner Donor contributions in order to share various benefits like year-end tax documents, Classic ticket packages, and on-course recognition,” Chirag noted.
Chirag takes to heart some advice from LOTUS executive mentor Raj Kalathur, Deere & Company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, who encourages members with IT backgrounds to think of ways they can leverage their skills to help the community. “It was a good experience for me to talk to Kristy and others at the Classic office with limited IT background in order to learn about their Birdies system, see how it works, and offer suggestions. These improvements are going to be a great help for them and I felt very happy I could help.”
Says Kristy, “Chirag’s dedication to fully understand our success and our challenges made this one of the most rewarding Birdies projects I’ve worked on,” she said. “We accomplished a lot before the start of this year’s Classic and we will complete the final phase of improvements in time for our 2017 season.”
Count Chirag in. “When I started this volunteer project, I thought I wouldn’t have time, but once I got started, I found the time. It was very satisfying, and inspired me to do more volunteer work,” he said.