by Danielle Berman

What is Sports Philanthropy?

Sports philanthropy is the idea of making a social impact in the community through the world of sports. This social impact can range from grassroots sport for development programs to campaigns involving a sports property to individual initiatives involving a professional athlete. Sports philanthropy is the umbrella for all community impact work done using sport as a tool.

Different Types of Sports Philanthropy

Sport for Development

Sport for development is one of the most common ways to participate in sports philanthropy. Typically this work is done in grassroots organizations in different parts of the world working with disadvantaged youth, but this arm of sports philanthropy is diverse as well.

Organizations like Harlem Lacrosse, Generations for Peace, Soccer Without Borders, Up2Us and many more are all labeled as sport for development organizations. has pages and pages of sport for development organizations in their database if you need some more examples. While sport for development hasn’t yet taken off in the United States, internationally it’s fairly commonplace.

Professional Athlete Community Work

The most exciting and talked about sports philanthropy work is usually that work including professional athletes. These athletes, whether through their own foundations or through a partnership with another nonprofit, support a campaign, promote an initiative or show up for a meet and greet all to help a good cause. Whether it’s a back to school drive, an anti-bullying program, encouraging people to recycle, a school visit to sign autographs or a sports camp, all of these are a part of sports philanthropy. Athletes also are typically the vehicles through which professional sports league and team community work is executed.

Professional Team or League Community Programs

As we mentioned just above, another branch of sports philanthropy is professional sports leagues and teams and the charity work they do on a daily basis. Almost every (if not all) professional sports team and league has a community relations department of some sort and those staffers are tasked with making an impact via their organization. If you go to a sports game and you see community initiative advertisements, 50/50 raffles or fundraisers, veterans being honored during breaks, etc, these are all a part of the organization’s commitment to their community.

Initiatives that involve athletes and coaches across the team or league like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Kick Cancer, My Cause My Cleats, and Shred Hate are all various pro team league initiatives that support a cause in the national or international community, and thus fall under sports philanthropy.

Sport Development

Sport development is not always what comes to mind when we think of sports philanthropy, but it is just as important. Sport development is the promotion of a sport to encourage increased participation and awareness.

As an example, lacrosse has been undergoing a major sport development growth spurt in the US and internationally. This push is getting more young people involved in sport, keeping them active, and investing more into the local communities, businesses, etc. involved in the sport. The current overarching issue in sport development here in the US is the pay to play little leagues, sports complexes and youth travel league programs.

While these are by no means every example and division of sports philanthropy that’s out there, we wanted to give our readers an idea of all the opportunities out there in this field. As Nelson Mandela once said, sport has the power to change the world. Whether it’s a small grassroots community program, or a major league initiative that involves your favorite athletes, there are endless opportunities to make an impact through sports philanthropy.

Danielle Berman

Founder & CEO, Tackle What's Next

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