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Giving back

An alternative to athlete foundations; Bears SB gear

Posted: Thursday February 8, 2007 1:41PM; Updated: Thursday February 8, 2007 1:41PM
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While the red tape he encountered prompted Chris Chambers to table his foundation dreams, it may also allow him to find a more effective method to help those in need.
While the red tape he encountered prompted Chris Chambers to table his foundation dreams, it may also allow him to find a more effective method to help those in need.
Jim Redman/WireImage.com

The C.A.T.C.H. 84 Foundation was supposed to be Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers' way of giving back. He intended it to help inner city children develop self-esteem, healthy habits, and life skills through sports. But his C.A.T.C.H. 84 quickly spiraled into a catch 22 for the altruistic athlete.

Mounds of paperwork and complex non-profit tax codes left Chambers overwhelmed and without enough time to get the foundation off the ground. Helping others seemed to be having a negative effect on him. He decided, at least for now, to shelve his dream of a foundation. The complex and often bureaucratic nature of non-profits has pushed some athletes to consider alternatives to establishing their own foundations. And that's a good thing.

While we all want to see our favorite quarterback throw the game-winning pass on Sunday and cure cancer on Monday, the spawning of athlete foundations might actually be doing more harm than good, experts in philanthropy say.

"What concerns us is that this proliferation of charities is creating a huge competition for donor dollars," Walter Sczudlo, executive vice-president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals told The NonProfit Times. "There are so many charities now going after so few dollars."

More than the competition for money, many athlete foundations share similar goals -- say, after-school tutoring and recreation -- yet each carry the burden of individual administrative costs. Through athlete collaboration, fewer event planners would have to be paid and fewer banquet halls would need to be rented, thereby lowering the overhead while increasing the profits for charities in need.

Organizations like The Giving Back Fund, a national non-profit, are trying to promote that synergy by encouraging athletes to contribute to donor-advised funds rather than starting their own foundations. With a donor-advised fund, the athletes make their donations to The Giving Back Fund and then -- just as the name implies -- advise to whom and how the money should be distributed. That means no overhead and a lot less paperwork for players.

The Giving Back Fund handles all of that. As an added benefit, the donor-advised funds have their fingers on the philanthropic heartbeat of communities much more than an outfielder playing a 162-game schedule and can inform players of existing programs that can make the most of their money.

The Giving Back Fund requires athletes to meet with the fund at least once a year in person and three times via phone to discuss the players charitable ambitions and publicly disclose the amount of money in the fund, all to ensure the players are active in their philanthropy and not just setting up accounts for public relations purposes.

While donor-assisted funds might not be the answer for every player, they offer one more choice and once less chance to end up in a catch 22.

Loose change

Think Prince's halftime show at the Super Bowl was choreographed? Prince and his dancers had nothing on the scores of workers responsible for making sure Peyton Manning had his championship T-shirt and hat on before the Indianapolis players could dump water on coach Tony Dungy. In last Saturday's New York Times, reporter Lee Jenkins explained how 12 employees from Reebok and the N.F.L. divided the championship merchandise up and gathered along the ramp so that they could rush the field and make sure the $20 hats and $30 T-shirts were distributed and received maximum airtime. But what's more interesting are the workers responsible for shielding the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XLI Championship loot. Guarded more closely than the Coca-Cola formula, they move the losing team's gear into a locked room. On Monday morning, the merchandise began a long journey to an impoverished nation, most likely in Africa, where the humanitarian organization World Vision distributes it among villagers, some of whom have never seen a football game much less knew who lost it. Jenkins reported that the NBA also gives its losing T-shirts to foreign charities while MLB opts to destroy its merchandise. . . Despite the rain splattered across the camera lenses during the Super Bowl, the logos of Motorola and Reebok came through crystal clear. With much of the game's drama focused on Dungy and Chicago's Lovie Smith, the camera transmitted 4:52 seconds worth of Motorola headsets on the coaches ears and Reebok logos on their caps. Those images along with sweaters and jackets generated nearly $25 million worth of exposure for the brands according to the research firm Joyce Julius and Associates.