The Wall Street Journal surveys charities started by professional athletes and finds a mixed bag of programs and effectiveness.
The public has access to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (G. Bruce Knecht) covering charities founded by professional athletes. There's also a table showing the assets, expenses, and program expense ratio for thirty-five of them (out of eighty-five that were reviewed).
Without citing a source, the article claims that philanthropy watchers expect to see 75% of expenses spent on charity rather than overhead. The guideline set by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance is that at least 65% of total expenses should be for program activities (not general administrative or fundraising expenses). I'm not sure what philanthropy watcher sets a 75% standard (come to think of it, I'm not sure what a philanthropy watcher is).
What the table shows is that all of the athlete foundations that fall short are the ones that spend less than a half million a year. Tiger Woods (golf) ($15 million) and Lance Armstrong (cycling) ($45 million) have program spending over 80%. (Mr. Armstrong's foundation is bigger than all the others put together in terms of expenses, and of course supports itself through events and the sale of armbands. Mr. Woods' outstrips all the others in assets, with $81 million.)
Only a handful of other organizations spend over $1 million. Andre Aggasi (tennis) ($6.4 million), Jamie Moyer (baseball) ($2.6 million), David Toms (golf) ($1.4 million), and Jeff Gordon (auto racing) ($1.4 million). But twenty-one out of the thirty-five are under a half million.
There are different models for these foundations. Some are just vehicles for the athlete's own spending. Corporate donors provide the funding for some, but a common model relies on fundraising events. A few of the organizations are directly related to sports and receiving funding from the teams, like Mike Hampton's Pitching In Foundation, which supports little leagues.
The article notes that the teams and leagues are encouraging athletes to start their own philanthropic ventures, which accounts for their proliferation. It's good public relations for the sport. But there are pitfalls that arise from a lack of understanding of the rules and ethics of running a philanthropy. Underqualified board members and putting family members on the payroll are two common missteps.