The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Sunday, April 14, 2024

Cardholder Support for The Giving Back Fund Strengthens Charities That Do Good Around the World

Cardholders Help The Giving Back Fund Create Charities
Mike Senecal

Written by: Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal
Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal draws on more than 20 years of editorial experience to update readers on industry trends, business news, and best practices in budgeting and credit use. Mike has worked for decades in academic and trade publishing, including roles as managing editor and technical editor at the University of Florida and as contributor to finance industry publications, including Surety Bond Quarterly and Independent Agent, among others. Mike holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina, and he enjoys bringing his years of academic and industry expertise online to help consumers of diverse financial backgrounds.

See full bio »

Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

See full bio »

Our experts and industry insiders blog the latest news, studies and current events from inside the credit card industry. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

In a Nutshell: Many celebrities want to use their fame to support worthy causes, but transforming a desire to do good into an effective organization requires support. The Giving Back Fund works with professional athletes, celebrities, high-net-worth individuals, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and others to create charities in their name. Since its founding a quarter century ago, the fund has established more than 900 foundations that have granted more than $1 billion. Influence drives philanthropy. Cardholder donations to The Giving Back Fund help it leverage the power of celebrity, create more and better charities, and do even more good around the world.

While on a business trip associated with constructing the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Marc Pollick read a front-page news story about three sports celebrities whose charitable foundations were imploding because of mismanagement.

Pollick has an extensive career in academic Holocaust Studies that began when he studied at Boston University with famed Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. He served as the Founding Executive Director of the Zachor Institute for Holocaust Studies, a nonprofit Holocaust remembrance organization, before founding the Elie Wiesel Institute for Humanitarian Studies. Later, he served as Assistant Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University.

A light bulb went off when Pollick read the news story. As his career had progressed, he had immersed himself in philanthropic activity associated with Jewish and Holocaust studies. He understood the ins and outs of how to run a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization effectively.

The Giving Back Fund logo

He decided to apply his skills to construct a management solution to help well-known sports figures and celebrities leverage their fame, reasoning that combining celebrity, wealth, and organizational prowess could extend the power of charitable organizations to do good.

The Giving Back Fund (GBF) was the result. Founded in 1997, The Giving Back Fund has a track record of almost 30 years as an organizer and marketer of celebrity charitable foundations. The idea has always been to link wealth and fame and leverage both for whatever cause the famous person cares about, while adhering to nonprofit best practices.

“When you’re famous, you have a platform — people will listen to you and come when you call a press conference,” Pollick said. “Celebrities who authentically care about something can leverage that commitment with a vast audience.”

Donations Support the Nonprofit Financial Model 

GBF constructs philanthropic initiatives for professional athletes, celebrities, high-net-worth individuals, existing nonprofit organizations, corporations, and others. The organization provides administrative and management services, ensures strict compliance with federal and state regulations concerning nonprofit charitable organizations, and helps celebrities conceptualize and execute a philanthropic strategy.

These bespoke services help famous people get charities off the ground, keep them running, and ensure legitimacy and transparency. Staff members function as front- and back-office personnel, assisting with financial operations, marketing and communications, donor management, and other critical functions.

The Giving Back Fund provides immediate IRS 501(c)(3) status by associating each charity under its organizational umbrella, filing tax returns, conducting annual audits, and handling financial administration.

The Giving Back Fund solutions
The Giving Back Fund provides bespoke charity solutions.

The team can start from scratch with a celebrity or jump in at any stage to help create a vision and mission, formulate goals and strategies, and organize support projects, programs, events, and partnership activities.

Pollick secured Hall of Fame Sportscaster Bob Costas as GBF’s first board chair. Dee Brown of the Boston Celtics and NFL star Doug Flutie were among the earliest celebrities to sign on. GBF has established more than 900 celebrity foundations that have gifted more than $1 billion.

“Persistence is the one quality to be successful, but you also have to be lucky,” Pollick said.

Fueling GBF’s efforts are donations from cardholders and other savvy consumers who understand the power of celebrity to extend the effectiveness of charitable endeavors. Celebrities pay a small fee to access GBF’s services, but those contributions don’t support the organization’s growth.

