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Athletes Charitable – Transforming the Lives of Athletes and Their Communities

Hannibal Navies

Vice President of Development

Athletes Charitable

Interview conducted by:

Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – July 31, 2023

CEOCFO: Mr. Navies, you are a 9-year NFL Veteran, playing the linebacker position for Carolina, Green Bay, Cincinnati and San Francisco. What was it like to fulfill what was probably a childhood dream; something that very few people get to do?

Mr. Navies:

At the time, I just was hyper focused on training to be the best in the world and make an impact at the highest level. I did not realize the magnitude of what I had accomplished by putting together a 9-year career in the NFL when only one percent of prospective players are drafted and even fewer make rosters. When it was done, I was able to take a step back and really appreciate the experience, including the relationships I was able to form with teammates, coaches, organizations, and others, which have been invaluable in my transition out of the sport.

CEOCFO: I understand that you (Hannibal) and former NFLer Charlie Batch are launching a podcast this fall. Can you tell me the name, what it's about and why it is different from others that are already available?

Mr. Navies:

Charlie Batch is a long-time friend of mine who happens to be a two-time Super Bowl Champion that has successfully transitioned into a full-time career in philanthropy. He heads the Best of the Batch Foundation. As great as his 15-year NFL career was, the year-round educational, athletic and leadership programming he offers to 3,800 kids at his state-of-the-art facility in Pittsburgh is even more impressive, because of the lives he can touch and the community he is able to transform. Charlie is proof that athletes are not only capable of being legends on the field, but in their communities. He and I are excited to host a podcast speaking with professional athletes and people of influence who are committed to building a legacy through service. Our guests will dive into their personal and professional journeys, their “why” and their impact. We want to know what drives them to be better off the field, what their passions are outside of sport, and how they combine the two to create community impact. I feel it is important to highlight how they use their influence and platforms for good, which will hopefully inspire others to do the same.  

CEOCFO: You have now developed a career as a social entrepreneur, influencer, and founder of 360 Sports Academy and the Hannibal Navies Foundation. How did your days as an NFL player lead you down this path? What did you learn and experience as a player that made you realize the importance of charitable giving?

Mr. Navies:

As a child, I was always excited by the prospect of having the ability to give back to the community where I grew up. My dream was to play in the NFL and then pay it forward using my platform as an athlete, which was the driving force behind the Hannibal Navies Foundation I established early in my NFL career. It has since evolved into the 360 Sports Academy where I share with the youth what it takes to be a professional athlete, but more importantly provide educational resources on topics ranging from college readiness and financial literacy to mental health and personal branding. A professional sports career does not last forever, and every injury, trade and roster cut were reminders of that. Therefore, I believe it is necessary for the next generation to develop skills that will set them up for success in life no matter what avenue they choose to pursue, and I can do my part to ensure that happens through my foundation.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about Athletes Charitable, its association with United Charitable and how you became its Vice President of Development and leader?

Mr. Navies:

Athletes Charitable is a division of United Charitable, a non-profit organization that offers clients two charitable vehicles, a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) and a Fiscally Sponsored Program (FSP). The goal is to help clients maximize charitable giving in support of the causes they care about while also minimizing their tax liability via a Donor Advised Fund, or to streamline the process of starting and managing a foundation of their own through fiscal sponsorship. Athletes Charitable was built with that same goal in mind, but tailored to the specific needs of athletes who want to give, yet need a little more guidance and support while they are still competing in professional sport. With that said, I was brought on to develop the turn-key membership offering that is helping our athletes make sustainable impact in their communities and create a legacy through service that will extend far beyond their playing career.

CEOCFO: Where did the idea for the Athletes Charitable division come from?

Mr. Navies:

Julia Healy, the CEO of United Charitable, knew that the Donor Advised Fund and Fiscally Sponsored Program charitable vehicles would be beneficial to athletes and even had worked with a few at that point. However, she wanted more insight on how to further break into and understand the nuances of the athlete space. When we were first introduced, I had never heard of either charitable vehicle, but possessed nearly 20 years of experience in philanthropy as a result of the work I did in association with the Hannibal Navies Foundation and 360 Sports Academy. After learning more about the charitable vehicles and the resources provided by United Charitable through their staff and clients, I considered how much easier it would have been at the start of my own philanthropic journey if I had discovered them sooner.

