Defining Sports and Social Change: Sports Programs for Underserved Communities

This post is by guest blogger Howard Brodwin of Sports and Social Change, a sports marketing firm focused on cause marketing, CSR and social enterprise development.

What is a sports nonprofit organization?

In developing cause marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs around sports, this is a question my organization runs into quite often. While some people are familiar with a few well-known sports related nonprofits like Special Olympics or the Boys and Girls Clubs, the breadth and depth of what the programs in this space provide is truly unique. Recognizing the differences surrounding how these programs work and what type of impact they strive for are vitally important to anyone who wants to create an effective for-profit/nonprofit relationship in sports.

For those of you who come from the business side of the equation, I hope this provides a clearer picture of the overall sports nonprofit landscape so you can make better-informed decisions when selecting a nonprofit partner for cause marketing campaigns or broader CSR initiatives.

So what is a sports nonprofit program?

Sports programming for an underserved community

This is usually the easiest category to explain to the uninitiated, as the basic premise with these types of organizations is to provide a sports program or physical activity to a community of people who otherwise would have limited or no access. Here is where we find sports programs for people with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, as well as programs for economically underserved communities. The sports programs themselves are wide ranging and can include all types of team sports such as baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey and lacrosse, and individual activities like surfing, skateboarding, cycling, golf, swimming and running.

Implementation costs and logistics vary greatly here depending on the chosen sports activity, the program capacity and the size of the community being served. Access to facilities and equipment are much needed here, as they are usually paramount to service delivery. After-school programs commonly fall into this category, as the ability to utilize school grounds and facilities alleviates one big hurdle; although, that may also bring with it logistic / transportation challenges and liability issues.

What these programs do share are many of the tangible benefits and life-skills that are gained through sports participation – discipline, preparation, teamwork, leadership, commitment, mental strength, goal-setting, overcoming obstacles, and most of all, fun. Add in the overall benefit of physical health and well-being – one that many participants might overlook because they’re having too much fun – and you have the recipe for an impactful program.

Here are some examples of sports programming for these communities:

Sports Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities

A.skate Foundation - The A.skate Foundation holds free skateboarding clinics for children with Autism and provides grants for them to purchase skateboarding gear.

The Miracle League - The Miracle League provides opportunities for children with developmental disabilities to play baseball and promotes the construction of special baseball fields and facilities that meet the unique needs of players with disabilities and their families. In addition, Miracle League has created accessible and adaptive playgrounds for children with physical and developmental challenges.

Sports Programs for People with Physical Disabilities

US Power Soccer Association - The USPSA is the US governing body for Power Soccer, the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users.

Blind Judo Foundation - The Blind Judo Foundation provides financial support, training and coaching to blind Judo athletes, and professional development activities, information and educational for coaches on how to work with visually impaired children and adults.

Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) - Challenged Athletes Foundation provides funding, training, education and support to “help people with physical challenges get involved, and stay involved, in sports.”

Sports Programs for Economically Underserved Communities - SkiDUCK operates and supports skiing and snowboarding programming for disabled and underprivileged children in the Western US.

Pitch in for Baseball - PIFB collects and redistribute new and gently used youth gloves, bats, balls, uniforms and other baseball and softball equipment to underserved communities in the United States and around the globe.

Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) - RBI is a Major League Baseball initiative whose mission is to increase urban and inner city youth interest and participation in baseball and softball by re-introducing, reviving, and rebuilding America’s pastime in underserved communities.

In future posts, I’ll provide some examples where sports is used as a vehicle to address critical social issues like education and literacy, disease and homelessness, and also outline programs that use sports as a platform for advocacy, awareness and fundraising. The sports space has much to offer for those interested in cause marketing, CSR and social enterprise – game on!”

To learn more about nonprofit organizations that may be a good partnership fit for your company, join us in Anaheim, CA on May 1st and 2nd for the Business4Better Conference and Expo where we will explore building better communities together. 

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One thought on “Defining Sports and Social Change: Sports Programs for Underserved Communities

  1. Pingback: Defining Sports and Social Change: Sports Programming as a Development Tool | Business4Better Blog

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