Football Philanthropy: Where Philadelphia’s NFL Team Is Giving for the 2016 Season

Football season is well under way, which means that it's a good moment to take a look at sports philanthropy. Last year we interviewed Julie Hirshey, the director of community relations who leads Eagles Care, the grantmaking arm of the Philadelphia Eagles’ NFL team. Back then, Eagles Care was really interested in funding nonprofit capacity building around it’s topics of interest: youth, health, education, and cancer.

“Part of the vision of the program is to address needs in the nonprofit landscape right now, where there is a lot of restricted giving,” Hirshey told IP in late 2015. Eagles Care looks for nonprofits that aren’t too big or too small, but ones that are poised for growth and are really able to benefit from the Eagles’ support.

Related:How the Philadelphia Eagles Tackle Local Philanthropy

Well now, the Philadelphia Eagles has teamed up with a new batch of Eagles Care partners for the 2016 season. Here’s what the Philadelphia Eagles are focusing on with their philanthropy right now:

  • Strategic development
  • Healthcare
  • Food stability
  • Music education
  • Youth empowerment

Five new nonprofits are working with Eagles Care now and throughout this football season. After the season is over, Eagles Care will continue to be involved through community outreach events and even relied upon as mentors to guide future Eagles Care partners.

Eagles Care has been around since 2013 and has really stuck with the Greater Philadelphia region in terms of grantmaking. This stands out because some sports funders, like the Boston Red Sox Foundation, have been taking a more regional grantmaking approach and broadening their reach out to neighboring cities and states.

Related: How Does the Boston Red Sox Foundation Approach Local Giving?

Now in its fourth year of grantmaking, Eagles Care has seen quite a bit of growth, largely in part to its successful partners in Philadelphia’s nonprofit community.

“Because of this incredible partnership, our social media presence has grown, we are launching a new website this month and our partner and sponsor relationships are growing exponentially,” shared Stephanie Tomko, the executive director of marketing and fundraising for a past Eagles Care partner, Little Smiles.

So who are the new local recipients?

  • After School Activities Partnership – “high-quality after school activities and resources to empower youth and strengthen communities in Philadelphia”
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer – “connects people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support through local and national programming”
  • Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance – “prepares and delivers delicious nourishing meals and counsel to empower individuals, especially people at acute nutritional risk due to life-threatening illness”
  • Rock to the Future – “provides music education for Philadelphia’s underserved youth at no cost to them or their families”
  • Summer Search Philadelphia – “helps low-income teenagers develop the skills they need to become college-educated leaders who give back to their families and communities”

A separate but related entity that’s worth getting familiar with as well is the Eagles Charitable Foundation (ECF). This is a 501(c)(3) public charity that serves low-income children in the Greater Philadelphia region, with a focus on access to vision care and autism research and services. This foundation dates back to 1995 and has given over a million dollars for health and education programs. ECF gets its funding from the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, the fans and general public, corporations, and other foundations. Today ECF has an annual budget of about $1.7 million.

Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie recently announced that ECF is making a $1 million donation to the autism support program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the research programs at CHOP’s Center for Autism Research. At least $300,000 in net proceeds from the event in which this donation was announced will be donated to the organization as well. The money is being put to use for autism research, support for patients and families, and training for clinicians in best practices in autism treatment.

“There is a lot we all can still learn about autism and that is why we believe in the importance of providing financial support to leading institutions who are already doing amazing work in this area,” said Jeffrey Lurie. “One of those leading institutions is the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and we could not be more pleased to partner with them on this cause.”

There is currently no online application process for grants from either Eagles Care or the Eagles Charitable Foundation, so it seems that unsolicited applications aren’t being accepted from these team grantmakers. But in the past, Eagles Care has posted a questionnaire around February/March on the Eagles’ website to connect with new potential partners. After a few months of reviewing applications and conducting interviews, funding decisions are often made in July.