As a long-time sports community relations and foundation professional, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of athletes as they think through how they might become involved in charity work.
The common ingredient that I see time and again is a passion for a particular area.
For example, when NFL standout WR, Torry Holt, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 1999, he was new to the league. His mother had passed away from cancer a few years before. The Rams Foundation had been approached by Bear Essentials at Missouri Baptist Hospital in St. Louis about funding a manual to expand their efforts to provide support groups for children whose parents had cancer.
That year, the Rams Foundation gave a $10,000 seed grant to help move this project forward. We also invited Torry Holt, through Marci Moran-Pritts (the Community Relations Director of the Rams Foundation at the time and now the head of Kurt Warner's charitable efforts), to visit a Bear Essentials holiday party.
He accepted the invitation and his personal passion for the cause led him to forge an independent relationship with the charity. Today, because of this spark, he has replicated similar programs in his home state of North Carolina. It all started with something near and dear to his heart. It started small, just a visit....
Take away: Think about your background. Do you have a personal circumstance like Torry's that you might become involved in? As an athlete you have a tremendous opportunity to help through lending your name to a cause and providing other support. It's not just about financial contributions! You could find the cause and serve as a spokesperson, provide signed merchandise or perhaps tickets, host a reception for potential donors, serve as an honorary chair for an event, or even host a tour of your team's practice facility as an auction item. There are so many ways that you can assist an organization just by lending your name.
You can make a tremendous difference by focusing on one cause where you have passion - stick to it and make a difference!
My monthly column will feature examples and interviews with athletes and those who work with them --- all chocked full of timely tips on charitable involvement.