Wall Street gets behind the Olympic games

May 24, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

High-profile financiers are stepping in to support future Olympians.

By Katie Benner, writer

Former Olympians in Beijing march toward better funding.

Former Olympians in Beijing march toward better funding.

FORTUNE -- The U.S. Olympic Committee needed a better way to raise money. Until recently, direct mail -- the USOC's primary source of private donations -- yields on average a $20 gift from those who donated. "We were raising less in private contributions than the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs," says Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for the USOC.

To bring in major gifts, the kind of six and seven figure checks that are the lifeblood of most non-profit organizations, the USOC created a contribution-based board of trustees in 2010. Trustees commit $300,000 over a four-year term, as well as the time and energy necessary to host events and raise money. High profile Wall Streeters including Dan Loeb of Third Point and Rick Rieder of BlackRock have volunteered. "The Olympics is about national pride and, at the same time, global unity," says Kevin White, the founder of Spring Hill Capital and one of the USOC's original trustees. "Never in my adult life, have I seen the nation or the world so polarized. But the world will put that aside during the games, and that's a remarkable feat."

The USOC's trustees are now working to put together a team of volunteer money managers who are willing to manage a pool of funds for the USOC, free of charge. "We are tapping world class investors who care about amateur athletics and the purity of sport to invest on behalf of the USOC," says White. The managers will also dig into their own pockets to reimburse the fund for any losses. Future Olympians might not need an extra job.

For more on the London Summer Games, click on the links below

The (very big) bucks behind the 2012 Olympics
Wall Street gets behind the games
Henry Kissinger: Scholar, statesman, Olympic fan
Will NBC's Olympic investment pay off?
Rich Sport: U.S. Olympic swimmers float on cash
Poor Sport: When Olympic athletes have to moonlight
London locks down for the Olympics
BMW's ultimate Olympic machine
13 steps to keeping the London Olympics safe
London's extreme Olympic makeover

This story is from the June 11, 2012 issue of Fortune.

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