I was excited to join United Charitable first as a consultant and later as Vice President of Development. As mentioned earlier, it was my job to develop the membership structure we now offer to a roster of 22 athletes and entertainers. Our membership program is designed to address two pain points – how do they get started and how can they sustain their impact? The solution is to provide them with all the tools to get started including strategic direction on the mission and vision for the foundation, a logo, giving page, sustainability plan and much more. However, the buck does not stop there. Our team of membership and compliance managers, accountants and lawyers will ensure they are accomplishing their goals for the foundation and remaining compliant every step of the way, which is the key to sustainable growth.

With this type of support, our athletes feel empowered to become true social entrepreneurs, making a difference and building a legacy that will continue to evolve. After a year of beta testing, my team and I successfully launched the Athletes Charitable division in June 2022. We recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of our official launch.

CEOCFO: Why is it important to have an organization like Athletes Charitable? I'm sure most athletes have financial advisors, so why is it important to bring all of these different aspects of charitable giving under one roof?

Mr. Navies:

Speaking from my personal experience in establishing the Hannibal Navies Foundation, 501(c)(3) organizations are very complicated vehicles to navigate. There is a myriad of things to consider beyond financial planning, such as waivers, insurance, grants, and programming among other things. According to a study conducted by ESPN, over 70% of the athlete charities surveyed were not compliant after 2 years. This can result in severe ramifications for the foundation when it is inevitably audited by the IRS. Athletes Charitable is a solution from that standpoint. Our parent company, United Charitable, received a 100/100 Give with Confidence by Charity Navigator score and the GuideStar 2023 Platinum Seal of Transparency. With that said, the goal is for our team of philanthropy experts to work in tandem with financial advisors who are also experts in their field. They will advise the athletes on how much they need to contribute to their Donor Advised Fund or foundation to reduce their tax liability and make investments to grow their money, while we guide them on how to use the allotted amount to create sustainable community impact that is compliant with all IRS regulations. From our perspective, we are all on the same team.

CEOCFO: How does making the right decisions with their money impact the communities they serve and the athletes? What are the benefits for both?

Mr. Navies:

First off, 78% of former NFL players experience financial hardship within 2 years of retirement. We work closely with athletes to ensure they’re smart about the way that they spend and invest their money during and after their career. This is where financial advisors can play a crucial role in maintaining and growing their wealth. With that said, the more money they save, the more they can give. So, if their goal is to create sustainable community impact through charitable giving, they should make it a priority to be cognizant of their financial health. Secondly, it is important for athletes to lead by example in the communities that they serve. They are role models for success and people are paying attention to how they carry themselves. That type of influence comes with a certain level of responsibility.

CEOCFO: You have an impressive list of member athletes already that includes Pro Football Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, NFL All-Pro AJ Brown and the College of Charleston Basketball NIL consortium, former NFL MVP Michael Vick, NBA rising star Wendell Carter Jr., and female golfer Alexis Belton. Would you tell us about them? It is quite impressive to be able to list these star athletes as your members.

Mr. Navies:

Wendell Carter has begun to flourish in his young NBA career, but still consistently finds the time to be active in his community and provide helpful resources through free STEM programs, financial literacy and African American history courses, basketball camps, turkey drives and so much more. Alexis Belton is transitioning out of her professional golf career, but is still finding ways to influence the game by providing access and resources to young black and brown girls. The College of Charleston Basketball NIL consortium is led by a TD1 athlete. With the support of his teammates, his goal is to raise awareness about how juvenile diabetes can be treated and managed so that people don’t view it as a limitation. They will learn about the philanthropic space through an internship program and have the opportunity to use the NIL landscape for good.

Champ Bailey and AJ Brown have recently joined us as members, and we are currently working with them to develop their programs. They are both excited for what is to come and eager to make an impact in a big way.

CEOCFO: Your team also includes Strategic Membership Advisor Karrie Crocker, and former NFL quarterback Charlie Batch, as your Athlete Ambassador. Would you tell us about them, how they became part of Athletes Charitable, and their roles?

