Yesterday, Evans Consulting Group president Robert Evans was interviewed by a reporter for the Chicago Tribune for his thoughts on how Jackie Robinson West Little League should handle the windfall of donations the nonprofit received after winning the Little League World Series U.S. Championship.

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FEBRUARY 11, 2015, 6:31 PM

The first Chicago team in 31 years to reach the Little League World Series received
widespread support during its run. When Jackie Robinson West returned home, the
players enjoyed a parade not unlike the ones for pro teams.

There also was a financial windfall.

Since the team’s return to the Far South Side, its parent league has been showered with more
than $200,000 in major contributions. The total is more than the league’s combined three
previous years of income, $178,462, according to recent federal tax returns. The sum does not
include individual donations or any income made on its website.

The White Sox gave $20,000 plus equipment and school supplies. Bears quarterback Jay
Cutler’s charity donated $15,000. And Dick’s Sporting Goods cut a six-figure check from
proceeds of selling team T-shirts, the largest in the league’s four-decade history.

On Wednesday, the team’s U.S. title was stripped because of improper residency findings. It
has been placed on probation and suspended from tournament play until its top directors are
replaced and the league complies with Little League rules.

Jackie Robinson West is a federally exempt registered charity with the IRS, which means its
donations are tax-deductible and its returns public. But a precise accounting is not available
because the most recent tax return, which reported $64,266 in contributions in 2013, is
time-stamped July 29, 2014.

Robert Evans, a philanthropy consultant with Evans Consulting Group, said the Chicago
league should send letters to donors thanking them for their support to build confidence and
also urged meetings in person.

“In almost all fundraising, we talk about personal relationships as being the factor that makes
donors continue,” Evans said. “These messes happen. They’re unusual. Fortunately or
unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that we’ve run into things like this.”

Still, any donations are unlikely to be returned unless the league does so voluntarily, charity
experts said Wednesday.

“When you make a donation to a charity, that’s a completed gift. You don’t have any rights to
manage the charity or do anything else,” said Jack Siegel, a Chicago lawyer who monitors
charities and sits on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance board. “You’re probably not going to get
your money back, but never say ‘never.'”

Siegel said donors typically have recourse recovering donations if there are allegations of
fraud or if a charitable mission had gone unfulfilled. There have been no fraud allegations.
For Jackie Robinson West, the money came shortly after the youths captured the regional
title. Five Major League Baseball players contributed a total of $20,000 to ensure that all the
players’ parents could watch them compete in Williamsport, Pa.. Blackhawks goalie Corey
Crawford helped out as well.

By the time they returned home — they fell short against South Korea in the world
championship game — the support was swelling.

In September, the Sox held a ceremony at U.S. Cellular Field. Spokesman Scott Reifert said
Wednesday that the team’s money was to support youth baseball but that team officials will
re-evaluate plans to unveil a plaque at the Cell in 2015 to commemorate the team’s U.S. title.

“We remain committed to that vision of growing baseball and helping kids in underserved
neighborhoods, so we have no plans to ask for the return of the funds,” Reifert said.

The Cubs donated $10,000 after auctioning off yellow camouflage-style jerseys — with “West”
sketched on the front — that players wore at batting practice in September. A team spokesman
reached Wednesday said the Cubs would not seek for the money to be returned.

Dick’s gave $164,481.17 in September from proceeds of selling 12,000 yellow team T-shirts. At
the time, Jackie Robinson West director Bill Haley said the money would go toward the
construction of baseball facilities and fields. Haley is slated to be replaced.

Dick’s did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Daniel Borochoff, president of Chicago-based nonprofit watchdog CharityWatch, said he
wouldn’t be surprised if donations rise.

“I think people would be sympathetic to the kids and want to help out,” Borochoff said. “If
anything, people would be inspired to want to do more.”

 

jahopkins@tribpub.com
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