Researchers take closer look at charities
Kathy Babiak started thinking about sports-charity work after a presentation on corporate social responsibility. A Michigan professor in...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Kathy Babiak started thinking about sports-charity work after a presentation on corporate social responsibility. A Michigan professor in kinesiology-sports management, Babiak started a research project, the first academic look at sports philanthropy.
"The growth in the last 10 years is huge," she said. "There's a huge potential to make a difference."
The project is in its early stages, with Babiak and Scott Tainsky, a doctoral candidate in sports management, collecting data. Eventually, they want to evaluate the quality of charity in sports during a period when bunches of new charities pop up every season.
"We don't want to mistake," Tainsky says, borrowing an often-used phrase, "activity for progress."
First, they looked at the percentage of major professional teams with their own foundations. They found 100 percent in baseball, 93 percent in the NHL, 84 percent in the NFL and 77 percent in the NBA.
Then they studied athlete charities in the NBA, using the most recent 990 tax forms. Of 91 players who claimed to have charities, only 43 had tax records and 41 had data.
Those players ranged in age from 22 to 40, in salary from $771,123 to $19.1 million, and in pro experience from three to 16 years. The players who started charities were older than the league average and made significantly more money than the league average during the 2005-06 season.
Their charities held average assets of $495,017, a number skewed by Dikembe Mutombo's charity ($12.8 million in 2005). The median was $17,625. The same held for the amount spent on program services, with an average of $102,653, but a median of $28,582. The researchers also found that NBA players spent almost as much on average on fundraising and administration ($49,323) as they gave away in grants ($59,628).
Two former Sonics superstars provided a stark contrast in terms of the share of expenses that went toward program services. Sixty-five percent is considered solid. Ray Allen came in at 75.5 percent; Gary Payton at 15 percent.
Tainsky also collected data on the missions of NBA players' foundations. He found that 18 focused on youth in general and 10 focused on youth education.
The researchers hope to answer several questions.
"Athletes and teams are brands," Babiak says. "So we want to find out why they started these. Why are athletes doing this? Does this work make them more popular? How much is for good business? And how much is really for the cause?"
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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