SBJ/April 8-14, 2013/Olympics

USOC plans foundation for fundraising

The U.S. Olympic Committee plans to create a new foundation and hopes to raise more than $35 million in the coming years to help underwrite the cost of athlete training, support and administration.

It began a search last week for a chief development officer and president of the new foundation, which was approved by the USOC’s board of directors last month.

The foundation is one of USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun’s biggest initiatives and a product of his vision for increasing the organization’s operating budget. The USOC is set to receive a lower percentage of International Olympic Committee revenue from sponsorship and television rights after 2021, and the organization has looked for ways to offset that in the years ahead.

Blackmun believes better fundraising is the most fertile area to make up the difference, and he hired Bentz Whaley Flessner, a Minneapolis-based consulting group, to identify ways the USOC can improve its philanthropic efforts. The consultancy recommended starting a foundation.

“The conclusion was if we had a different platform, if we had a foundation similar to USA Swimming or U.S. Ski and Snowboard, then we would have more success raising money,” Blackmun said.

The new foundation will complement the work of the U.S. Olympic Foundation, which was founded with the $100 million profit made during the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

The U.S. Olympic Foundation has increased its fund to $200 million over the last three decades, and it annually gives the USOC $9 million, or about 5 percent of the USOC’s $175 million operating budget. But the foundation was only established to oversee the money raised in the 1980s. It wasn’t designed to raise new money.

For years, the USOC was left to raise those donations itself. It has a 20-person fundraising staff that raised $17 million last year. It also built a group of 45 trustees who commit to donating more than $300,000 over four years. But Blackmun believes the organization can do better in the future and has set a goal of topping more than $50 million a year by 2016.

The new foundation will be at the forefront of that effort. Under the plan, the organization will have an unlimited number of trustees, who commit to donate $300,000 over four years, and a board of directors made up of 60 people who donate more than $500,000 each. There also would be an executive committee that would include donors who contribute more than $750,000.

By comparison, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation has 75 board members.

The USOC foundation’s executive committee would meet twice a year and the board would meet once a year. The USOC is still determining whether trustee benefits will include hospitality during an Olympics.

“Clearly, there will be opportunity for interaction with senior USOC staff, the USOC board and our Olympic and Paralympic athletes,” Blackmun said.

The USOC hasn’t determined what it will call the new foundation. It hopes to name a president of the foundation this summer. Comparable philanthropic jobs pay more than $250,000 a year. Blackmun said the foundation president and USOC chief development officer would not have to be based in Colorado Springs but would have to spend considerable time there learning about the USOC.

The new hire will be tasked with recruiting and cultivating trustees. He or she will oversee a staff of more than 20 people and be tasked with overseeing capital fundraising efforts, athlete scholarship programs and the development of programs for major donors.

“We want someone with substantial experience raising money,” Blackmun said. “We want someone with some background in sports, not necessarily someone who has worked in sports, but someone who has spent time in the sports world.”

Blackmun said he plans to spend 50 percent of his time this year on the new foundation. He added that building it and identifying a potential bid city for the 2024 Olympics are his two biggest priorities during the next year.

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