Last week, Alison DaSilva and I attended in Louisville, KY an internal meeting of Athletes for Hope, a seven-month old nonprofit focused on assisting professional athletes with their charitable endeavors. The idea of an organization created to help professional athletes with their philanthropy is nothing new; organizations like The Giving Back Fund and the Sports Philanthropy Project have been around for years.
But, Athletes for Hope (AFH) is different. It was created by athletes for athletes. Its founders are some of the best known sports personalities on the planet, including Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong and Andre Agassi. These icons have joined with nine others, including Cal Ripken, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mia Hamm, Tony Hawk, Mario Lemieux, Andrea Jaeger, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Warrick Dunn and Alonzo Mourning, to pass on their passion for philanthropy to other athletes.
AFH has a three-pronged mission: to educate professional athletes on philanthropic options, connect them to charities throughout the country based on their specific interests and ultimately recognize and honor athletes for the significant contributions they are making to communities.
The group's development comes at an interesting time in sports philanthropy. The sizeable increase in the number of athlete charitable foundations is being met by another trend—increased skepticism by the public and media. This is due in large part to media reports from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal which have criticized several athlete foundations for (1) operating as little more than a way to provide jobs for family and friends and (2) their operating costs at times far exceeding the money or services provided to the community. The result is a much higher level of expectation for not just athletes but for all facets of the sports community—leagues, teams and even owners, when it comes to their charitable efforts.
With its impressive lineup of founding athletes, its multiple free services for athletes and sustained financial support from Genworth Financial and Stanford Financial Group, Athletes for Hope is well positioned to be a force in sports philanthropy, helping athletes develop sustained philanthropic programs that meet the increased public demand.
Travel Tip: Next time you make it to Louisville, be sure to check out the Muhammad Ali Center. Located on the Ohio River, this beautiful facility is part-museum, part-cultural center, where groups of all types—local to international—travel to meet and learn from one another. Just as Ali hoped.
-Rich Maiore, Account Director, Cause Branding