Philanthropy, Professional Athletes

The Next Wave of Impact – The Pro Athlete

In the mountains of Colorado Springs, investment professionals gathered for a conference to discuss the latest trends, updates and developments in their industry. The difference? This investing conference focused on social impact. More specifically, impact investing, or investing with the goal of creating a positive social impact on top of positive capital returns. 

Unique again was the 30th SRI Conference’s keynote panel “The Next Wave of Impact – The Professional Athlete”, featuring pro athletes who are actively involved with impact investing. The group behind the conference gathered five former professional athletes doing incredible work in their communities to discuss their involvement in the space and share their stories. 

Impact Investing is Trending

Impact investing is a term that’s been growing in popularity not only in the investment world, but in the sports world. NBA superstar Steph Curry recently sat down with Forbes to talk about the impact his company, SC30 Inc., is working to create from its investment portfolio. Tennis legend Serena Williams launched Serena Ventures in 2014 with a focus on investing in companies that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity.

Devean George: Affordable Housing to Get Back On Your Feet

The athletes we heard from at the SRI Conference are no different. NBA alumnus Devean George has invested in an affordable housing project in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN that is not just a building, but a commitment to that community. He’s spearheaded the addition of a grocery store in the neighborhood to combat their food desert. George is creating partnerships in the local community that can integrate with his affordable housing program and his nonprofit work. 

“People in the community are saying ‘Hey, don’t displace us, just give us the resources that other neighborhoods have, like grocery stores, community centers, and movie theaters’,” George explained to the audience. His affordable housing programs are meant to serve as a transition for individuals in the North Minneapolis area who just need help getting back on their feet. 

Warrick Dunn: A Path Towards Home Ownership

NFL alumnus Warrick Dunn has a similar vision. He has invested in 11 states and 18 markets to ultimately help families break the cycle of poverty. His nonprofit, WDC Charities, has programs that support young people and their parents in areas like financial wellness, nutrition, education and career development. He understands that affordable housing can be the key to supporting the positive growth of families. 

After his mom was killed when he was just 18 years old, Warrick had to step in and ensure his family was taken care of. He understands the value of having a home, a stable and safe place to be with your family. He aims to continue to help single parents become homeowners and provide more stability for their families. 

Derrick Morgan: Intentional Community Development & Influence Capital

Recently retired NFL player Derrick Morgan is now building KNGDM Group to be more intentional about how he works for the good of others. “Life is bigger than football,” Morgan said when asked about why he was moving in this direction. “I’m looking to avoid the band-aid and focus on more intentional community development,” Morgan added. 

He explained that an ACL tear during his rookie NFL season opened his eyes to how quickly the NFL could fall away. That’s when Morgan realized he needed a back up plan.

Morgan also addressed that athletes can play a large role in building awareness for impact investments because of their influence in the community. That sentiment was also highlighted by moderator Dan Hughes of Athletes Influence. Hughes spoke about the power of influence capital, and how athletes have the unique opportunity of taking the “impact” in impact investing even further. 

Antonio Davis: Broadening Horizons for Young People in Oakland

NBA alumnus Antonio Davis is taking a slightly different approach with his efforts in his hometown of Oakland. He’s working to provide opportunities for young people to see the world and broaden their horizons. “Basketball gave me the opportunity to travel and see the world beyond my neighborhood,” Davis explained. “Now I am dedicated to offering those opportunities to other young people in the community.” 

Davis is investing in community center spaces around Oakland and creating partnerships to create well-rounded opportunities for young people there. He is adamant about the importance of sustainable partnerships and being in the room where decisions are made. When there’s a more diverse group of decision makers in the room, greater impact can be made.

Sheryl Grant: Building a More Diverse Group of Entrepreneurs

Someone who embodies that sentiment is Sheryl Grant. Sheryl is a professional bodybuilder who won Ms. Olympia at 55. She’s passionate about using her platform and her work through Sheryl Grant Enterprises to support women of color interested in entrepreneurship and advancing their careers. Through her FIT for Business movement, Grant is helping leaders get more out of their business, career, and life.

Impact Investment Works

Grant highlighted the importance of creating a support system and community for a more diverse group of entrepreneurs and business professionals. But her work goes beyond just business acumen and focuses on nutrition and fitness as well. 

Each of these athletes shared common themes about productive ways to create more impact in the community:

  • Bring stakeholders in the communities to the table, get them in the rooms where decisions are made.
    Making decisions without consulting those in the community you are supporting will never be able to be sustainable. You need buy in from all parties, especially those living in the community where your programs or initiatives will be taking place.
  • Partnerships are key to long term sustainability.
    Coming into a community without understanding the nuances and what makes them unique can be the difference between success and failure. Meet the people where they already are- engage with community partners who have made inroads in certain areas and find ways to collaborate.
  • Continue to tap into the experience and network that is available to you, and make sure you always have different perspectives involved. 
    It’s important to maintain a network of people who have experiences that are different than yours. Your partners shouldn’t have the exact same background as you or run in the same social circles as you. They should have different skill sets, experiences, networks and understanding of the world. 

If you plan and take the time to be intentional about your investments, impact investing is a great way to not only bring in profit, but positively impact the community in a sustainable way. We are so thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the world of impact investing at the SRI Conference. We are excited to see the growth of impact investing especially in the athlete community! 

Want to learn more about ways to get involved with the community? Be sure to subscribe to our blog for tips, advice and stories of community leaders, nonprofit execs and athletes who are working hard to make an impact. 

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