It’s hard to say exactly how many deep-pocket donors there are like NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but he’s as good as they come, according to several New York nonprofits that got a slice of his million-dollar pledge.
The player-turned activist ignited a national debate about the intersection of sports and activism after he began sitting – and later kneeling – during pre-game renditions of the national anthem. Some critics said he was just out to promote himself through such high-profile actions.
But Kaepernick has put his activism into action across the country through a pledge to donate $1 million to social justice initiatives big and small. The donations came out of nowhere, nonprofit leaders said – just an email from a Kaepernick associate stating that he wishes to give without that many strings attached, part of his low-key approach to giving.
Kaepernick could not be reached for comment.
The leader of at least one recipient – Coalition for the Homeless – was skeptical at first that it was really Kaepernick until the money transfer arrived in his organization’s coffers. A rough-and-tumble childhood also meant that Kaepernick had a first-hand exposure to many of the issues facing the clients of the nonprofit, which received $25,000 from him last fall.
"He knows the struggles that a lot of the people that we help here at the coalition have been through," Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Dave Giffen said in a telephone interview. “We often deal with issues that Colin was bringing light to in his campaign.”
Other New York groups that received money include Justice League NYC, Communities United for Police Reform and 100 Suits for 100 Men, which helps keep people out of prison by providing free suits outside courthouses so that criminal defendants can give judges and juries a snazzy first impression.
The final $100,000 installment of the two-year effort did not earmark funds for any New York-based groups, but the “Colin Kaepernick effect” lives on long after funds arrive in a nonprofit’s bank account.
The publicity inspired more than a dozen donations in his honor the week after he donated $33,000 to the Lower East Side Girls Club last year. That money will allow more girls to take part in an initiative promoting community development and civic engagement, and continues to pay dividend past the end-of-year fundraising season, Valerie Polanco, a spokesperson for the organization, said in an email.
He’s a force multiplier when it comes to raising money, according to Polanco.
“People have been donating in his honor as recently as two weeks ago,” she said. “It's the gift that keeps on giving!”