Project Play Western NY Community Conversation

On a cold, blustery Buffalo day, over 75 people representing over 50 organizations come out to Project Play of Western New York’s Community Conversation.  The topic of the day was about creating a lasting legacy for an organization.  Many of the participants in the room were the types that sunk their hearts and souls into helping youth sports programs in the community.

As everyone filed into the beautiful venue on the Canisius campus, the sun streamed in through the high windows helping match the warmth that was evident throughout the space.

Bridget Niland kicked off the day with her charge to the organizations who receive grants from PPWNY and/or the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.   The event was held in conjunction with the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo and was well staffed by many students who are interested in sports management and business.  Bridget acknowledged the importance of youth sports and youth sports coaches. She also acknowledged some of the difficulties inherent in the coaching community.  But she said, “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says “I want to go yell at an 8-year old.””  Bridget challenged the groups to think about how they could make their organization stronger.  She gave them the perspective to understand that each organization is evaluated by grant makers because the grant maker is deciding to make an investment in the success of the organization.

Project Play of Western New York envisions a community in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports.  Every child—regardless of location, ability or income—should have access to fun and fulfilling physical activities that build confidence and set them on a path for lifelong success.

One of the focuses of PPWNY is to build operational capacity to support high quality youth sports organizations. This is done by strengthening the skills, process and resources within organizations to enable them to be more effective and sustainable.

The day was primarily divided into two sections.  The first section included presentations from:

  • Chris Price, Founder, Lifesports Solutions, CA
    • Chris focused on how to make the organization stronger by embracing the “family” so that both parents and youth athletes are an important part of the focus.  He also spoke about how to articulate your WHY, because if you can’t, you will struggle to get other people on board with your organization.
  • Rob Smith, Founder, National Youth Sports Collaborative Network, DC
    • Rob focused his presentation and building networks and the skills of networking needed to expand the support for the organization.
  • Roy Kessel, Founder, Sports Philanthropy Network, Chicago
    • Roy spoke about the pillars of running a non-profit organization and how to understand the various areas in which your organization needs support in order to create a sustainable legacy.

After each finished their presentations, the group divided up into breakout sessions to allow the participants to get a better opportunity to engage with the presenters in a small group environment. 

What I found very interesting in leading the small group discussions was the consistency of the issues raised by the groups.  While there were many issues raised over the course of the three breakout sessions, the primary areas of engagement were fundraising and board development.  It was interesting to hear from so many organizations about the struggles that they face in developing the infrastructure of their organization and the composition of the board. Board members can be a big challenge and they can also be a fantastic resource for fundraising, sponsorship, expertise and program expansion.

Bridget Niland and Alicia Contreras did an outstanding job putting the event together for Project Play of Western New York and it was a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to present (and also learn from) this group.  We look forward to our next chance to return to Buffalo to work with those groups.

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