“People who look at the luminous names on our roster may wonder why they should donate,” Pollick said. “Even though we have all these foundations, we can’t charge more than it costs to run each one. We keep our fees purposefully low so that more money goes to the charitable mission and not administrative overhead.”

Drawing on People Power to Extend Good Works

GBF promotes its work and reaches out to benefactors through Big Game Big Give (BGBG), a celebrity-studded annual fundraiser associated with the NFL’s Super Bowl. Each year, celebrities, athletes, philanthropists, business executives, and high-net-worth individuals gather in the host city at the exclusive, invitation-only event, which many consider the most significant fundraiser connected with the big game.

It’s a celebration of philanthropy featuring entertainment, food and drinks, live and silent auctions, and many other audience-friendly features. Since the first BGBG in 2009, the event has raised more than $11 million. BGBG has significantly impacted the community of each host city and communities worldwide.

The Giving Back Fund BGBG
Big Game Big Give is The Giving Back Fund’s annual celebrity fundraising event associated with the NFL’s Super Bowl.

“We invented BGBG to have one event, once a year, to celebrate philanthropy on a worldwide stage,” Pollick said.

BGBG also raises funds for the Fund for the Advancement of Philanthropy, a GBF initiative the team started during the COVID-19 pandemic to empower people to serve as change agents in their local communities.

“Through the Fund for the Advancement of Philanthropy, The Giving Back Fund combines its distinctive approach to design-build philanthropy with the passion and energies of individuals uniquely positioned to advance solutions to challenges impacting our world,” the organization stated in its 2022 Year in Review report. “The dollars you invest in the Fund for the Advancement of Philanthropy are multiplied and amplified in their impact through the passion-driven leadership of our selected grantees.”

GBF helps grantees launch projects and programs aligning their expertise and gifts with community needs and global challenges. Among dozens of projects receiving support from the Fund is Hoplon International, a Ukrainian relief organization.

“We use the Fund to seed promising ideas that come to us that don’t necessarily have startup funds, but we can see they’ll become sustainable if we help,” Pollick said.

Medical Summits Aimed at Healthcare Breakthroughs

During the pandemic, the Fund for the Advancement of Philanthropy supported more than 20 initiatives, including one that provided computer tablets to end-of-life patients who couldn’t say goodbye to their families because of COVID-19 restrictions.

It also supported Invisible Hands, an initiative Yale University student Liam Elkind created. Invisible Hands delivered groceries to more than 1 million homebound older adults throughout New York City.

And it supported Vax India Now, a fundraising concert that GBF livestreamed globally. The event raised more than $5 million and vaccinated more than 15 million Indian children against COVID-19. Pollick said it’s a model The Giving Back Fund will continue to deploy.

Marc Pollick
Marc Pollick is the Founder of The Giving Back Fund.

Medical work comprises a significant portion of GBF’s charitable activity. For example, The Giving Back Fund has leveraged relationships and networks to host three global medical summits devoted to finding cures for Parkinson’s Disease, lung cancer, and the progressive neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

“Patient advocates, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and deans of some of the greatest medical schools in the world have gathered to spur significant progress,” Pollick said.

The actor Michael J. Fox is the celebrity spearhead of the Parkinson’s project. Among many others, celebrities featured in the 2022 Year in Review Report include basketball superstars Ricky Rubio and Juan Toscano-Anderson, Super Bowl champion Justin Reid, and artist and author John Mack.

Pollick said one of the most exciting GBF projects is NEXUS, a global community of more than 6,000 members from 70 countries. “We work to unite young investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and allies to catalyze new leadership and accelerate needed political, societal, indigenous, financial, environmental, and equal justice solutions,” according to the organization’s website.

Donations from cardholders and others help GBF continue to reach out to celebrities, provide essential organizational support, and grow. All from a news report Pollick read on a business trip.

“I read the article, and I thought, here’s an opportunity and a problem that needs to be solved,” Pollick said.