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Excellence is the goal of celebrity philanthropy


One of our favorite guests is attorney Andrew Morton. He’s the chair of Handler Thayer LLP’s Sports & Entertainment Law Group, and he works with celebrities of all types to help them give back effectively.

Morton travels in interesting circles, and he came back on the show recently to share a few examples of celebrities who are doing it right when it comes to philanthropy:

– Having been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, former NBA pro Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has taken on the cause of funding cancer research. He is also passionate about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for inner-city communities and to that end has set up a foundation to help fund Camp Skyhook in Los Angeles.

– Former NFL coach Mike Ditka is intricately involved with Gridiron Greats, which helps to provide emergency financial and health care support for retired NFL players and their families.

– Actress Julia Ormond has founded an organization called ASSET to combat human trafficking and slavery.

Morton said his role in all of this is relatively simple: To ensure excellence in every respect.

“My job is really just to make sure as they’re out there doing this work – forming non-profits and raising money – that it’s all done to the highest standards of best practices and all legal requirements,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we live in a world where folks think of non-profits as sort of this touchy-feely, kumbaya kind of thing. They don’t realize that non-profits are corporations. They are every bit a business as Exxon Mobil or Microsoft. They have a tremendous amount of compliance responsibility.”

He said his celebrity clients care deeply about their causes. To them, he said, it’s not about a photo op.

“The folks that go into the philanthropy sector are doing it knowing that it takes work – that it’s something extra in their schedule. And these are people who tend not to have a whole lot of extra time,” he said.

It’s especially powerful, Morton said, when celebrities attend each others’ philanthropic events. They are deeply supportive of each other, especially when they have similar causes.

It was a fascinating discussion, and we covered a lot more territory so click here to listen to the full interview with Andrew Morton of Handler Thayer LLP.

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