COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Foundation was formally launched last week by Schottenstein Real Estate Group President Brian Schottenstein and former Buckeyes’ quarterback Cardale Jones.

It’s a nonprofit organization made possible by name, image and likeness that was set up to pay Ohio State football and basketball players in exchange for working with local charities.

A board made up of more than a dozen members, including Urban Meyer and J.T. Barrett determine which athletes are offered deals.

The Foundation will rely on donations from fans and boosters rather than a business paying the athlete directly — a trend that’s popping up across the U.S. but is the first of its kind in Ohio.

From cars, to RBs for Arby’s, and mattresses, Buckeyes are finding all kinds of ways to get paid.

“If I was around and I was in school and I was a top athlete, my school would have to recruit me each and every year because my name would be in the portal,” Jones said.

As of January 23, OSU athletes made a combined $2.9 million, the highest NIL compensation of any school.

“We’re definitely heading in the right direction and I think this is going to take us to another level,” Schottenstein said.

As The Foundation’s co-founders, Jones and Schottenstein are trying to give Buckeyes money in a different way while staying ahead.

“It was around last fall I saw what some of the other schools were doing like Texas and its affiliates,” Schottenstein said. “Ohio State, we’re such a national, high-ranked team every year. We couldn’t be left behind so I said we have to start this.”

The Foundation earned its 501c3 nonprofit status earlier this year and is now seeking donations from fans, boosters and businesses.

“[We’re] giving these guys an opportunity to show fans, their supporters they’re more than just a football or basketball player,” Jones said.

There are three charities Buckeyes can pick from at The Foundation: Buckeye Cruise for Cancer, Lifetown Columbus and A Kid Again. Jones says the long-term goal of The Foundation is to raise enough money to include more charities and sign lesser-known athletes.

“Being part of the team, everyone matters,” Jones said. “I remember playing at Ohio State when I was a third, fourth string quarterback on scout team getting hammered, but I would like to think my contributions through the week prepared them to have success on Saturdays.”

Fans and boosters can donate to The Foundation’s website right now and soon the nonprofit organization will also host fundraising events and tailgates featuring the athletes.