NFL Draft Leads Latest Creative Philanthropic Efforts

Welcome to this week’s TMR Sports Philanthropy Spotlight…Today we look at sports-centric philanthropies getting creative around COVID-19 pandemic efforts with insights from Sports Philanthropy Network’s Roy Kessel.

As the first big “live” sporting event since the COVID-19 crisis began, tonight’s NFL Draft is expected to garner some of the largest ratings in history. People stuck at home thirsting for live action are eager for the Draft to quench their thirst.

Handed the sports world’s undivided attention, this spotlight has created some unique opportunities for organizations to expand their fundraising efforts.

As expected, the NFL leads the way with its “Draft-A-Thon.” Featured on the live Draft broadcast across all platforms, and paying tribute to healthcare workers and first responders, the Draft-A-Thon’s goal is to raise funds to help support six national nonprofits and their respective COVID-19 relief efforts:

The NFL has already done a stellar job spotlighting the work of its teams and players as they come together in support of COVID-19 relief.

Many NFL teams, owners and players are undertaking their own efforts with Philadelphia Eagles‘ GM Howie Roseman spearheading an effort to bring NFL GMs together to raise money. Roseman organized his peers–and many NFL head coaches–to donate $1,000 per draft pick to the NFL’s fundraiser. With more than 250 picks, Roseman is targeting a minimum of $500,000 from this initiative based on $2,000 for each team’s pick ($1,000 from the GM and $1,000 from the coach).

In addition to Roseman’s spark, other recent initiatives include:

And how can we not recognize NFL partner Anheuser-Busch and yes, even everyone’s favorite commissioner-to-hate, Roger Goodell, for having a sense of humor? Bud Light Seltzer‘s fancentric campaign will donate $1 to the Draft-A-Thon for every Tweet using the hashtag #BooTheCommish.

Besides the large-scale initiatives of the NFL and large national organizations, smaller foundations, individual teams and social entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the spotlight to support their initiatives.

Rivals Media, founded by John Cioe, has launched interactive draft-related games which allow fans, donors and supporters to play along in real time or set their picks in advance. Five teams then created their own team-branded version of the Rivals Media game, giving fans the chance to win prizes such as season tickets or special team-related experiences:

“We are excited to launch this free sports challenge to make the NFL Draft a more engaging experience,” said Cioe. “With the sports world on hiatus due to COVID-19, we know fans are eager to find a way to engage with the Draft and contribute to the philanthropic efforts of their favorite organization. In addition to the team programs, we are proud to launch the Sports Philanthropy Draft Challenge in conjunction with the Sports Philanthropy Network to help community-based sports organizations impacted by coronavirus. We are proud that our technology and platform is available to be used by these organizations to overcome the devastating impact of coronavirus.”

The Sports Philanthropy Draft Challenge will feature a “Celebrity Leader Board” to encourage athletes and celebrities to use their social media platforms to inspire their friends and rivals to compete against each other in order to raise more funds for the impacted organizations.

While the NFL Draft dominates coverage this week, it is far from the only game in town.

The All-In-Challenge, launched by Fanatics and its founder Michael Rubin, has gathered some of the largest names in sports to create over 170 auctions and sweepstakes. Together with ESPN employing its massive reach to provide a lot of high-profile publicity, all funds raised from the All-In Challenge are going exclusively to provide food to kids, the elderly and frontline heroes. At press time, the initiative had already raised over $15 million and shows no signs of slowing down.

Among the amazing array of opportunities, here are a few of our All-In Challenge favorites:

In addition to the All-In Challenge, more noteworthy efforts this week include:

Looking Ahead

As we head into warmer weather and some states elect to loosen the restrictions on outdoor activities such as golf, it will be interesting to watch whether organizations attempt to use golf outings as an opportunity to gather supporters together and raise funds. Some southern states have left their courses open and Georgia and South Carolina are now opening other parts of their states as well.  Even midwestern states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa have opened their courses.

Since golf outings are a popular fundraising tool during the summer and since the nature of golf allows a reasonable degree of social distancing, this is potentially one type of fundraising event that could be held, even in the midst of the crisis. Creating an opportunity to connect and engage with donors (even without a dinner or the usual post-round activities) could allow organizations to start the healing process. These types of golf events may spark creativity for those groups that incorporate virtual fundraising tools to hold auctions and raffles.

We will examine fundraising technologies and strategies in an upcoming Sports Philanthropy Spotlight.

Jump to last week’s TMR Sports Philanthropy Spotlight: “Sports Nonprofits Fight to Adapt to New Normal” HERE.

Roy Kessel is the Founder of the Sports Philanthropy Network. Roy has worked in the sports business world for over 20 years including serving as an instructor in Northwestern University's graduate Sports Management Program. Having served as a sports lawyer representing athletes, entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, Roy has extensive experience helping organizations improve their strategy, marketing, communications and leadership development.