Growing up with a next-door neighbor who was “slow” and sometimes taunted, former NFL player David Jones found it natural to stand up against bullies. “I was under the assumption that all athletes did that,” he says. “It was part of your responsibility, if you were stronger or faster.” Now living in Sarasota, Jones was speaking to a group of students when a parent asked him, “What should we do about bullies in the school system?”
“I thought the easiest way is for athletes, who are bigger and looked up to, to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” Jones says. He formulated Athletes Against Bullies on a Saturday and applied for nonprofit status the next Monday. In a 15-week program, Jones, other athletes and professional counselors go into local schools and prepare not only students but educators to stop bullying. “We empower students to say a couple of sentences to defuse the situation,” he says. The message is reinforced with webinars when their on-campus stint is done.
“Once a school is bully-free, I think it can remain that way, because it becomes the culture of the school,” Jones explains. “I probably won’t see an end to bullying in my time, but I have a 20-year-old son, and maybe his kids won’t know what bullying is.”
For more info, visit athletesagainstbullies.org.
Why This Idea Works
When Jones asked to meet with Susie Bowie, director of nonprofit strategy at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Bowie admits she was skeptical. Too often, people start a nonprofit without a clear definition of its purpose and making sure it doesn’t duplicate work others do. But Jones won her over. Among the reasons, says Bowie:
Jones is willing and ready to work with other people and organizations who can make his group even more effective.
He doesn’t pretend to know how to do everything himself. He’s ready to learn and engage with other people who can make the organization stronger through their skills and knowledge.
He has a structured program with concrete objectives and measurable outcomes.
Before starting a new nonprofit, answer Bowie’s five questions.
Is there a charitable purpose?
Study the Internal Revenue Service’s definition of “charitable” purposes and decide whether your objectives could best be accomplished through a socially minded for-profit business. Do not start a nonprofit believing it will be funded largely by grant dollars.
Is there truly a need?
Some new nonprofits have missions nearly identical to existing 501c3’s. Can you differentiate yourself to potential clients, volunteers, donors, and the media?
Can you partner with another organization?
If that isn’t possible, commit to working together when it makes sense.
What resources will you need?
About 12 percent of funding to nonprofits comes from foundations and 5 percent from corporations; the rest comes from individuals. Every nonprofit must have a minimum of three board members, who should not be just family and friends.
Are you prepared to be transparent?
Successful nonprofits have fully open books—disclosing finances, outcomes, staff compensation and planning documents.
Photography by Brian Braun