The events of June 2020 brought a monumental change to American life, as the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis led to widespread anti-racism protests throughout the United States. Individuals and organizations are going through the long-overdue process of understanding how they can be actively anti-racist and serve as an ally to BIPOC communities going forward.
Major U.S. corporations are also now reckoning with their own performance on race, pledging to support underserved communities through both financial investment and improved anti-racist policies. In the immediate wake of the June protests, corporations pledged more than $1.7 billion to causes addressing anti-racism and social justice. However, in many cases, the exact recipient of these donations remain unclear. Beyond the good intentions of pledging money, effective plans and partnerships are key; consumers are holding corporations to account for insufficient action on social justice, and new donations will take place under the magnifying glass of public scrutiny.
Companies are taking different approaches to their new donations and social justice programs. In many cases, priority is being given to organizations dealing with the immediate impact and ramifications of the Black Lives Matter protests: EA Games committed $1 million to causes including the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund; Etsy and Everlane are donating to the Equal Justice Initiative, and Lululemon has donated to multiple local Minneapolis organizations.
In addition to supporting the organizations working on the ground to address the very real problems of the moment, other corporations are taking a broader view of the situation and considering how their donations can have an effect at the root of underserved communities. Allocating resources to educational and community-based initiatives could deliver a long-term benefit to predominantly-BIPOC neighborhoods, extending the impact of corporate donations.
Leveling the Playing Field
One particularly appealing option, among many worthy and viable choices for corporate support, is youth sports programs, which offer a broad range of positive effects for their participants. The benefits extend beyond the obvious improvements in physical fitness, although these are also not to be overlooked: youth sports programs lead to healthy long-term habits, as adolescents who play sports are eight times more likely to be active at the age of 24 as their peers who do not play sports. But additionally, youth sports participation points to stronger education outcomes and job performance. Most notably, 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are former athletes. And according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, high school athletes are more likely to go to college and earn a degree than non-athletes (students in team leadership positions are even more likely to succeed).
Corporate donations to youth sports leagues can eliminate the barrier to entry for underserved communities, enabling children to begin playing a sport without having to consider the costs of equipment, lessons and participation fees. These high costs often prove to be insurmountable for children from families with low household incomes: a recent White House report suggests that “lower-income children experience up to an 18 percent participation gap relative to their higher-income peers.” According to a survey from the Aspen Institute, the average cost of participation (for one child in one sport) is $692 per year.
Supporting at Scale
The financial outlay required to support a youth sports league—providing equipment and facilities, organizing lessons and events—is comparatively small when considering other corporate social responsibility efforts; just $10,000 could renovate a field, provide personal protective equipment for an entire league, or cover registration fees for 50 children. This provides an opportunity for well-meaning corporations to deploy their resources at scale, helping to ensure a meaningful experience with life-long benefits to children in communities around the country.
With the benefits of youth sports participation clear, the task now is to ensure that every child has access to well-organized and well-resourced opportunities. For those corporations considering how to make the most out of their support for social justice causes, they would do well to identify and connect with youth leagues in their area. These partnerships will allow corporations to see the results of their support over the long-term and become a visible ally in underserved communities.