2004: PRIVILEGE MAGAZINE: Assists On Court & Off
June 23, 2008
December 2004: NBA STAR JOINS THE GIVING BACK FUND TO MAXIMIZE HIS GENEROSITY…
By Marc Pollick.
Philanthropy begins in the heart, and NBA star Jalen Rose’s heart is
full. Few celebrities and even fewer professional athletes ever gain a
true appreciation for their potential as philanthropists. Rose is an
exception. He knows in his bones not only how lucky he is to be a
professional basketball player, but even more important, he realizes
better than most how beneficent he can be by leveraging his wealth,
power and celebrity.
Working with professional athletes and entertainers on a day-to-day
basis, one gets very attuned to who does philanthropy for reasons of
the heart, and who for other, less noble reasons. Make no mistake, a
$10,000 grant to send a kid to college, whether given by a donor who
believes in the transformative power of education or by a donor looking
only for a quick tax deduction, has the same net result. A kid can go
to college who might otherwise not have been able. However, donors who
develop an appreciation for the opportunities success provides can have
impact far beyond their own largesse. They can become role models for
The Giving Back Fund is approached often by celebrities and others
wishing to start foundations. Although it may seem counter-intuitive,
and even bad for business, we actually discourage most of them from
starting foundations. Starting a charitable foundation is not about
opening another new bank account or having a big press conference to
announce to the public your intention to do something good. It requires
vision, commitment (financial and otherwise), and understanding. Unless
a donor is serious about all of the above requirements, a charitable
foundation is usually not the best philanthropic choice.
Our process is simple and often helps to clarify which option best fits
the needs of the donor. After an initial no-strings-attached
informationgathering meeting with a potential donor, we assess that
person’s interests, resources, and perhaps most important, the
seriousness of their intent. Based on all three we provide them with a
range of philanthropic choices that we feel best meets their needs and
maximizes their resources. Very often we will recommend that a
celebrity donor make a financial contribution to an existing charity
that is tried and tested and working in the area in which they wish to
have impact. Not only can they further the goals and mission of the
like-minded charity by contributing dollars, but they can align
themselves with that charity publicly, which provides an additional
means of support that often attracts the attention of other potential
donors. Supporting an existing charity eliminates all the overhead of a
new foundation and also saves valuable time required to start something
from scratch. We believe strongly that charitable dollars are precious
and scarce. Creating efficiencies wherever possible, and maximizing
available dollars to deliver the greatest possible good, are therefore
important facets of our service to both donors and the causes they
If a donor has a specific mission that is not addressed elsewhere, or a
new or unique approach to problems that have not yet been solved, it
might make sense to start a new foundation. If a donor can be used
strategically to bring a new set of donors or increased awareness to
bear on a problem, it could be advantageous to create a new foundation.
In some cases, a donor may wish to institutionalize philanthropy within
their family and create an entity that will carry on their
philanthropic mission throughout their lives and their children’s
lives. In all cases, however, the donor establishing the foundation
needs to realize that foundations are serious commitments that have
financial and legal requirements.
I met Jalen Rose six years ago when he established a foundation at The
Giving Back Fund. At our first meeting to discuss his philanthropic
goals, his interests were almost unbounded. He wanted to help
single-parent families, provide college scholarships for kids, clothe
the needy and feed the hungry. And those were just a few of his
intentions. So many goals… ambitious even for a person with a heart
as big as Jalen’s and a multi-million dollar contract to play
professional basketball. We worked with him and his advisors to craft a
mission and a giving program that would reflect his broad interests,
yet be focused in ways that would strategically maximize impact and
create the greatest possible results.
At the press conference to announce the Jalen Rose Foundation to the
public, Jalen spoke from his heart without notes of any kind. "I’ve
always wanted to be in a position where I could influence others in a
positive way," he said. "Not that I’m a perfect person, but at the same
time I understand what it’s like to be on the top and have everything
in a given day that most people don’t have in a lifetime." We could not
have scripted him better.
He has impacted in significant ways each community where he has lived
and played, from Indianapolis to Chicago to Toronto to his hometown of
Detroit. He has endowed a scholarship at his alma mater, the University
of Michigan, where he was once a member of the vaunted Fab Five. He
provides five additional college scholarships each year to deserving
students in the city of Detroit. His foundation created The Rose
Garden, which has purchased several thousand tickets to bring deserving
kids to every home game in each city where Jalen has played. Working in
collaboration with Goodwill Industries, he has headed winter coat
drives and provided support to food pantries. In association with the
Boys and Girls Clubs, the Jalen Rose Foundation donates $50 for every
assist Jalen makes on the court (Rose is the assist leader on his team,
averaging almost 400 assists per year).
