Promoting Sport as a Philanthropic Cause in Australia
6 June 2018 at 4:15 pm
Sport needs to present itself as a philanthropic cause and communicate its importance to a healthy society, according to the Australian Sports Foundation, which has recently set up a charity to access greater funding to promote social inclusion through sport.
Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) CEO Patrick Walker told Pro Bono News that in the past, professional sport in Australia had largely been funded through federal government grants from the Australian Sports Commission.
Even down to a local level, the ASF CEO said local sports clubs tended to go to local councils or the state government when in need of funding for things like a new clubhouse or sporting pitch.
Walker said this needed to change and that philanthropy was the answer.
“We feel that sport ought to be looking to tap into philanthropy and the support of their community to get extra funding into sport at all levels,” Walker said.
“Sport hasn’t really thought of itself and presented itself as a philanthropic cause and yet sport is at the heart of every healthy community.”
Walker said the benefits of sport to the wellbeing of society was evident.
“If you look at some of the social challenges facing Australia at the moment, we’ve got obesity for example with one in four children obese or overweight. And yet 80 per cent of our kids don’t get enough daily activity,” he said.
“Sport is not the sole answer, but sport is a great way to get kids in particular more active and leading healthier lifestyle.
“There are also benefits for mental health, with incidences of anxiety, stress and depression lower for people who participate in sports, particularly team sport.”
Walker said this showed that sport was a worthy philanthropic cause, but admitted sport had not effectively sold itself in that way and it had not clearly communicated how important it was to a healthy, cohesive society.
To try and further the philanthropic cause of sport in Australia, ASF recently established a charity – the Australian Sports Foundation Charitable Fund.
Whilst ASF has Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, it is not a charity, and is therefore unable to access distributions from most Private and Public Ancillary Funds.
After the ASF Charitable Fund was registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), the ASF successfully lobbied for the charity to be given DGR status from 1 July this year.
In a National Sports Plan submission last year, ASF said it expected this would help the organisation raise an additional $25 to $30 million a year for charitable community projects involving sport by 2022.
ASF will also aim to reach an equivalent level of funding to that currently distributed by ancillary funds to the arts and cultural sector – $55 million a year – within a decade.
The submission said this would have significant benefits for sport in Australia.
“[A] benefit to this approach is that it will avoid the need for individual sports and clubs to establish their own registered charities and obtain DGR status for any charitable projects they may seek to fund,” the submission said.
“The Sports Foundation’s Charitable Fund will provide a low-cost and efficient means for sport to access this additional source of philanthropic funding.”
Walker said the charitable fund would also significantly benefit the community in general.
“There are a whole host of areas where sport is demonstrably important to particular classes of people, they could be socially disadvantaged people, they could be Indigenous groups, they could be people with a disability,” he said.
Walker recently visited a fundraising event for the Pararoos, Australia’s Paralympic soccer team, which receive no government funding.
He said the provision of funding to sporting causes like this sent a signal to the broader disability community.
“You can look on the one hand, that it will benefit the 10 or 15 people with cerebral palsy or an acquired brain injury for whom playing football and the chance to represent Australia is massively important,” he said.
“But the signal that sends to the 700,000 Australians with acquired brain injuries and the 34,000 Australians with cerebral palsy, is way more important than just those 15 people running around on a football field.
“It’s actually a signal to the disability community that you could have an active, fulfilled life. You can participate in sport and if you’re good… you can represent Australia.”
Walker said the ASF Charitable Fund’s purpose as a charity was to help those with a social disadvantage to benefit through sport and also to promote the health of the community through participation in amateur sport.
The charitable purpose of the organisation is listed with the ACNC as: “Purposes beneficial to the general public and analogous to the other charitable purposes.”
This is due to “advancing amateur sport” not currently being recognised as a charitable purpose in Australia.
Krystian Seibert, an industry fellow at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University, told Pro Bono News it was pleasing that it would soon be easier for philanthropy to fund sport.
“Unlike in jurisdictions such as England and Wales, advancing amateur sport is not a charitable purpose in Australia. However, sport can be used as a way to advance other charitable purposes, such as addressing disadvantage,” Seibert said.
“Because of this, the new Australian Sports Foundation Charitable Fund will only be able to support sporting initiatives which are directly linked with a recognised charitable purpose.
“Despite the limitation, with the fund having both charitable and ‘Item 1’ deductible gift recipient status, it will be easier for philanthropy to fund sport, and that’s a really positive development.”
Seibert noted that this also raised a broader debate about what was considered a charitable purpose in Australia.
“Given the benefits of sport, there’s a broader debate to be had about whether Australia should follow the lead of England and Wales and make advancing amateur sport a charitable purpose in itself,” he said.
Walker said it was “a significant step forward” that ancillary funds would soon be able to invest into sporting programs in Australia.
“The way ASF works at the moment, we’re a conduit for sports clubs that don’t have DGR status to access tax deductible donations effectively working in partnership with us,” he said.
“So after 1 July, we want to engage with the sporting community and help them… to look at ancillary funds in their network or in their community as a potential source of funds.
“And I think it will enable us to build relationships with ancillary funds, and seek funding arrangements where the funds are used to promote social inclusion through sport and promote healthy activity through sport across Australia.”