The words “former Buckeye” are valuable in Central Ohio, but they also come with expectations. Roy Hall, president and co-founder of the Driven Foundation, has tried to live up to them.
Hall started the foundation in 2008 during his NFL rookie year in Indianapolis. He’d held a youth football camp in Cleveland, but was challenged by a woman afterwards.
She said, “This is really nice. This is a great experience for our kids. But do you have anything that’s going to help these kids when they go home and they don’t have anything to eat?’”
Teaching an 11-year-old how to run a 40-yard dash is fun and inspiring. But long-term impact comes from getting in the trenches with families to work on their problems, Hall says.
In the beginning, Hall heard “no” a lot. Driven wasn’t large enough, established enough and focused enough. Most often, people asked: Are you going to be around in five years?
Many former Buckeyes and professional athletes start foundations.
“Once your athletic career ends, and usually it’s not because you want it to, the foundation isn’t a priority anymore. It goes to the backburner because now that athlete who was running the show and was the face of the organization has to figure out how to pick the pieces of his life up and transition into life after football,” he says. “The majority of the time, it’s not through their foundation.”
Hall wanted Driven, originally the Roy Hall Driven Foundation, to stand the test of time. It had to be about the cause — to promote perseverance and to build hope through service.
Even after the name change, Hall is still the face of the organization. But lately he’s been joined by his co-founder and vice president, Antonio Smith, another former Buckeye and NFL player. Hall jokes they’re like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, back together again.
Nearly a decade in, Driven solves community problems, cutting through red tape. It often reverse engineers back from an issue, and nothing is too small.
For instance, someone might have a cousin in an area where multiple families are struggling with a specific problem. He or she might ask: Is there anything that we could do through the Driven Foundation to help benefit them?
However, Driven also has regular programming. One of the biggest is its holiday food outreach, which is expanding this December. It will give 1,000 Columbus families in two school districts a week’s worth of food.
Another is Outreach Days, where Driven invades an Ohio school district with former Buckeyes and NFL athletes to push another nonprofit’s mission and vision.
“We leverage our platform for their purpose. By bringing the Buckeyes in, it attracts more people. It attracts different donors and supporters,” Hall says.
Driven also mentors students at six Central Ohio schools, and recently launched a leadership program for student athletes at Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio, where Hall played.
Driven’s outreach personnel lead smaller programs, such as throwing birthday parties for inner city kids.
Hall likes the term “outreach.”
“Volunteering comes when it’s convenient. I have a day off of work. I have a week’s worth of paid vacation. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. It’s ‘hey, I’ve got to fill in some time, I’ll come down and I’ll volunteer.’ I love people who will sacrifice and be inconvenienced, where they have to give up something. That way, they’ll take ownership,” he says.
Driven works with more than 600 volunteers annually, but Hall wants to find more outreach personnel to join the 30 people who currently fill that role.
It’s also challenging to put people in the right positions. Not only do they have different personalities and availability, it has to be a good fit. People who work with numbers all day might want to do something else.
“We make the assumption that if somebody has a skill set, that’s what they should be doing with a nonprofit,” Hall says.
Hall has asked questions, observed and figured out how to get the most out of people. He’s not the life of a party, unless he has a microphone. He and Smith are motivational speakers, which is also a fundraiser for Driven.
“Somebody told me that we only use 10 percent of our brains, and I also think that we only use 10 percent of our strength to serve others,” he says.
People flock together after tragedies like Hurricane Harvey or Las Vegas, but people in the suburbs and inner city go through personal hurricanes every day, Hall says. So, he uses his passion, work ethic and experience to push people to do more.
He used to be timid, especially when asking for money. His mindset about nonprofits has changed — it’s about who wants to align with the mission. Hall has a tattoo with a Driven “D” and block “O” because he wants action.
“We talk too much. We meet too much. We strategize too much. We research too much. And nobody is doing anything. The organizations that do things have to fight, scratch, convince, connect, cry and beg to get people to help them and serve. It doesn’t make any sense,” Hall says.
Hall and Smith have big dreams for Driven. They want to open a $25 million facility, which would include businesses.
“It’s not just that we’re mentoring kids in the sixth grade, the eighth grade or when they’re a junior in high school. Now, when they graduate, they’re the prime picking for us to hire because they’ve been in our system with us for six or seven years,” Hall says. “We know their character. We can go out and hire these young men and women and get them in position to better their lives.”