Mr. Navies:

I have known Karrie Crocker for a long time and brought her into the fold early in the process to serve as our Strategic Membership Advisor. She is a college professor at Mercer University and Remington College teaching courses related to communication studies and public speaking. Additionally, she is a former Division 1 athlete herself and is married to a former NFL player. Therefore, she has the ideal combination of experience and understanding of an athlete’s journey. Karrie guides our athletes and their program managers as they build out their foundations and begin to create sustainable impact in their areas of interest. The customer service she provides is impressive, and her role is integral to what we do at Athletes Charitable.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, Charlie Batch had a long successful career in the NFL, which resulted in two Super Bowl rings with his home team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He established the Best of the Batch Foundation in 1999 shortly after his NFL career began and operated it out of a house in Homestead, Pennsylvania. They have recently expanded on it to create the Clubhouse, a 38,000 square foot facility which features everything from a gaming/coding room and music/sound studio to a STEM room and UPMC Medical Practice/Rehabilitation Center within his facility. His team offers 12 free programs to school-aged children with the intention of “unlocking their potential” by encouraging creative thinking. His wealth of knowledge and relationships in the NFL, business sector and philanthropic space make him an excellent resource for our roster of athletes and an example of what is possible to achieve. Therefore, he was an obvious choice to serve as Athletes Charitable’s first ambassador.

CEOCFO: Does your career in the NFL help in attracting new members to Athletes Charitable? What are some of your day-to-day activities as its leader?

Mr. Navies:

My experience as a former NFL player and Director of Engagement and Outreach at the Trust powered by the NFLPA are definitely assets when engaging with athletes potentially interested in our membership. Athletes put more trust in their peers, people who walked in their shoes and understand their position. Therefore, I have always made it a point to inquire and learn about their interests, businesses, and lives outside of sport. When there is synergy between their goals and what we do at Athletes Charitable, I am prepared to share how our membership can benefit them.

With that said, I serve as the VP of Development for both United Charitable and Athletes Charitable. In broad terms, my job is to provide leadership, strategic direction and creative partnership opportunities that fuel the growth and sustainability of both United Charitable and the Athletes Charitable division. However, my day to day varies. I could be working to develop new lines of business, meeting with our board of advisors, hopping on a call with financial advisors or legal—anything that helps push the company forward. With over 600 programs housed under United Charitable and nearly two dozen athletes and entertainers on the Athletes Charitable roster, there is much work to be done. Overall, I want to ensure that neither entity stagnates by bringing innovative ideas to the table that have the potential to expand the landscape of the philanthropic space.

CEOCFO: We reach many businesses, business owners, and investors. Why is it important for them to know about Athletes Charitable?

Mr. Navies:  

There is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to establish a non-profit arm of their business or partner with other non-profits to support community service initiatives. Companies dedicated to community impact relevant to their consumer base are proven to gain more trust, good will and brand loyalty. Several of our athletes have formed mutually beneficial local and national corporate partnerships where everyone wins. Additionally, we service corporate clients on the United Charitable side, one of the largest being Cheesecake Factory.

CEOCFO: Give us a glimpse into the future of Athletes Charitable and where your growth will come from. Also, why is Athletes Charitable important to the future of its members and the communities they serve?

Mr. Navies:

People are already starting to notice the impact that our athletes are creating in their communities. They either want to contribute to their causes or are being inspired to start their own foundation, which is the goal of Athletes Charitable. Our team’s mission is to empower athletes and people of influence to become social entrepreneurs and game changers in the philanthropic space and impact their legacy. We are looking to go on this journey with individuals who truly believe they have the power to transform communities for generations to come through their philanthropic work. Philanthropy provides an avenue for retired athletes to explore their passions and find purpose outside of the game while simultaneously making positive and sustainable changes in the communities they serve.

CEOCFO: In closing, do you envision your second career in charities being as special as your first as an NFL player?

Mr. Navies:

I envision my career in philanthropy being even more special than my career in the NFL. Professional sports careers are fleeting, but the impact I am able to create through my roles at United Charitable, Athletes Charitable and the 360 Sports Academy can live on forever. Playing in the NFL was a blessing and gave me the platform to move into this next phase of my life. However, I am now 15 years removed from my NFL career, and my impact is still being realized through philanthropy. As the tagline of the 360 Sports Academy reads, “This is My Legacy”, and I am just getting started.

Athletes Charitable | Hannibal Navies | Vice President of Development | Athletes Charitable – Transforming the Lives of Athletes and Their Communities | CEO Interviews 2023

“I envision my career in philanthropy being even more special than my career in the NFL. Professional sports careers are fleeting, but the impact I am able to create through my roles at United Charitable, Athletes Charitable and the 360 Sports Academy can live on forever.”
Hannibal Navies