Friday, 17 January 2014 01:37

What is a Sports Nonprofit Organization? Defining Sports and Social Change - Part 3: Sports as a Platform for Advocacy, Awareness & Fundraising

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The broadest of all the categories we’ve outlined, these advocacy, awareness and fundraising programs address all types of significant social, economic and environmental issues, and use a wide range of team sports, recreational sports, action sports, motor sports and more. Some examples in this category include:

Environmental Issues

Protect Our Winters
Protect Our Winters (POW) was founded in 2007 by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones to engage and mobilize the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change, with a focus on educational initiatives, activism and the support of community-based projects. POW is a community of proactive individuals, pro riders, resorts and corporations who share a commitment to protecting their lifestyle from climate change, and who are taking the lead in developing solutions. POW’s "Hot Planet/Cool Athletes" was created in partnership with well-known outdoor brand The North Face and the Alliance For Climate Education (ACE), and is targeted to high schools, leveraging the power of a pro athlete to inspire and motivate young people about climate change.

Human Rights / Equality

You Can Play
You Can Play is a social activism campaign dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports and is centered around the slogan, “If you can play, you can play.” You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.


Cycle for Survival
Cycle for Survival is an indoor, team cycling fundraiser founded to build awareness and raise research funding for rare cancers (pancreatic cancer, sarcoma, cervical cancer, brain cancer, ALL pediatric cancers, and several others), which make up more than 50% of all cancers. An official Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center event, Cycle for Survival began with one event in New York in 2007 and is now a national, multi-city event, has raised over $31 million dollars, and funded 53 clinical trials & research studies. 100% of the money raised goes directly to research within 6 months.

Just to clarify, as with any sort of categorization there are surely going to be organizations that either do not fit one of the specific groups I’ve outlined, as well as ones that may straddle the line between several categories. In fact, the “hybrid models” can be quite effective, as they blend best practices from several sides of the table. Right To Play is one of those, providing sports programming for underserved communities around the world, often times in conflict zones and much of it with a development focus, while also working to advocate and raise awareness for many marginalized populations.

Looking ahead, one area I'll touch on in a future post will be the emerging Social Enterprise space, where companies and organizations are using business principles and revenue models to tackle social issues. Social Enterprise is still a very new concept in the sports industry, but we’re seeing more interest in the space and I look forward to highlighting some of these unique companies for you.

Game on!

Also read:

Defining Sports and Social Change - Part 1: Sports Programming for an Underserved Community

Defining Sports and Social Change - Part 2: Sports Programming as a Development Tool

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