When Sports and Corporate Philanthropy Come Together: An Unlikely Partnership in the Bay Area

To follow up on some of our past coverage of sports team philanthropy around the country, we’re moving over to the Bay Area and taking a quick look at the 49ers Foundation. This NFL team recently crossed our radar because of a unique partnership that transcends boundaries between professional sports, major corporations and social changemakers.  

Related: SF's Sports Stars Provide Big Hit in Area Funding

In the name of STEM education, the 49ers Foundation recently teamed up with Chevron and a “sustainable social change organization” called Beyond Sport. The connection between sports and STEM might seem a little fuzzy, but bear with me.

The big goal of this partnership is to find new approaches to STEM education and get kids on the path to STEM careers. And in this particular case, the 49ers Foundation teamed up with a STEM funding powerhouse. The Chevron corporation has been a huge leader in STEM lately, but especially in the realm of higher ed. Chevron has invested at least $340 million in education partnerships and programs worldwide since 2013. But while Chevron’s STEM mission remains broad and expansive, 49ers giving is unsurprisingly local.


However, this sports team/corporation partnership isn’t anything new. Together, they created the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute in 2014, which aims to help students pursue STEM education through college prep curriculum, engineering labs and mentorships. And the connection goes even deeper than that. The 49ers Museum also partnered with Chevron on the Sony STEAM education program to reach around 150,000 participants with hands-on learning activities.

“The foundation is the embodiment of the 49ers commitment to being a force for change in the community," said Joanne Pasternack, the vice president and executive director of the 49ers Foundation. “We do more than just play football—we use football as a platform to serve as role models to make lasting change in the Bay Area. In today’s economy, this includes creating a pipeline for talented and academically-motivated youth to pursue STEM-related majors and careers.”

It’s not yet clear how these partners will tie a love of sports to a love of STEM, but it’s certainly an interesting approach worth following. The Beyond Innovation event in Santa Clara, California, brought together more than 200 leaders, including individuals from Pixar, EverFi, HP, and the Chelsea Football Club.

The San Francisco 49ers Foundation has been in operation for 26 years and supports development programs for underserved youth. It has donated at least $40 million to nonprofits since 1991, $4 million of which was given out just last year. The 49ers were also one of four finalists for the 2015 and 2016 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award. You can learn more about the foundation on the team’s community page.