little over 30 years ago, Pro Football Hall of Famer and venture capitalist investor Ronnie Lott and his wife Karen founded All Stars Helping Kids. Ronnie modeled his philanthropic efforts on the lessons he learned playing football and investing in technology starts-up.

Much like how venture capitalists invest in startups, All Stars invests in emerging nonprofits with innovative solutions. All Stars increases the effectiveness of those organizations to disrupt the cycle of poverty for Bay Area California youth, so that they thrive, regardless of where they live. That being said, this approach to grantmaking is about more than just the financial investment.

The philanthropic approach that undergirds All Stars came from Ronnie’s experience playing football. That is, a coach, scout, or team would recognize a rookie, a player with potential, and give then support—coaching, mentorship with a veteran player, and training—to transform that rookie to an All-Star.

Going Beyond the Grant

When Ronnie and Karen started this organization, they approached philanthropy by getting in the trenches with the nonprofits, building relationships with the leaders they were funding, and recognizing what they brought to the table. They were comfortable taking risks on early stage, startup organizations with innovative programmatic approaches. Undoubtedly, they quickly recognized that not all their bets would pay off. As a result, they focused on organizational leaders with real potential to address the needs of youth in poverty. This core approach sets All Stars apart from other funders.

Ronnie’s post grid-iron experience as a venture capital investor in Silicon Valley also influenced his philanthropy. So he turned to what he knew: how early stage enterprises grow and succeed.

If you’re an investor, do you just give one-year of funding and walk away? No. You recognize investments take time. You provide multiyear funding, you offer training and capacity building, you open doors to networks, funders and other investors. This approach is baked into All Stars’ philanthropic model.

Read the full article about going beyond the grant by David Greco at Exponent Philanthropy.