Professional athletes know that their time in the spotlight can be
extremely limited. At any moment a leg can break, a knee can buckle,
Children in Chicago get free basketball tickets an Achilles tendon can
rupture. Few worldclass athletes ever recapture their former glory
after significant injury. Even in the absence of injury, the average
career of professional athletes is just a few years. Jalen Rose came to
us with very large philanthropic ambitions. Armed with generosity, a
genuine concern for others and a strategy for deployment, he has
accomplished an extraordinary amount in a relatively short time. But
best of all, he has developed a keen aptitude for leveraging his wealth
and celebrity on behalf of those less fortunate than he. This makes him
a role model among celebrities, a valued member of his community, and a
great success story at The Giving Back Fund. May we continue to be
blessed by donors who follow his example and who reach his level of
"Working with professional athletes and entertainers on a day-to-day
basis, one gets very attuned to who does philanthropy for reasons of
The Rose That Grew From Concrete…
Since the Jalen Rose Foundation opened its doors in 1999, it has given
more than half a million dollars to single-parent families, soup
kitchens and students who need scholarships. Rose, 31, raises money by
calling in favors from celebrity friends like Cedric the Entertainer
and the NBA?s Ricky Davis, who turn out for his Celebrity Weekend
fundraisers. As much as 80 percent comes out of Rose’s own pockets, and
his charity doesn’t end there. The Toronto Raptor gives 1,000 tickets
to underprivileged kids each season, and he kicked off this year’s
Raptor coat drive with a donation of 100 new coats. IRENE LACHER talked
to Rose about his commitment to being a team player off the court.
What prompted you to start a foundation?
I understand that I have an influence as a basketball player and I have
to motivate others and give back in situations where I can.
Where does the Jalen Rose Foundation do its work?
My foundation has served Detroit and all the cities I’ve played in:
Indianapolis, Chicago and now Toronto. Detroit is my hometown. My
foundation was started when I was playing for the Indiana pacers, so I
did charity work in Indianapolis. That carried over to when I played
for the Chicago Bulls, which is now carrying over to playing for the
What was it like growing up in Detroit and how did it inspire the foundation?
Detroit is a blue-collar city. I know what it’s like to work forty
hours a week in order to earn a buck or feed your family. I appreciate
where I’ve come from, being a child who probably didn’t have all the
things that people with money had. I try to be an inspiration because I
know what it’s like to be a have and I know what it’s like to be a
How did you decide whom you wanted to help?
The basis of my foundation is things that are dear to me because I
lived them. Single-parent homes. Underprivileged inner-city youth. All
kinds of programs for boys’ and girls’ clubs, things that I did growing
up. The target is based on things I can relate to and have been
Did you grow up in a single-parent family?
Yes. I was raised by my mom, who worked at Chrysler as a key-puncher. I
have two brothers and a sister who were raised by my mother in a
single-parent home. It just so happens that my father is a former
professional basketball player as well. I didn’t know him and I’ve
never met him. That’s something I want to do, but it just hasn’t
Was it tough on your mom to bring up four kids by herself?
My mother is the most resilient person I’ve ever been around. She found
a way to keep food on the table and hope and love in our hearts. I saw
the sacrifices she made to be a single parent.
Is she the person who instilled in you the importance of charity?
I would give her the most credit because my mom is really humble. I saw
how she was able to persevere. Because of that, I always wanted to be
an inspiration to others to show that if I could be what I call "the
rose that grew from concrete," then anybody can.
Did someone help you when you were applying to college?
I was lucky because in high school I was an honor-roll student. But my
mother wouldn’t have had the money to send me to a college like the
University of Michigan. That’s where basketball kicked in and I was
able to get a scholarship from the university.
So that’s what you’re trying to do for other kids?
I want kids to understand that there are all kinds of avenues to
fulfilling your dreams, to get you where you’re trying to go. I’m just
trying to show them more options. I went to college and played
basketball. Some do academics. Some people have parents that can pay
for them to go to college. But times have changed where you can’t
necessarily have that paying job that you always wanted if you only
have a high school education, because the bar is raised.
Do you do charity work outside your foundation?
The NBA has a program called Read to Achieve. NBA players go to schools
and we read to the kids. We instill pride and confidence and help them
understand that reading is an essential part of success in any realm of
life, whether you play sports or read a playbook or read signs that say
stop, go or whatever.
Do you have kids of your own?
I have two kids: LaDarius, he’s 13 and Mariah, she’s four.
Is being a dad a big part of your life?
It gives you a sense of responsibility. You’re influencing little minds
and hearts that not only love you and rely on you, but also they’re
watching everything you say and do.
Were they part of your inspiration when you started your foundation?
The foundation thing was something I always wanted to do. Period. I
always wanted to be a professional athlete, but I also wanted to try to
be a jack-of-all-trades, I guess. I’ve always felt that I wanted to
have success and that I wanted to see other people succeed.
Are your kids involved with the foundation?
Yes, whether it’s basketball camps or going to some of the events.
Sometimes kids hear you, but they don’t understand what you mean unless
they see it, like the "oh hot-stove" method. So that’s an influence on
So it’s important to you that they grow up with the same values?
Exactly. The thing about life is you’ve got to always give the next man
his respect. Because we’re all God’s children. That’s not something
that’s measured by success.