January 2, 2024

How Sports and Philanthropy Make for a Winning Team

Author National Philanthropic Trust

From a neighborhood basketball hoop to a colossal soccer stadium, sports can be an incredible uniter, capable of inspiring millions and making real change. The same can be said for philanthropy. In fact, sports nonprofits made up 25% of the organizations where individuals volunteered in 2019 alone.

Sports philanthropy may conjure up images of headlines about all-star athletes making record-breaking donations towards causes they care about or alums donating to their alma maters. But for individuals or organizations with a passion for sports, athletics and building connections within their communities, they can make their own significant impact through giving vehicles like donor-advised funds (DAFs).

National Philanthropic Trust has compiled a non-exhaustive list of nonprofit organizations whose work and missions embody the passion, teamwork and unity of sports. (We also encourage donors to research all organizations prior to entering a grant recommendation.)

For donors interested in women’s athletics

Women’s Sports Foundation

Founded by legendary tennis player Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation has been on a mission since 1974 to “enable all girls and women to reach their potential in sports and life.” Through advocacy, research, programs and resources, the organization works to uphold the “true promise of Title IX” and gender equality in sports.

U.S. Soccer Federation

In 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation changed the game, as it were, when they closed the pay gap by agreeing to pay the U.S. Women’s National Team the same as their male counterparts. The popularity of the women’s team only continues to grow, with millions worldwide inspired by their fortitude, spirit and teamwork.

Girls on the Run

With programming spanning from third grade through eighth grade, this organization connects teams and volunteer coaches (both in-person and online) to “inspire girls to build confidence and other important life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and physical activity.” This is especially important when considering that girls face more health inequities worldwide.

Association for Women in Sports Media

With sports media remaining “overwhelmingly male and white,” those who want to support the advancement and growth of women (both students and professionals) in this space can look towards the Association for Women in Sports Media. The organization has a three-pronged approach to their mission, including serving as a positive advocate for women in sports media.

For donors interested in youth athletics

Good Sports, Inc.

Scientists have repeatedly proven the importance of sports and physical activity for children, but what happens when a school or community doesn’t have the resources available to make them accessible? Headquartered in Braintree, Massachusetts, Good Sports, Inc. supports youth organizations by providing gear and cutting overhead costs.

Pro Kids First Tee

California is known as a haven for golfers around the world, but for the youth at the San Diego-based Pro Kids First Tee, it means even more. Providing opportunities for underserved children in grades two through 12, the organization promotes “character development, life skills and values through education and the game of golf.”

City Kids Wilderness Project

With crime continuing to spike in the Washington D.C. area, the efforts of the City Kids Wilderness Project feel more needed than ever. The D.C.-based group provides outdoor programming for students in the region in grades six through 12, including biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding, kayaking and summer camp trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Ed Snyder Youth Hockey & Education

Philadelphia is a city that takes its sports very seriously, and their philanthropic sports endeavors are no different. Established by the late Philadelphia Flyers Chairman, this Pennsylvania-based organization aims to create opportunities for the region’s “under-resourced youth” to “prosper in life” through their programs, including year-round hockey.

For donors interested in athletes with disabilities

Move United

According to 2023 data, there are about 42.5 million Americans with disabilities. With a goal to ensure that 90% “of all Americans live within fifty miles” of one of their facilities, Move United’s overall vision is that “every person, regardless of ability, has an equal opportunity to participate in sports and recreation in their community.”

Special Olympics

What started as a backyard summer camp for people with disabilities has since become a beacon of hope and strength for countless people worldwide since 1968. Today, Special Olympics supports more than “six million athletes with over 200 programs…and more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions each year.”

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Research has shown that for veterans, participating in activities like sports can have both “physical and mental benefits and improve [the] quality of life.” Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) provides adaptive sports and recreation services for veterans, including their partnership with the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Challenged Athletes Foundation

Individuals with physical challenges face far too many barriers when it comes to participating in sports, including, as studies have found, a “lack of opportunities.” Challenged Athletes Foundation works towards creating a movement “through which physically-challenged athletes are accepted and respected at the same level as able-bodied athletes.”

About the Author

Aly Semigran is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She has been writing and editing professionally for over 15 years, with articles in Billboard, Well + Good and Mic, among many other notable publications. In addition to her editorial background, Aly has a Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. She resides in Philadelphia with her dog.