Archive for the ‘Initiative: Charitable Giving & Accountability’ Category

A True Saint

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Drew  Brittany Brees, Operation Kids: Rebuilding New Orleans CampaignNo Super Bowl-bound player has energized a city like quarterback Drew Brees has energized New Orleans. Much ado has been made about Drew’s on-field success and his charity work. However, few articles have detailed the extent of his philanthropic endeavors. It is more than just a donation or an athletic field. It is an investment in a whole city’s children.

It is not unusual for high-profile athletes to form their own foundations and participate in philanthropic work. It is unusual to dedicate the personal time and resources Brees and his wife, Brittany, commit to their foundation and community. They have become a model of philanthropy “done right.” I have worked with some of the sports world’s most committed philanthropists. Brees joins these as a shining example of how an athlete’s prominence can be translated into a lasting legacy of social impact and lives changed.

Brees has an intuitive sense regarding the opportunity and responsibility surrounding his life as a just-arrived, high-profile athlete in a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. He viewed his move to New Orleans as being about more than just football. He saw an opportunity to make a meaningful difference.

Brees was introduced to us in the summer of 2006, and we worked hand-in-hand to help his philanthropic vision become a reality. Each project he worked on through his Operation Kids: Rebuilding Dreams in New Orleans campaign was a “catalyst project” that would continue to generate additional recovery. Employing the same discipline he exhibits on the field, Brees thought in terms of impact and measurable results in his philanthropy.

Brees’ hands-on participation and a disciplined methodology made this campaign different. The funding and management of the catalyst projects immediately benefited the community, and then triggered the flow of funding for other adjoining, critical projects by relieving the “tug-of-war” that held funds captive.  Brees created an environment where giving and results were multiplied and expected. Each project was completed on time and on budget.

He also insisted on another step. Each of the projects was required to work under a strict method of project “coaching” prior to funds being dispersed. A local project coordinator was available at any time, and unannounced site visits occurred to ensure required progress. Drew also introduced “Expect More,” a results-driven motto to the community that echoed throughout the process.

Brees also demonstrated primary fiscal commitment by contributing more than $250,000 of the $2 million raised. He also exercised his professional influence and secured used weight-room equipment for a school’s football program. Large companies, who had grown dissatisfied with the impact of their prior giving in New Orleans, were energized and reached out unsolicited to join the collaborative effort.

The results, a mere 2 years later, mean:

  • More than 2,000 children ages 5-18 have increased access to after-school programming.
  • 110 children of low- and moderate-income families attend the first fully accredited childcare facility rebuilt post-Katrina.
  • Thousands of students and community residents utilize brand-new athletic facilities at a major park and several schools.
  • 25 high school students participated in summer science internships previously not available to them.
  • Hands-on nutrition, health and education resources are available to more than 550 school students and their families as part of the funding and development of the innovative Edible Schoolyard-New Orleans.
  • More than 2,000 intellectually disabled youth in New Orleans have mentors as part of reestablishing the local Best Buddies chapters.

While we celebrate the Saints’ march to the Super Bowl, I hope equal attention is given to the Brees family for their inspiring philanthropic leadership on behalf of a beleaguered city’s children.

-Don Stirling

Note: Drew Brees i s part of the Pepsi Refresh Super Bowl Grant Project. We encourage everyone to click here and vote for Drew between now and Friday, February 5. The winner gets $100k grant to go toward their charitable project. Drew would use his grant money to rebuild the F. Taylor Hope Lodge for children fighting cancer.

Giving Wisely

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Sometimes, despite what the etiquette experts say, the very best thing you can give is money – at least when it comes to giving to disaster relief and rebuilding efforts.

This morning I watched a news clip that showcased a neighborhood effort to collect clothing, food, formula and other items to send to Haitian earthquake victims. While I applaud their generosity, it highlights something that Stephanie Strom, in an article in yesterday’s New York Times, wrote:

Don’t send shoes, send money. Don’t send baby formula, send money. Don’t send old coats, send money.

The reasons? First, it is almost impossible for anyone thousands of miles away to know what the true needs of even a functioning community are. It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of doing good and go overboard – sending remnants of items from our closets and pantries to those who truly are less fortunate. Sadly, very often such generosity is completely unusable.  In 2005, just a few months after the devastating tsunami swallowed up whole villages along the Indian Ocean’s coastline, an Operation Kids Foundation representative went to Thailand to do an on-the-ground assessment of a rebuilding project for a client. He noted:

The first trip to Thailand revealed instance after instance of well intended but rushed and ineffective generosity. One illustration: we toured a small private airport and saw a mid-size airplane hangar full to the ceiling with boxes containing thousands of coats and scarves – donated by generous people in the northern hemisphere who were, at the end of December, in the middle of winter. Unfortunately, in the subtropical southern Thai climate, coats are never a necessity and this large inventory sat, unusable, while people lacked day-to-day necessities of food, clothing, water, medical care, housing and a way to support their families. This example is indicative of people so anxious to help, that they didn’t take into account the specific needs of the affected areas.

Second, “stuff” takes up precious cargo space – space that could otherwise be used for medical supplies, specific relief aid and relief workers.

More than what to send or not send, however, is the notion Rick talked about in Tuesday’s blog, “Rethinking Giving.” In an age where we as citizens are calling for more transparency, more accountability and greater impact among the global nonprofit community, we would do well to first evaluate our own giving. We all have limited time and money. As we seek to make the world a better place, let us evaluate where our charitable dollars are going – not just how a nonprofit uses them, but how we give them. If we seek to fund particular initiatives, activities or causes, let us give to to an organization that specializes in that area. If we want improvement, let us begin with ourselves as donors.

By giving wisely, we  help organizations improve their efficiency and their effectiveness. Nonprofits, especially in tough economic times, continually try to do more with less. The more we as donors are able to ease their burdens through responding to a community’s needs rather than our wants, the more organizations will be able to focus on the task at hand – improving people, communities and lives.

If your heart aches like mine does for those in Haiti this week – the greatest gift you can give is a recurring financial gift to an organization well-versed in what is going on on the ground. A little for now to aid in immediate relief, and some for later when the rebuilding begins.

-Sara Brueck Nichols