Your involvement in charitable efforts can make a difference and build your brand. But you need to focus on being the best you can be at your game. So how do you effectively keep your focus on your game and get involved in some charitable efforts?
I caught up with Molly Higgins, VP of Corporate Communications/Civic Affairs for the St. Louis Rams to discuss some ways she and the team help players get involved in the community. Here a few tips to get you started:
Know the Lay of the Land: Is there a staff person or department at your team that could help you? Find out!
Most teams have a community relations staff who knows the city and its resources well. Their job is to make the team look good and they are often willing to link you up with a cause that makes sense to you. Seek them out! Higgins said the Rams have a Rookie Club that gives first-year players an opportunity to participate in different types of charitable events to see what sparks their interest. “For one player it might be animals, for another it could be inner city children. It’s our job to help them find a good fit and assist in facilitating their involvement. We want to help players discover their passion because that passion translates to a mutually beneficial partnership for the organization and the athlete,” added Higgins. If you “partner well” you will feel great about your efforts and your involvement will be promoted by both the team and the benefiting organization.  
Get the Word Out: Use all the vehicles you have to get the word out. The team can help through their traditional and social media communication channels. Your personal blog, website and Twitter account can be an easy way to spread the word. Also, a good charitable partner organization will be happy to promote your involvement to the media and their supporters, which provides you additional visibility and a third party endorsement. Sometimes you just have to ask!
Outside Staff with Your Interests in Mind: If you choose to retain an outside staff person, here are some tips from Higgins: “Make sure you surround yourself with savvy business people with good intentions. The person should have your brand and best interests front and center, not their own. Your representative should want to work with your team and tap into their vast resources including media partnerships, team sponsors and knowledge of best practices from other teams and athletes. I promise you that the team wants you to be as successful as possible and is willing to assist you in building your personal brand, as ultimately the team brand will also benefit. This should be a collaborative effort not a competition between player representatives and the organization. Everyone wins when you win.”
Focus: “We often have players express an interest in forming a charitable foundation. We try to first help him determine his passion and find an organization he can work with to accomplish his goals. This way he can learn more and determine specifically what direction he would like to take prior to making a long-term commitment. Foundations have a lot of paperwork and laws are always changing. It can be complicated and many times the best of intentions can result in trouble. In the beginning, we recommend focusing on one cause through a strong partner, rather than starting a foundation," said Higgins. “If after a while the desire to start a foundation is still strong, then that becomes an option, but it’s best to take it slow and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
By leveraging resources that are all around you and being smart, you can make a difference and build your brand at the same time. Stop by the team community relations department and get into the game!