Not So Haute: Lamar Odom and Other Athletes Face Scrutiny Over Charity Finances

A number of credible news sources are reporting today that reality star Khloe Kardashian Odom and Los Angeles Clippers player Lamar Odom are facing scrutiny over the finances of Lamar’s charity, Cathy’s Kids.  The charity was founded in 2004 in honor of Lamar’s mother who lost her battle with stomach cancer.  Since its inception, the organization has raised a reported $2.2 million dollars of which none has been actually given to the research it was set up to support.

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According to Fox News, an ESPN investigative team for “Outside the Lines” went through eight years of the organization’s tax records and found that the charity hadn’t given to any cancer-related causes. The charity, according to ESPN, has instead aided two elite basketball travel teams and funded a salary for Lamar’s high school coach’s annual salary.

These kinds of deficiencies in athlete charities are not uncommon according to OTL.  Apparently, charities that actually run programs, like those founded by Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi and Richard and Kyle Petty, are rare:

  • Many athlete charities fail the effectiveness test for a variety of reasons, ranging from the deceptive and unethical — if not illegal — to the simply neglectful and ignorant. Some athletes set up foundations as tax-planning vehicles. Others dispute the nonprofit standards overall, saying as long as they spend at least some money on actual charity they should not be criticized.
  •  In many cases, OTL had a hard time measuring a charity’s actual effectiveness because it was behind on filing its IRS tax returns or the returns were filled with errors and omissions. Problems can go unnoticed for years as the main agencies that oversee charities — the Internal Revenue Service and states’ attorney general offices — don’t audit every return.
  • Even though the athlete charities often are named in honor of wealthy sports icons, only about a third of them had total assets of $500,000 or more. Multimillion dollar charities that actually run programs, such as those founded by Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi and Richard and Kyle Petty, are rare.

We can make assumptions as to the thoroughness of charities based on the celebrities who founded them or whose names are attached, but its really important to look behind the curtain to see who runs the organization and the impact that they have on the community.  One way is checking them out on Charity Navigator. This charity watchdog gives detailed information about many organizations including the administrative fee, program expenses, rating transparency and more.  Check out the article “Athlete Charities Often Lack Standards” on ESPN.

Statement posted by Khloe Kardashian-Odom about Cathy’s Kids:



Latoya Henry is the publisher and founder of Haute Giving: The Sexy Side of Philanthropy.
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