Friday, April 30, 2010

Non-profit for Minor Leaguers

Most readers of this blog know by now that minor leaguers earn about as much as a 19th century seaman. In fact, as I noted in a previous entry on fictional character Mickey Cobb, the majority of players earn a wage that places them below the established poverty guidelines.

The situation is particularly cumbersome for families, on whom the minor league lifestyle grinds like a bone saw on a femur. Seeing this, and living this herself, one wife of a minor leaguer has formed a non-profit to assist struggling ballplayers.

I first learned of Financial Aid Serving Families in Minors a few months ago through a link someone sent me. The original article is informative--and well worth a read--but I also wanted to contact the founder of the organization, Laurel Sharpe for a little Q&A. Her responses are below.

1) FASFIM is a tax exempt non-profit. How hard is it to gain 501(c)(3) status, and what exactly does that mean?

I can only speak for FASFIM when you ask about the difficulty of gaining 501(c)(3) status. It was extremely challenging. The IRS did not understand why a professional athlete would need financial assistance and the verbage when applying for non-profit is very specific. I had found a lawyer from STL, who had a vested interest in sports, and was familiar with the IRS, to help evolve my language into what they are looking for. The reason for establishing the federal poverty line as a guide (in-season), was because those are numbers are governmentally and a relative guideline to how they operate. It was actually kind of shocking, after doing some research, that MOST minor league players make under that guideline.

501(c)(3) status means we are tax exempt, both in making purchases, paying taxes and those who choose to donate, do not pay taxes on the amount they choose to give. I could not have achieved this success for FASFIM without the help of NOLO business books; they guided me each step of the way.

2) I think people have difficulties empathizing with minor leaguers. Even though salaries may be low, they still see players as being in the privileged position of playing baseball for a living. Or they see the minors as the place where a person has to pay their dues. How do you overcome this challenge?

The mission of FASFIM is not to promote the difficulties of the minors, but rather to supplement and strengthen the family unit for a man pursuing his dream. As with any aspiration and career goal, we all start in the 'trenches', with hopes, by the grace of God, that our hard work pays off. Yes, it is more evidently challenging for a player who is somewhat romanticized by media and movies to bring to light the real truths of the challenges of playing minor league baseball, but it is a common theme in most 1st jobs. As stated before, FASFIM was not established to make it seem that playing MiLB is any harder than a 9-5 working mans job. FASFIM was established by a wife who lived and saw the need for more support for the FAMILY, and a man who is also trying to support a wife and child(ren). It is to promote family wholeness in a society that is losing sight of these values, in a sense, it is keeping an ancient dream alive!

3) I have a number of teammates in difficult positions, how do they apply for help? I didn't see a form on the website.

FASFIM began in a recession and is surviving the recession; funds and donations are low. I must admit it to a fault, I have tried to implement small little fundraisers here and there, but the money that has been raised, in the boards opinion, should be used as seed money to grow the organization and build our capacity, in order to better raise funds successfully and provide for families in the future. That being said, we have not officially awarded any money. FASFIM was established as a long term goal, something that 20 years down the road, we can be proud to have established and amazed by those it has helped. It is hard in today's world to not get hung up on the immediate gratification (quick money). We trust, with time and the grace of God, that FASFIM will reach it's full potential. So for those wanting to apply, I would encourage them to stay abreast of our newest developments and fundraising efforts, via the website and Facebook, until we have reached capacity to financially aid their family.

4) What are the federal poverty guidelines, and are most people surprised that ballplayers fall below the levels set?

The federal poverty guidelines are listed annually on (the government will release 2010 guidelines in May. FYI, in addition to the FPG for in-season play, the players must also qualify by meeting their off season's State's median income level. It is a consideration that takes all 12 months earnings into account.

Thanks to Laurel not only for answering my questions, but, more importantly, for trying to make a difference. Whereas inaction sometimes becomes the norm in this world, she has taken steps to help others. I applaud her for this.

If you'd like more information on FASFIM, including ways to donate, please go to their website at And feel free to pass the link around!


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