This is a guest post from Julie Hirshey, Director of Community Relations for the Philadelphia Eagles.
When I tell people that I work for the Philadelphia Eagles and what I do, I usually get one of two reactions: “That sounds amazing!” or “That sounds hard.” My answer is always yes. One of our biggest challenges is how to balance the desire to be of service to as many people as possible while still creating genuine impact. For years, it seemed impossible to do one without sacrificing the other.
Three years ago, we got a gift from Eagles leadership that doesn’t often come along, particularly in business. We got the opportunity to take a step back, reevaluate our strategic giving and then move forward in whatever new way we saw fit. (Like I said… a gift!) In doing this, we reviewed our giving and calculated the value of our donations in contrast with the true impact we were having on the community. Let’s just say the equation was off.
So we went back to the drawing board. We reviewed our mission, our core issue areas and looked at what we considered to be our biggest assets. We also wanted to make sure that we were representing the values of partnership and teamwork that are so important to our organization. What we learned through this process was that if we broadened our view of our assets and narrowed the focus of our giving, we could amplify our impact. Eagles Care was born.
Through Eagles Care, we focus on capacity building in nonprofits, working to provide great nonprofts with the assets they need to evolve into their best selves. We do this through some traditional giving but the focus is now on non-traditional giving, nonprofit staff development and creative problem-solving.
Throughout the season, our Eagles Care partners receive our full support via education, mentoring and resource allocation. In addition to traditional giving – money, player appearances, autographed items that they might auction off for fundraisers – we provide leadership training, marketing support, public relations counsel and development help, guidance with social media platform management and more. All of this support comes from Eagles staff who are eager to truly engage with these nonprofits to provide meaningful help. In order to get to the heart of how our staffs can help them increase their capacity to help others in the community, we encourage these nonprofits to start by asking themselves not what they THINK we can do for them, but what they could actually benefit from. We then go through a process of matching our resources with their needs.
The range of aid we have given is wide from arranging for donated furniture from our corporate partners to help with computers, graphic design and messaging sessions that help the leadership and often the boards of these nonprofits boil down their missions in creative ways. Our facility management team even helped a partner with construction needs by building a wall in their work space – a simple task that overnight doubled the nonprofit’s ability to serve its community.
At its core, the Eagles Care program is a year-long partnership between the team and the nonprofit that allows both organizations to grow and learn about the shared community we all call home. This partnership has created profound impact not just on the nonprofits but on the community at large because we see that strong nonprofits do indeed build strong communities. But the impact does not stop there, our employees have been touched by this new program as well in ways we had not expected. The staff is eager to help, to learn more about the way the nonprofits work and to offer help based on their knowledge. It feels good for both partners.
With every passing year, our Eagles Care Network continues to grow larger and larger. Now in our third season, we have developed relationships with 15 local non-profits who we continue to support even after their year-long partnership is over via connections and special support when needed. We have become a resource for them and they have become a resource for us as well. But perhaps more importantly, those non-profits have developed relationships with each other that will allow them to support each other for years to come. They are now working together because they experienced firsthand the lessons of community partnership.
Although we believe this is an approach that is unique in the NFL and sports in general, we hope that it is a model that other organizations can mimic. Through our nonprofit partnerships, this new approach has allowed us to meet our challenge and provide meaningful aid and service to our community.
Julie Hirshey is the Director of Community Relations for the Philadelphia Eagles where she works to execute the team’s mission to serve as proud partners of the Philadelphia community. In this role she leads the team’s efforts to support generations of Eagles fans and works to partner with non-profits throughout the region.