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NFL Inspire Change Initiative Closes in on $250 Million Giving Goal

Another round of grant renewals with 21 of its nonprofit partners now has the NFL Inspire Change program at nearly 98% of its commitment to a quarter of a billion dollars in giving.

A 10-year, $250 million commitment from the National Football League is nearly complete — and several years ahead of schedule. On Wednesday, the NFL announced $6.5 million in grant renewals across 21 of its Inspire Change nonprofit partners, bringing the total to $244 million in just six years’ time.

As part of this announcement, the NFL will be highlighting the 21 organizations that are receiving renewed funding, all of which are working to create positive change in communities across the country and to ensure that access to opportunity is a reality for all with a focus on four key areas: education, economic advancement, police-community relations, and criminal justice reform.

“I have been saying for some time that I thought we would exceed the goal pretty quickly,” said Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility. “It’s a milestone but it is not the end. I think that is something that we want to make very clear. We are not going to hit [the goal] just yet but the likelihood is that we are going to hit it at some point in the 2022 season. And that means it’s just a moment in time and we are going to continue giving. This does not reflect an ending.”

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The league has a total of 37 grant partners, but that number does not include other funding streams like player-matched grants. Boardroom spoke with two of the NFL’s grantees, both of whom sang the program’s praises.

“Unlike the league, we don’t have a $100 billion media deal and one of our greatest challenges, so few people who could qualify for Per Scholas and who want to launch careers in technology actually know about us,” said Caitlyn Brazill, Chief Development Officer at Per Scholas, in an interview. “We don’t want to be a best-kept secret, and our partnership with the NFL really helps to elevate the message of the works that we do to both potential learners and employers who are seeking diverse tech talent and are looking for partners to help them with hiring needs that they are increasingly desperate for.”

Adam Vasallo, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s Chief Marketing Officer, shares a similar sentiment regarding his organization’s partnership with the league.

“The partnership is a total game-changer for our organization because the NFL has a huge platform and they have earned access into homes across America. And as a national nonprofit you want to be a household name,” he said. “And through our work with the NFL, we have had several wonderful engagements where we have been able to stand alongside them and reach that massive audience.” 

Preceding the Inspire Change announcement are two prominent issues the league faces that are both ongoing. The first is the case of the Washington Commanders organization and owner Daniel Snyder, whom a Congressional committee has accused of “concerning business practices” and workplace misconduct. The second regards Steelers assistant and former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who is suing the league and three individual teams alleging discrimination regarding, among other things, interview processes that made a mockery of the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

Many of the organizations the league partners with through Inspire Change work specifically against the kinds of systemic forces alleged to have produced harm in those two cases.  When asked about the topic, Isaacson said that “at the NFL, it is our job to make an impact on society and to use our platform for good, and that is what we are trying to do here with Inspire Change and through our grant partners. That does not mean that you may not face challenges as an organization.”

As she continued, “I think that we have to address those as well, but it does not mean that we stop doing what we are doing on the social responsibility side. It makes our commitment and our work even more important. It just means that we have to take a more strategic and focused approach when you find yourself in a challenging situation.”

Over the years, the NFL has implemented a number of additional initiatives and events to elevate Inspire Change, including My Cause My Cleats, Salute to Service, designated Inspire Change home games, and stickers with five different phrases oriented around social justice themes.

For now, the league is still deciding how it will activate around the initiative in the upcoming season. Notably, by the time the fall rolls around, there is a strong possibility that the 10-year $250 million commitment will have been met.

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