Giving Compass' Take:

• Sarah K. Fields writes for HistPhil and spotlights the need for more scholarly attention directed to the history of athletes' philanthropy. 

• As professional sports continue to grow and salaries continue to rise, athletes and organizers have encouraged and required young participants to give back to their communities. How can more scholarly research on the history help guide more efficient donations?

Here's an article on a mentorship program that uses athletics to reach youth. 

Athletes are a complicated group. Sporting figures have long been celebrities, but they have not always been wealthy either as a class or as individuals. And yet they have long been involved in various ways with philanthropy and charitable works, both as givers and as recipients. For example, stories abound of athletes who, prior to their success, were reliant on charities and the kindness of strangers to make their way. Babe Ruth famously spent time as a child in an orphanage, and Michael Oher, a professional football player, lived in various foster homes until he was adopted by an affluent family when he was in high school—a story documented in the Oscar winning film The Blind Side (2009).

Beginning in the twenty-first century, a new trend has emerged, deepening the relationship of athletes to philanthropy. More and more college and high school athletes (and some even younger) have been encouraged, if not directed, to volunteer in their communities. Most college athletes are required either by their coach or their athletic department to participate in community service events such as visiting children in hospitals or speaking to students in grade schools. As a result, by the time they turn pro, many top-level athletes see the value of philanthropy both as a means of giving back and as a way of boosting their personal and their team’s brands. Not surprisingly in recent years, many of these athletes have made high-profile philanthropic donations to, or used their celebrity to help raise funds for, a wide assortment of causes. And yet given this trend, little scholarship exists about athletes and philanthropy. This essay offers some examples of this phenomenon, asking more questions than it answers in the hopes that it spurs additional research on the topic. It argues that the lack of attention athletes’ philanthropy has been granted is connected with the ways in which they have often been regarded as childlike and their commitments outside the realms of sport trivialized.

Read the full article about sports philanthropy by Sarah K. Fields at HistPhil.