Monthly Archives: April 2012

Remedying Professional Athletes’ Philanthropic Underachievement

The following is the highlight reel of my paper entitles “Missing the Mark — Underachievement of Professional Athletes’ Philanthropic Efforts” developed for my Policy Analysis class, as part of my Master of Public Administration program at The George Washington University. Enjoy!

The Problem:

Athletes’ personal charities are notorious for their financial and administrative mismanagement and general lack of efficiency. Moreover, there are several cases in which organizations’ inability to remain compliant with IRS policy has caused legal and tax issues for their founders, only adding to the disservice these organizations are doing for the community. Thus, there is a compelling need to revisit the ways athletes, with the help of agents and managers, structure their philanthropic endeavors to ensure that the athlete’s good intentions are effectively applied toward the causes they are passionate about.

Alternative Solutions:

The public and private sectors offer a wide range of solutions to mitigate failure and ineffectiveness among professional athletes’ philanthropic efforts. Philanthropy education and strategic partnerships, donor advised funds and impact consulting are only a few models that represent the plethora of viable alternative strategies for giving back that will allow these high-profile individuals to leverage their resources in support of choice causes with maximized social returns. Athletes and their advisors must carefully consider their own philanthropic goals before selecting which method is most suitable for them, as each alternative represents a very different approach and carries its own advantages and disadvantages in comparison to the others.

Philanthropy Education and Strategic Partnerships: This model emphasizes the importance of educating athletes about the wide rage of philanthropic opportunities available to them and encourages strategic partnerships with established non-profit organizations.

Donor Advised Funds: Public charities that give grants to non-profit organizations at the suggestion of their funders are another viable route for charitable engagement. Athletes are able to articulate their visions for community investment and leverage the expertise of grant managers in the organization assessment and fund allocation processes.

Impact Consulting: This model represents the offerings of the rapidly growing program evaluation field. By incorporating the principles of outcomes measurement, impact assessment and several other tools in this practice, athletes who choose to launch their own charitable organizations can do so in a way that incorporates methods and metrics that will drive the program toward achieving the purpose for which it was created.

Evaluative Criteria:

When considering various ways to get involved philanthropically, it is critical that athletes evaluate their options according to criteria that will allow them to select the alternative that best promulgates his or her goals for social impact. The following are the evaluative criteria I have identified as key indicators of long-term impact achievement and synergy with each individual’s philanthropic goals.

Impact Orientation: The extent to which social impact achievement drives the alternative model. Provisions for financial efficiency and legal compliance with IRS or federal government requirements are necessary, but not sufficient; structuring solutions around a propensity to enact change is critical.

Mission Integrity: The alternative’s capacity to maintain the athlete’s intended purpose for his/her charity. Solutions must be context-sensitive, allowing for personal discretion and customization according to the individual athlete’s passions, preferences and ideas.

Sustainability: As playing careers cycle from launch to retirement, an athlete’s commitments and availability will change. The degree of projected long-term relevance and effectiveness that any particular model offers should remain high regardless of the career phase an athlete finds him or herself in.

Political Feasibility: Instead of political feasibility on the government level, industry politics must be taken into consideration. This criterion assesses the model’s ability to secure agent and manager buy-in, as these are the key influencers and decision makers beyond the athlete him/herself.

Administrative Feasibility: This criterion evaluates the amount of work that is required of the athlete compared to how much can/will be handled by other parties. The ability to identify and recruit capable individuals that the athlete can trust must be carefully considered.

Summary Analysis:

Copyright Kendall Moore, 2012

Conclusion:

There is a plethora of different ways professional athletes can choose to engage in philanthropy and get involved with their communities.  These models represent only a fraction of strategies to mitigate the overwhelming inefficiency that has plagued professional athletes’ personal charities in recent history.  Ultimately, it is up to the athlete to seek the council of his/her agent, publicist, financial advisor, attorney and, most importantly, his or her own philanthropic vision, to determine which of these models presents the solution that best aligns with his or her goals for community involvement.  When looking to change the thought patterns of decision makers and key influencers, both non-profit and for-profit service providers must consider their solution’s ability to generate social impact; accurately reflect the athlete’s personal vision for societal change; yield long-term results; compel agents, publicists and the athlete him or herself to buy in from a financial and personal brand standpoint; and ensure that the administrative burden rests on the shoulders of capable and trustworthy individuals. No matter the model, impact evaluation is the critical factor that will correct the trajectory of athletes’ philanthropic endeavors and lead them to great social legacies.