SBJ/May 2-8, 2011/Finance

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  • Charity for NFL retirees shifts its business model

    Gridiron Greats, the charity backed by Mike Ditka for in-need NFL retirees, will no longer host major events — having recently suffered financial losses — but instead will operate as a direct fundraiser.

    Gridiron Greats lost $178,000 in 2009, the last year public tax records are available, and 2010 “is not going to be what we had hoped for,” said the group’s president, Shannon Jordan.

    “We have shifted our business model away from conducting large events to more of a direct-request fundraising method,” Jordan said. “While we may license our name to a party to be held to partially benefit us, we are no longer conducting these events.

    Thus, we will no longer accrue those kinds of expenses. In the last week alone, we received corporate donations totaling $83,000, and we are actively seeking more corporate and wealthy individual donations.”

    Gridiron staged a party in Tampa during Super Bowl week in 2009 at the Hard Rock Café and Casino. While the night brought in $200,700, the event cost $430,375 to put on, leading to a $279,675 loss, according to the group’s tax return.

    That year, the group granted $52,187 to in-need players, down steeply from $283,583 in 2008.

    Ditka helped form Gridiron Greats in 2007 in response to the plight of retirees living in distress. After some initial success, the group has had a tough time financially.

    In 2008, the group took in $1.1 million. It issued more than $283,000 in grants — about 26 percent of contributions, an amount consistent with the previous year — but after expenses, it was left with a gain of $66,903, down sharply from 2007. In 2009, things got worse, with the loss.

    Jordan, a former Chicago Bulls executive, took her post a year ago to help right the ship. “[We] now have a very conscientious, thoughtful and smart group of individuals taking this organization to a different level,” she said. “The results will be much more visible in 2011 than in 2010.”


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