THE BLOG
01/14/2015 08:27 am ET Updated Mar 16, 2015

Plus Sport vs. Sport Plus: Understanding the Difference

For nonprofits, the name of the game is fundraising. Whether grants come from large corporate donors or individual philanthropists, organizations can't reach their goals and help their communities without financial support, so organizations have to showcase why they deserve donors' resources.

In choosing which organizations to support, grantors consider different factors, including the specific cause, the organization's objectives and its recent results that demonstrate effectiveness. Once the grantor chooses a specific cause to support, the leading factor for selecting one organization over another comes down to demonstrating visible, tangible results that showcase how the nonprofit achieves success.

The sport for development space is still very young, but its influence is growing quickly. Donors looking to enter the sector must understand the difference between two types of organizations that have emerged -- Sport Plus and Plus Sport. These two have very distinct goals and use sports to achieve them in various ways. Here's a topline breakdown of how they differ:

Sport Plus - The main objectives for these programs are increased participation in sports which is achieved by non-profits reducing the barriers to entry to sports by providing resources, equipment and coaching. Secondary benefits like general fitness and health, development of life skills, education, etc. can result from these programs.
Plus Sport - Organizations put the emphasis on sport being used as the tool that is able to help forge social change. Plus Sport organizations are more focused on the non-sporting outcomes that result from the programs such as increasing positive education outcomes, providing mentorship and guidance or reducing gang violence.

Both types of organizations provide great services and opportunities for children. However, it's important for people, and potential donors, to understand the difference and how to measure success for each.

Traditionally, it's much easier to show specific results for a Sport Plus program. For example, a Sport Plus organization can say that it used X amount of dollars to purchase Y amount of soccer balls that are now being used by organizations in a community. Or X amount of money was used to construct public basketball courts in the city, and therefore a certain number of kids are now able to play basketball. For a corporation or individual donor, these tangible results are often key in the decision making process when choosing a non-profit to support. People often feel more comfortable giving to a Sport Plus organization because it's easier to see statistics on exactly what their donation provided to the community.

Plus Sport organizations often have more difficulty showing specific results since they are more invested in the overarching social issues. It is a much bigger challenge to demonstrate that a school district saw an increase in graduation rates due to a particular soccer for development program than it is to simply showcase the number of kids that are now playing soccer. These programs are intentionally designed to improve the cognitive and social emotional well-being of children, improve personal skills, and/or specific outcomes around health or education. The investment goes to essential pieces of the puzzle like providing coach mentors or health education. These programs are designed so their impact is felt beyond the playing field and their participants are put on a path to success in life.

Traditionally, Plus Sport organizations had difficulty measuring their success because of a lack of tools in the market to assess outcomes and a lack of resources invested in measurement and evaluation. However, a huge shift is on the horizon that will help Plus Sport organizations better showcase their work and demonstrate direct correlations to youth development. For example, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA is partnering with Aqumen Social Technologies on the implementation of an end-to-end measurement impact solution called inFocus, which makes it much easier for Plus Sport organizations to demonstrate specific results such as how implementing a program that provides trained coaches can have a positive effect on graduation rates, obesity levels, reduction of gang violence, etc. This is a huge step forward for Plus Sport organizations to merchandise their great work and help donors understand exactly how their money is being put to good use.

Measurement tools like InFocus take time to show results. In order to truly judge the changes that are being made in a social issue category by a Plus Sport organization, it is a long measurement process that can span many years. For example, some programs might be trying to impact high school graduation rates but who work directly with 10-year-olds. Therefore, it is essential for donors to factor in what the long-term vision is for their donation. Time, tools, capacity and other resources are essential for Plus Sport organizations to demonstrate measurable results and impact.