At first, Jrue Holiday for some reason needed to go play basketball while the world was on fire. The summer of 2020 was at the height of the spread of COVID-19. Everything was closed. Policemen killed George Floyd. Demonstrators filled the streets of the country’s cities. President Trump hid in the basement of the White House while fences circled, guarded by soldiers with assault rifles and dressed in war clothes. In the midst of all of this, the NBA was bringing teams to Orlando to finish the season in the bubble.
This holiday gave some complex feelings. Furthermore, his wife, retired soccer star Lauren Cheney Holiday, was pregnant. “Being with my family was really important,” Jrue says. “I had to leave them for a long time – I needed motivation.”
As a guard for the Pelicans at the time – he’s with the Bucks now – basketball felt pointless. “We were thinking…Maybe I’m going to sit outside,” he says. “I was struggling to go to the bubble and play. Socially, there was a lot going on.”
One night while they were talking, Lauren asked, “Why don’t you just donate your salary?”
At first Jrue thought it meant his entire salary from the 2019-20 season, around $27 million. “You fired me,” he says.
It was frustrating, though. “We would have been good. I played long enough. We had saved enough money.”
No, said Lauren – bubble salary.
“It was perfect,” Jrue says.
He went into the bubble, averaged 15 points and five assists per game, and made $5.3 million in the time.
“How far can that take us?” asks Lauren. “How many people can we influence?”
Jrue and Lauren used the money to form Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund. Their vision was to support black-owned businesses, which have been disproportionately affected by the ongoing pandemic, as well as black-owned nonprofits. “Black-owned businesses get less than 2% of bank funding,” says Lauren. “They may have an idea and set everything up, but for them to actually get a loan or be able to get the financing they need, it’s very difficult, and I would say unfair. It was Jrue and I, How can we bridge the gap at all? “
They also wanted to provide resources to help them succeed once they had the money. To this end, they teamed up with crowdfunding experts and business coaches to create a beneficiary category network, specifically organizations such as Fund Black Founders and Crowdfund Better. They find themselves creating a community of people who want to help others in the same way.
“This is the way we live,” says Gru. “We always have people around us, literally all the time.”
And while we were talking, their house was teeming with many friends and family. “For me and Lorne on our own, we have to leave and go somewhere else,” Gru says, laughing. “We don’t have time alone in our house because we feel like we built this community and this village, not just for our kids and our family but for the friends we’ve invited and the other people we’ve become friends with. We always have people more. It’s just our life. So when it comes to this business, it was the From the same thing. We want them to have the support of the community, because we are in the same vein.”
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Over the past two years, they’ve given grants to everyone from lemonade stand-ups to people in the trenches fighting for civil rights and justice, primarily in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Indianapolis. They all say that to the extent that the initial scholarship money helps – usually in the range of $25,000 – $50,000 per person – the most value comes from the community they join and the mentoring it provides.
“Not only did we grow our money to be able to do more at a time and for a longer period, but we also developed the idea for it,” says Lauren.
When Dale Dowdie first heard about the JLH fund, he didn’t think it was legitimate. He’s been running a website called BlackFacts for about two decades now. The site includes about 700 videos about important black figures throughout history. “Part of black history is American history as well,” he says.
Dowdie, a daytime computer consultant, says it’s a side business, a “passionate project.” Over the years, he’s come across many chests and people who are supposedly trying to help, often providing nothing but disappointment. “So we didn’t really think it was serious,” he says.
His organization received $50,000, but Dowdie says crowdfunding support and business training were the real prize. Dowdie wasn’t keen on crowdfunding at first, but he learned that people want to support causes when they know the people and the passion behind them. “The JLH fund has really helped us to sum that up and to be brief about our mission, to know what our mission is, to know our priorities and principles, and then to share that with the world,” he says. “Schools are now licensing our product, and it’s all because we make our voices heard there and because we put our faces out there and tell our stories… We will go from zero to a potentially multi-million dollar business in the next couple of years.”
“Now we’re like the Netflix of Black history videos,” Dowdie says.
Such stories are common among about 150 now JLH fund recipients, such as Natalie Pipkin of Indianapolis, who runs the Black Worldschoolers, riding around in a refurbished school bus that is essentially a bookstore on wheels. “[The JLH Fund grant] Just speed up the whole process,” says Pepkin. “I thought it would take several years to sell enough books and build her business enough to make the impact you wanted to make. JLH saw the need, just as I saw the need,” she says. “They came by my side so we could than making an impact now. So this dream took maybe six years to six months. We are now on our way.”
Brittany Rowe, a theater actress from New York, started Hella Awkward card games with her brother and girlfriend. Partially inspired by the HBO . show Unsafe, Hella Awkward’s goal is to relive what they’ve been through during lockdown: “We’re just starting to have really psychedelic conversations,” she says, “and we wanted to make it into a product to help other people connect like we were…and fun, one awkward conversation at a time” .
The idea blossomed as they expanded their focus beyond helping friends connect deeper and realized the ways this game could connect strangers from different worlds. “Our job is really just to inspire and create meaningful connections across culture through conversation,” Rowe says.
Rowe and Hella Awkward have benefited greatly from the partnership with Fund Black Founders and Crowdfund Better. Roe says they only went through “three to six months of education through these two companies.” They met weekly, had homework and assignments and learned how to build their business. “We all hang out for a couple of hours once a week and give each other cash and build together,” she says.
That was the best part of what JLH gave them: “The most important thing was knowing we had these other companies that were going to guide us,” says Rowe. “This is actually a family unit. I remember Puppy and Lorraine, when we were first told that we received the scholarship, they said, ‘You are now part of our family. We are here for you.'” And they weren’t lying….They get into the nitty-gritty of all aspects of our business. It’s not just, ‘That’s some money; Have fun.’ It is, “We will make sure that this money works well for you and achieves the goals that you have, so that you can achieve what you want to achieve.”
Attorney Jill Colin Jefferson started Julian Legal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to civil justice named after her activist mentor and late attorney Julian Bond. After spending some time working corporate law in Washington, D.C., Jefferson now devoted her life to fighting for black civil rights and justice. Through Julian Legal, he investigates matters such as lynchings that have neither been investigated nor prosecuted. “Jrue and Lauren are the first two people outside my family to donate and invest in Julian financially,” she says. “Top.”
And she needed them when they arrived. “I ran out of money,” she says. “I was flat, flat, flat. …we were sinking. We were late paying our bills. …the lights were about to go out. We breathe.”
As Holidays develops its fund, it has also become part of its mission to encourage other athletes to work with them or at least follow their scheme. “There is something that Jrue and I believe in so strongly supporting each other,” says Lauren. “If someone is passionate about this business, come along, get involved with us. We like to help you, educate you, however we can.”
The Holidays just closed its third round of funding in the spring, raising another $1 million. They had 1,800 new apps, of which they chose 50 New recipients.
“We’ll give this as much as we can,” says Lauren.