Why Not You Foundation Executive Director Carly Young has the privilege of working on all of Russell Wilson’s and Ciara’s charitable endeavors. The foundation has a unique name – it goes back to the relationship that Wilson had with his father, a two-sport athlete who had a brief stint with the San Diego Chargers. Whenever self-doubt crept into Wilson’s mind, his father would ask him “Why not you?” This propelled Wilson to greater heights and ultimately a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Wilson wanted to be that same voice for kids in the community, knowing that not all children were as fortunate to come from a two or even one parent household.
According to Young, the foundation’s main focus “is on creating access and opportunity for kids to instill that ‘why not you’ attitude from an early age.” It started when Wilson would visit Seattle Children’s Hospital during his first year as a Seahawk. He would walk into a patient’s room and, rather than ask about their illness, he would ask “What are your dreams?” or “What are your goals?”
Why Not You Foundation is both a grant maker and a grant seeker. The foundation is not fully funded by Wilson and Ciara; Wilson’s clothing line directs 3% of its sales to the foundation and the organization also garners support from other non-profits and for-profits.
According to Inside Philanthropy, Why Not You recently launched DREAM BIG: Anything is Possible campaign in partnership with King County Library System and JPMorgan Chase. Through the campaign, students receive a library card and access to resources around STEM education, coding and more. In collaboration with this campaign, the foundation also launched its $100,000 Why Not You Scholarship program in partnership with the College Success Foundation to help students achieve their academic dreams.
Why We Like It: Russell Wilson and Ciara are using their carefully crafted images to positively impact the community. The Why Not You Foundation is authentic to Wilson’s experiences as a child and an athlete. It’s what makes his story so compelling and allows him to impact so many children’s lives.
How it Can Be Improved: It is difficult to be both a grant maker and a grant seeker. Organizations usually have a larger impact by providing direct resources, but sometimes a smaller organization must be a grant maker. With a full time staff of only one, it will be interesting to see how Why Not You Foundation continues to grow its footprint in Seattle while also incorporating the issues important to Ciara and the Wilson family.
Philanthropy Playmakers is a sports philanthropy consulting firm that advises non-profits, athletes and foundations. Our core competencies include fundraising strategy, strategic planning, marketing, and communications at the intersection of sports and philanthropy. To learn more, contact us.