The Big 5-0

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 9th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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It’s not too soon to get excited for football season.  Preseason starts the 9th of August; regular season the 10th of September.  And just in case you don’t know, this year’s Super Bowl will be the 50th.

The San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee has already been hard at work.  Everyone, from the NFL to the people of the Bay Area wants to make this the best Super Bowl ever, including how much money is given to local charities.  The 50 Fund, the charitable arm of the 50 Host Committee, plans to give away more than $13 million (it wants to top $13 million, the most money given away, to date, by a Super Bowl host location) to organizations working on closing the opportunity gap for children, youth and young adults.  And the giving has started!

Every Tuesday since March 3 of this year, the 50 Host Committee has announced a new recipient of one of 50 $10,000 Playmaker Grants—a grant for a specific project that will start and finish within 90-120 days of the grant application deadline grants.  Recipients must be at least three-year old, community-based organizations with operating budgets of at least $100,000, located in the Bay Area communities they serve.  As of this writing, a dozen have already been awarded.  Game Changer Grants are $500,000 operating grants for organizations with a program(s) with a track record of success as measured by third-party evaluations and have potential for expanding that impact.  Five of these grants have been awarded, with a second round awaiting the announcement of the application deadline.

Now here comes the inevitable “but.”  The 50 Host Committee has already raised $40 million.  Fifty grants at $10,000 and however many rounds of five grants of half-a-million each doesn’t equal $40 million.  And even the promise of more donations to come isn’t going to eat up $40 million.

So, what gives?  Only 25% of what the Committee raises is being donated to charities; the rest is going to the Super Bowl revelers—parties, pregame events, fans, etc.  I get it:  25% is way better than nothing.  But, only 25%?  On top of this, I can’t help but ask, “From where is all this money coming?”  Their stated target is corporations.  What corporation wouldn’t want to be part of a Super Bowl?  Being a corporate sponsor probably costs less than buying ad time during the game itself!  And while I am sure the 50 Host Committee will attract corporations that haven’t and would never consider giving (big) money to a nonprofit, I would also think that a good number of corporations that donate to the Host Committee are the same corporations that are already key donors to the Bay Area nonprofit community.

Will this seemingly wonderful effort add sufficient new money or simply cannibalize the existing pool and displace the giving?  Or, will Bay Area corporations get into the spirit and give “extra” dollars to the Host Committee while leaving their “normal” charitable dollars to do their usual good work?  Regardless, there is value in the fact that this massive giving campaign is giving the smaller guys strong access to the fruits of the campaign through the Playmaker Grants.  And that’s nothing to scoff at.

Blackbaud just released its analytics from the 2014 Giving Tuesday (held December 2):  that 24 hour period generated $46 million dollars, of which 74% went to the large guys—those who already bring in more than $10 million in fundraising annually.  The little guys—those who raise less than $1 million annually—got only 5%, albeit a 2% increase over 2013.   Small Bay Area nonprofits are going to make out better than the nation’s small nonprofits did on December 2, 2014.  And in so doing, the children, youth and young adults of the Bay Area will make out even better—even though they aren’t being given tickets to the game.  And that’s what giving is all about.

Go Super Bowl 50, although it’s unlikely I or my team will be there.

The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.