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Why the Philadelphia Eagles revamped their philanthropy playbook

The Linc. March 8, 2016 Category: FeaturedMediumMethod
Three years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles made some significant changes to their organization.

Fans are most familiar with the coaching and subsequent personnel changes that arguably turned out to be little less than disastrous. But they might not be familiar with changes that occurred off the field: an overhaul of the Eagles’ approach to philanthropy.

“We got this opportunity that doesn’t come along often, which is to sit down and rethink how we were doing our community relations,” said Community Relations Director Julie Hirshey. “Our leadership said, ‘If you could change the way you do community relations, what would you do and how would you do it?'”

A lot of time and money had been donated to a number of nonprofits, as is the traditional philanthropic model for teams in the National Football League, Hirshey said, but the impact wasn’t nearly what the organization felt it could be.

So, it built a strategy that no other team in the league has quite caught on to yet: Instead of giving the traditional assets you’d probably associate with a football team — large sums of money, autographed jerseys and helmets — Hirshey said the team’s community relations squad re-evaluated what they have to give and saw an opportunity to add value outside of monetary donations.

Now, in addition to their traditional charitable giving, the Eagles partner with five nonprofits every year and provide skills training and capacity-building services. It’s called Eagles Care.

“Our staff love it,” said Hirshey. “It’s really an opportunity for them to give back in a very meaningful way. They are really impacting the capacity of these organizations and making them better.”

For example: If a partner nonprofit is new to customer relationship management (CRM) software, the Eagles will have their Salesforce manager show them the ropes. One partner needed a new conference table — another education nonprofit needed a wall built to create two rooms from one.

“You wouldn’t think to ask a football team for that,” Hirshey said. “Overhead in itself is not bad. We want to be giving in that space. Everything we give is unrestricted.”

Applications are open now for nonprofits to become Eagles Care partners. They need to be a registered 501(c)(3) with a budget under $10 million and at least one full-time staff member.

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There’s still opportunity to work with Eagles Care for nonprofits that don’t make the cut. Every year, the team hosts Eagles Care Summit — a free conference offering growth opportunities for nonprofit staff ranging from leadership development to media training.

This year, the Summit will be at Lincoln Financial Field on March 31 and will feature a keynote from famed TED speaker Dan Pallotta.

“The Summit is an extension of the spirit of Eagles Care,” Hirshey said. “It’s within the spirit of Eagles Care to build the capacity of the nonprofits attending by putting people who are doing the same job as them or teaching the same job as them in front of them for a day of learning.”

So far, Hirshey said, the team’s new approach to philanthropy has made a world of difference.

“What we really aim to do is create that partnership, and for us, that’s been the difference maker,” Hirshey said.

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