Three Key Takeaways from LeagueApps FundPlay Summit 

By LeagueApps
May 3, 2021
5 min

Sports play a crucial role in positive youth development—and the proof is in the numbers. High school athletes are 6% more likely to graduate from a four-year college compared to non-athletes (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2018), physically active youth are 10% less likely to be obese (Aspen Institute Project Play), and kids that participate in sports are less likely to suffer from depression (New York Times, 2020). And the list goes on. 


At LeagueApps, we believe everyone should have access to these positive outcomes, but children from underserved communities often miss out on this opportunity. That’s why we created Fundplay, a program providing tech, training, and support to sports-based youth development (SBYD) organizations across the country. 


In an effort to double down on our support for SBYDs, we hosted our first ever FundPlay Summit on April 29th– a special event designed exclusively for impact-driven leaders dedicated to increasing access to youth sports. The summit featured workshops and networking sessions focused on helping SBYDs build capacity and continue impacting their communities. 


We were joined by incredible speakers including Tom Farrey of the Aspen Institute and Project Play, Nichol Whiteman of the LA Dodgers Foundation, and Lindsey Sharp of DC United to discuss everything from youth sports advocacy to nonprofit fundraising. 


Read on for three major takeaways from the event and to discover resources and grant information for your SBYD organization. 


1. Youth sports advocacy is all about collaboration. 

In the opening keynote Tom Farrey spoke with New York State assemblymember Monica P. Wallace about a recent piece of legislation that was passed to allocate NYS tax revenue from mobile sports betting to youth sports organizations. 


Wallace led the advocacy effort for this unique proposal, which originally called for 5% of mobile sports betting tax revenue to be allocated to youth sports. While the final deal did not land at 5%, she was able to secure a grant fund that steers 1% of tax revenue toward youth sports and recreation during the first year and $5 million annually after that. 


This legislation is a major win for youth sports and a historic initiative as Farrey explained: “New York is the first state to legalize sports betting with dedicated support for youth sports programs. It’s a game-changing idea, and hopefully, a model for other states. Taking from the treetops of sports to fund community-based play just makes sense.”


So what was the secret to Wallace’s success? What is the key to successful advocacy for youth sports? According to Wallace, it’s all about collaboration and creative partnerships. 


Wallace described the network she built to garner support for the proposal– from tech companies to non profit organizations to grassroot youth sports programs. She thanked LeagueApps, the Aspen Institute, South Bronx United, and policy-makers for helping her push this legislation over the finish line. 


In the closing minutes of the keynote, both Wallace and Farrey encouraged the audience to build this kind of collaborative network whenever advocating for youth sports with local, state, or national government. To watch the full keynote session Mobile Sports Betting and Youth Sports in New York State, click here


2. Data is the key to running a successful SBYD organization. 

As a sports-based youth development organization, it may seem difficult to measure the success of your programs and the overall impact you are making on the community in which you operate. But, according to Nichol Whiteman and Sally Munemitsu of Hello Insights, it’s not impossible! 


And, what’s more, our panelists believe that data collection and measuring impact are essential to the future of your sports-based youth development organization. Here’s why:


  • Data and reporting create a culture of accountability and transparency. Rather than guessing at what programs and initiatives will make the biggest impact in your community, data can give you a real framework to work from. This can make your work more effective and impactful in the long run as you hold yourself to a standard backed by data. Basically, the data holds you accountable.

    Plus, being transparent with your data can increase performance across the board. Knowing that you will openly calculate and report out on your impact data means that you and your employees are likely to step up your performance so you can share something you’re proud of.

  • Data can help you make better real-time decisions about programming (which will help you in the long run). Rather than just using data for impact reports that get shared out at the end of a year or strictly for attracting donors, data can steer your choices on a daily basis.. Data around participation rates, churn rates, and more can help you improve your programs in real-time––ultimately improving participant retention and your holistic impact in the long-run.

  • Data can help you tell a compelling story to funders.  While you may have a great cause driving your organization, donors are less likely to offer you funding unless you can back up your story with numbers. Donors need proof that they are making a sound investment and that their money will have a real impact. 


To get tips on the systems and best practices for collecting and analyzing data, watch the full session recording here



3. There are tons of opportunities for fundraising. It’s simply about making the ask. 

In the final session at FundPlay Summit, we sat down with CEO of US Rowing Amanda Kraus to discuss her top tips for nonprofit fundraising. 


In 2002, Kraus started a non-profit called Row New York by putting $5 into a bank account and reading a book about non-profits. She found a lake to row on, built out the board, raised money to get things up and running, and eventually grew an organization with a $5 million operating budget. 


In August 2020, Kraus was brought on as the CEO of US Rowing to replicate many of her strategies and successes from Row New York, particularly her proven fundraising methods. 


During her workshop, Kraus listed out all the potential sources for SBYD fundraising: foundations, government funding, corporate funding, parents and families, board of directors (if you have one), and more.  


Her #1 tip for nonprofit fundraising? Simply make the ask. 


Many of our participants talked about the awkwardness of asking for funding or the fear of rejection when it comes to soliciting donors, but Kraus assured the FundPlay audience: “foundations, government, your board of directors, and more exist to give money away. Remember that you’re not raising this money for you. It’s for a cause.”


Plus, she encouraged participants to not be afraid to make the ask during challenging times like the pandemic. People are more likely to want to lend a helping hand, especially if you tell a story around how these challenging times are impacting the efficacy of your organization and the kids you serve. 

To watch the session and get access to Kraus’s full list of fundraising tips, click here.  



Resources for SBYDs


  • If you are interested in becoming a FundPlay partner, click here for more information. 
  • If you’re interested in getting free training for your coaches from the Positive Coaching Alliance, click here
  • If you’re interested in learning about our partnership with Hello Insight and exploring how they can help your organization measure its impact and success, click here
  • Need equipment for your organization? Apply for a Good Sports grant by clicking here



Click here to find the complete library of recordings from the FundPlay Summit.