It may not feel like it for those of us in the Northeast quite yet, but Summer is right around the corner.
How do I know? Because baseball is back!
I love going to the ballpark. Even if you don’t really like baseball, most people can admit that going to a Major League game is fun. Hot dogs, beer, Summer breezes, singing songs. It’s one of my favorite Summer activities.
When you go to a Major League Baseball game, you’ll undoubtedly hear something about what that team is doing in the community.
In fact, just about every team in “The Bigs” has their own charitable foundation that supports various causes in their hometown.
This got me thinking: which team has the most generous foundation?
The Most Generous Baseball Team Foundations
Before we start, a caveat: this isn’t exactly an easy question to answer.
Professional sports teams give in a lot of different ways: money, in-kind donations, brand exposure, volunteer days, and more.
Then there’s the players themselves. Just about every famous athlete has a cause that is close to their heart that they generously support with their time and finances.
The problem is, these things can be a bit hard to track and measure. What’s the value of a donated bat with one player’s signature versus another? How much value does a mid-inning plug for a nonprofit on the jumbotron really have? Players often give in secret, making measuring the impact of the entire team as a whole difficult.
Plus, there’s a loooooot of baseball players out there.
It makes comparing teams difficult, and hardly an apples-to-apples comparison.
So rather than compare overall team giving, or account for individual player donations, I decided to compare cash grant payouts by each team’s foundation.
Just about every team in Major League Baseball runs a foundation that serves as their charitable arm (there are a few exceptions, but we’ll address those in the list). I looked up the latest 990 available for each organization to find out what they paid out in cash grants to the community in the prior year.
Why limit it to cash grants?
For one, it avoids the issue of trying to compare the value of various in-kind donations and community appearances.
Secondly, as a very wise group of men once said: Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M!).
I wouldn't argue with those guys. I heard they're nothing to mess with.
Seriously though, I don’t mean to belittle the importance that a team lending its voice to a cause can have, but I think teams that give their communities and the nonprofits that serve them cash grants should be lauded. It shows a certain level of dedication and sacrifice on their part that I admire.
And with that, here’s your Top 3 most generous baseball teams!
Oh, before that, special thanks to GuideStar for making 990’s so accessible and easy to find!
1. The Boston Red Sox (The Red Sox Foundation) - $5.7M
It might not come as a surprise that some of the most profitable and popular teams also give the most, but the Red Sox differentiate themselves even amongst the most popular teams in the nation.
The Red Sox Foundation gives and gives a lot.
Turns out, there’s some history here.
Back in 2002 when the Sox were bought by three out-of-state businessmen, they signed a contract with the Massachusetts attorney general promising to give at least $20M over 10 years to the Boston community.
They ended up giving over $52,000,000 over the next decade.
That giving trend has continued into the next decade, with the Red Sox outpacing grant payouts by the next most generous team by a full $2.1 million dollars.
Which brings us to…
2. Chicago Cubs (Chicago Cubs Charities) - $3.6M
“Hey Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are gonna (give) today!”
Another big market, high value team here in the Chicago Cubs! Despite a long history of struggles on the diamond, the Cubs have a fiercely loyal fanbase, and apparently that translates into being generous in the nonprofit world too.
One of the signature programs the foundation supports is their Cubs Scholars Program, which awards college scholarships to inner-city high school students every year. Check out this student who won $5,000 per year to go to his education!
3. The Arizona Diamondbacks (Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation) - $3.3M
This one really surprised me! The Diamondbacks are one of only eight teams that spend under $100 million on their roster salaries every year, yet they’re kickin’ butt when it comes to grants awarded by their foundation!
Maybe it has something to do with their fans being so supportive of nonprofits?
Last year, a group of young women were caught on camera taking some selfies between innings and were teased by the announcers. The video went viral, earning them some criticism (*cough* sexist *cough*) from online audiences.
Yeah, because you really need to be laser focused on baseball the whole time you’re at a game (cue eye roll).
The Diamondbacks offered the girls free tickets to a game to make up for all the action they missed.
The women politely declined the tickets and asked that they instead be donated to a local nonprofit that assists families who are victims of domestic violence.
Boom! Take that, snarky announcers!
The Rest of the League
Here’s the remaining teams in a handy spreadsheet that you can sort to your heart’s desire!
Couple quick notes to keep in mind:
- While the Padres list a foundation on their team site, I was unable to find a recent 990 for them, despite my best efforts. The numbers in this table are from the most recent available, 2001.
- The Detroit Tigers partner with an existing nonprofit, Ilitch Charities, Inc. rather than forming their own foundation.
By the way, if you're curious, here's what each team spends on their roster payroll.
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