As summer fades and the air starts to get crisp, we all know what’s coming: football season! Regardless of how many times we failed to make our high school team, there’s one football-related game that all of us can play. I’m speaking, of course, about fantasy football! Not only is fantasy football fun and competitive, but it can also be used to support a charitable cause. A win-win scenario!
Here are some stellar examples of fantasy football leagues that gave back to great causes.
A few celebrities have hosted high-profile fantasy football leagues that raise both awareness and money for a cause. Granted, getting a celebrity sponsor may be more difficult than getting the number one pick in your draft, but in the end, a celebrity could help your cause even more than a star running.
For instance, Jerry Cantrell, guitarist of rock band Alice in Chains, ran a fantasy football league in 2010 filled with celebrities. At the beginning of every season, each celebrity put items up for auction, and at year’s end, the champion chose a charity to receive all of the auction’s proceeds.
Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals star pitcher, launched his own charitable fantasy football endeavor over the summer. Wainwright and three of his teammates will each play in their own 12-team fantasy league. The other 44 spots are up for grabs by anyone who’s willing to pay the $2500 entry fee, 100% of which will be donated evenly between Operation Food Search and Water Missions International. But the $2500 gets you more than a chance to play fantasy football with professional athletes. Every league member gets a great prize package just for playing.
If your scrappy fantasy football league can’t afford a celebrity endorsement, there are other options. Much like Wainwright’s league, an event is a great way to get people excited about playing and donating. The Warren Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities is holding their charity league draft at Cowboys Stadium. Understandably, not everyone can afford to rent out a professional football stadium complete with 11,520 square foot Jumbotron, but reserving a room at a restaurant or community center will bring out plenty of excited fantasy footballers for the atmosphere alone.
You can throw however many parties for your fantasy football league as you’d like, but it won’t be worth it if you don’t have anyone to play. When it comes down to it, the players are the most important part of your league. Students at the University of Michigan started a club for philanthropic fantasy football, engaging an entire college campus with the potential to have fun and do good. To make the deal sweeter, half of the $30 entry fee would be donated to a charity of the player’s choice, while the other half went to a charity to be determined by the league champion. Regardless of their team’s outcome, players knew they were donating to a charity they believed in.
Or, if you want to work on a larger scale, you could target whole businesses. That’s what the Alternative Small Business Lending Community did when they started their fantasy football league. By inviting businesses to play rather than individual players, they were able to raise over $5,000 to go to the charity of the winner’s choice. Despite being competitors, 12 businesses came together through the good, wholesome fun of fantasy football.
When done right, fantasy football can bring about a lot of good. Here are some tips if you want to turn your annual league into a philanthropic powerhouse:
- Generate buzz: Let people know you’re working for a good cause! Then, people outside of your weekly poker night will be interested in joining. Whether it’s a party, an endorsement, or any other way to get the word out, your fantasy league will prosper if people are talking about it.
- Provide incentive: This can be as simple as allowing participants to choose the charity. If they can choose who they want to help, they’ll want to play. You can also offer prizes.
- Have fun: At the end of the day, the point of fantasy football is to have a good time. If people have a positive experience, they’ll come back in the years to come.
See you on the field! Excuse me, see you on the Internet!