If you ask Michael Jordan what sowed the seeds of his success, he’s quick to give credit to his mentors, especially his father and his college coach, Dean Smith.

So, when Jordan heard about Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs youth facing the highest risks with a salaried, professional mentor (a Friend) from kindergarten through graduation, he was sold. Jordan announced today that he is making a multimillion-dollar investment in the organization with the donation of his proceeds from his upcoming ESPN Films and Netflix documentary series, “The Last Dance.”

“What stood out to me about Friends of the Children was that they employ and train their mentors and that they commit to every child for 12 ½ years,” says Jordan. “That dedication is important to me. My mentors believed in me and taught me the power of perseverance. I want youth in Friends of the Children to see that they have that same potential.”

Find out more about Friends of the Children here.

The donation, which is supporting the organization’s national expansion campaign and their work in Charlotte and Chicago, took Friends of the Children over the finish line for an aggressive fundraising campaign: raising $25 million in less than three years. Now in 15 locations across the country and in the U.K., the investment will go toward Friends of the Children’s goal of expanding to 25 cities by 2025, empowering a growing number of youth and families.

“It’s not every day that you get a call that Michael Jordan—arguably most famous athlete in the world— had heard about your organization and wanted to support it. We got that call,” says Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children. “We are thrilled beyond measure for this generous gift and recognition for our lasting impact.”

Knowing how his mentors shaped his life, Jordan saw the life-changing potential that youth could find through Friends of the Children. A philanthropist who believes in impact investing, Jordan saw their evidence-based model as an attractive social investment. It’s hard to ignore the outcomes:

83% graduate from high school, although 60% of their parents did not graduate
93% avoid the juvenile justice system, although 50% have parents who were incarcerated
98% avoid early parenting, although 85% were born to a teen parent

A Harvard Business School Association of Oregon return on investment study also found that for every $1 invested in Friends of the Children, the community benefits more than $7 in saved social costs, saving the community $900,000 per child.

With Jordan’s investment, Friends of the Children will be growing their impact in the Two-Generation (2Gen) space which empowers families together, and serving more youth in foster care. The model is also being sought after as a possible solution to counteracting the effects of childhood trauma and toxic stress.

“There are so many communities across the country that we want to serve. With Michael’s investment, we can now expand more quickly to 25 cities,” says Sorensen.

Last spring, in partnership with Nike, Jordan donated the proceeds of a commemorative Michael Jordan Bulls jersey to Friends of the Children, which sold out—and for a good cause. His donation builds on his nationwide efforts to empower youth who are facing the greatest challenges.

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