The business of philanthropy, especially for elite athletes and celebrities, always seems like a simple one. You have name recognition, money and enough mojo that you can go out and start using your money for the common good right away.
However as anyone who has ever worked in the not-for-profit world knows, the business of charity can be filled with loopholes, excess spending, countless paperwork and more hidden charges than exist in any used car salesman’s playbook.
More than a few celebrities and athletes have started with the best of intentions to assist their communities, only to see their charities crash and burn in a mass of red tape, financial losses and unpaid bills, coupled with communities up in arms.
Into that fray comes NFL Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott. Just like the former USC Trojan did so many times in his career as a player with the 49ers, Raiders and Jets, Lott assessed the situation in front of him and found ways to assist his team to make a big play, with the winners now being not only athletes looking to give back, but the children who the athletes originally set out to help.
The charity that Lott created almost 20 years ago is All Stars Helping Kids. In reality the name should probably be All Stars Helping Kids and Athletes. Lott, who has been just as successful in his post-NFL career running HRJ Capital, a hedge fund that raises money for investors in a number of areas, saw the problems former and current athletes were having trying to do good, but not understanding the philanthropic system.
He created a program whereby athletes could work with others in the All Stars Helping Kids network to identify areas of need, and then use the framework created to partner and eventually raise money without going through all of the growing pains of establishing and administering to a foundation on their own.
The result for most athletes has been a drop in overhead and a rise in what they wanted to do originally, giving significant dollars back to the community. In 2007 alone, All Stars helping Kids helped infuse over $1.2 million dollars in funds straight into the communities its athletes had earmarked, primarily in Sand Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas.
‘It’s a very simple premise. If you can do more to assist those around you then you should,” said Marlon Evans, All Stars Helping Kids Executive Director and himself a former Stanford and NFL receiver. “What we have done is to create the infrastructure, allocate the resources and save athletes the dollars in creating and maintaining a foundation, so at the end of the day more dollars, time and effort can be put forth in helping kids and giving back to the community, which is what these men and women wanted to do in the first place.”
Over the years, a host of athletes, from Hall of Famers Marcus Allen in Los Angeles to Emmitt Smith in Dallas, have listened to Lott’s philosophy and joined the All Stars Helping Kids team. On December 9, the charity will officially establish an east coast presence when New York Giants standout Justin Tuck joins the partnership at a luncheon at the Sports Museum of America. Many more announcements are expected in the next few months, as Lott’s original vision continues to grow with a new legion of emerging athletes, one’s who have both the heart to give back and the head to know that they can learn from others and work together for a common good.
"In all of my professional endeavors, football or business related, I have always looked for ways to assist those around me who are less fortunate and need a hand to get to the next level,” Lott added. “All Stars Helping Kids is no different. In our society, we're starving for people to step up and make a difference and there are athletes out there who want to and don’t know how. By marrying the business of charity with the charitable work itself, we can all do the most amount of good for the widest possible audience, and that is how we can move ahead as a society."
Joe Favorito has spent over 22 years in the sports and entertainment communications, branding and marketing field. He has held high level strategic positions for brands like the New York Knicks, the USTA, SportsChannel, the Philadelphia 76ers and the IFL, and is currently consulting for a wide range of clients. Joe also has a best practices blog at his site joefavorito.com, is on the faculty at Columbia University and has written a text on the industry "Sports Publicity."
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