Sport is something special, and not just because it can keep us healthy and entertained. It’s special because it can reach us emotionally and give us a chance to be emotional together, in a way that few other things can. This gives it enormous power to change not just what we think but what we feel and what we care about. When sport and charity come together, this power can make a big positive difference to the world, so it’s worth paying it some attention.
A long-standing relationship
Sporting organisations and charities have been partners for a long time. In Victorian times, one-off sporting events were often organised as charity fundraisers, and early league football matches often gave a portion of their proceeds to charity. By the 1960s, most first division football clubs had associated charities they supported – not simply by giving them money, but by using their influence to encourage fans to donate, fundraise or volunteer. In recent years, sporting organisations have become more and more alert to what they can achieve by sending out positive messages through online outlets, as in the Rainbow Laces campaign against homophobia.
Sports stars making a difference
Last year, Cristiano Ronaldo was named the most philanthropic sports star in the world. Inspired by the care his mother received when ill with cancer, he donated £120,000 to the hospital where she was treated; he also gave £60,000 to a ten-year-old fan to pay for critical brain surgery, and £5m to earthquake victims in Nepal. Serena Williams, meanwhile, has donated money to support educational projects in developing nations, to provide water aid and to help people affected by HIV and AIDS. They are just two of the many stars using their success to make a difference in the lives of others. Their high visibility online means they can really draw attention to these important causes.
Help for Heroes
Help for Heroes, the charity that helps struggling military veterans to recover control over their lives and re-engage with civilian life in positive ways, has been fortunate enough to get a number of great sporting heroes and heroines on its side – people such as cricketer Brendon McCullum, cyclist Chris Hoy and race car driver Jodie Kidd. If you follow Help for Heroes on Twitter you’ll see updates on the great work that some of them are doing to support the charity and to help veterans directly. Now the charity is working with the GB Paralympic team as they head to Rio de Janeiro.
Sports and charities can work together at all levels, and the internet is making it easier than ever. Many clubs for supporters and fans, or associations for sportspeople themselves, run online campaigns to support charitable causes. There are always opportunities to get involved with these, either at an administrative level or simply by sharing posts or participating in Thunderclaps or similar to help attract attention. While sports organisations lead the way, you could help their efforts to reach even further.