What is Sports Philanthropy?

Sports. Philanthropy. When standing alone, people understand what these two words mean but what happens when you put them together – Sports Philanthropy? What the heck does that mean?

Sports philanthropy combines the world of sports with the non-profit sector. Everyone knows that philanthropy means, “doing good,” and is associated with charitable monetary donations to areas such as arts, education, housing, health, social welfare, and the environment. The concept is the same when talking about sports philanthropy. Let’s start by defining sports philanthropy…

Sports philanthropy: that emerging sector of corporate philanthropy in which professional sports teams, clubs or leagues donate money, time or other goods in kind to specific causes – such as youth sports, health, economic development, etc.

People currently view professional sports organizations and their philanthropic strategy as a powerhouse with no focus. In the past, these organizations tried to be everything to everyone and therefore fulfilled as many requests that were made of them. The players signed balls and gave them to various charities, which still happens today, but that was the extent of the social good. In a way, this was a positive thing because it got the ball rolling on social responsibility.

 As sports properties have grown in prominence, so has the sentiment that they must do more for the community beyond wins and losses.
– Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal (September, 2009)

These days sports organizations are finding ways to give back to the community in a substantial way. The players feel good about their presence in the community, the fans feel good about what’s going on but most importantly, there are measurable outcomes on how the communities benefit. Teams and individuals can have positive (or negative) effects on society. Sports philanthropy is unique because of the assets and intangible advantages that nonprofit organizations and foundations don’t have.

Assets – cash, tickets, facilities, sponsors, season ticket holders, luxury suite holders, vendors, professional staff, and ownership.

Intangible advantages – the economic development opportunities, employment opportunities, the power of convening, media coverage, and player reputation.

The philanthropic impact that these sport organizations can have on the community is due to theses influential variables. It is clear that enlightened self-interest motivates philanthropy in any organization but when implemented effectively, the benefits can be positive for everyone.