I recently had the opportunity to speak with Drew Brees, quarterback for the NFL's New Orleans Saints, fresh off his MVP performance in Super Bowl XLIV. The discussion did not revolve around football. Rather, we discussed his philanthropic campaign to aid the city of New Orleans. Joined by his wife Brittany, the conversation revealed an approach to giving that is unique in my experience; it is the difference between giving and high-impact philanthropy.

"From the beginning, we knew this was about more than football," Drew says. "New Orleans provided an incredible opportunity both on and off the field. We were embraced by the people of New Orleans and we made a commitment to earn the trust of this great community."
Within that statement are two critical elements of high-impact philanthropy: the personal and genuine connection to the people served, plus a true sense of responsibility to the effort.

Celebrities are, in a very real sense, a brand. So too are companies and established families. How that brand is used varies greatly. Integrating that brand into one's philanthropy is often called "cause-related marketing" in the corporate world and becomes equally important to the individual or family name.

In addition to a personal passion, high impact philanthropy involves a multi-disciplinary team that may consist of a donor's financial, tax and legal advisors, as well as experts in the field of philanthropy.  In this case, it also involves Drew's business manager, Chris Stuart.  

"We decided early on that we will expect any corporate partner to also be a charitable partner," Stuart says. "It seems reasonable that if a company is looking to leverage its brand by partnering with Drew, they would want to become involved with and support the causes that are important to Drew and Brittany."

Team Brees also includes an organization known as Operation Kids Foundation.  Operation Kids is a boutique philanthropic group and a unique member of an advisory team. Their role begins after the other well-designed structural elements are in place. They represent a level of on-the-ground review and ongoing management of recipient charities and programs that ensure a higher level of accountability and fulfillment for a donor. As a charitable organization itself, Operation Kids Foundation can also participate in public-matching fundraising strategies.

According to Rick Larsen, president of Operation Kids Foundation, "Drew and Brittany were already on board with our philosophy. They were interested in identifying projects that would mend the social fabric of the community and do so in a measurable way. It was one thing to say we were making a difference, another thing to be able to show it." That is to say, a charitable donation should be viewed as an investment in one's community and should command the same expectations of accountability, guidance and performance as one would require of any other investment. Incidentally, a byproduct of a clear insistence on accountability is that recipient organizations and programs seek to elevate their performance along the way, as they are required to report back to the donor on the impact of the gift.

Each member of an advisory team plays a role in helping a donor articulate his objectives, structure his giving and identify opportunities that further the donor's charitable ambition. Many wealthy donors will hire an institution such as U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, which leverages an in-house philanthropic management practice, to provide comprehensive philanthropic advisory services including: helping donors create and implement strategic plans designed to enhance the value and impact of their contributions; designing structured giving programs and evaluating grant proposals to help ensure recipients are sustainable, efficient and effective; and providing comprehensive administrative and fulfillment services to lessen and simplify administrative burden so that donors can focus on the joy of giving and on the causes that are most important to them.

Effective philanthropy often requires strategic thinking to determine how you can potentially enhance the impact of the funds you contribute and ongoing analysis to measure the results of your giving.

The analysis of impact was a major focus for Drew and Brittany. The theme of the New Orleans campaign was "Expect More," according to Drew. "We decided that, as a team, we were not looking to just be another donor and get things back to normal. We were looking to establish a new attitude of expecting the best from one's community."