What is Athletes for Hope?
Athletes for Hope is a charity, founded by philanthropic-minded high profile athletes back in 2007.
As athletes who share a deep commitment to giving back, our founders joined forces to create an organisation that brings athletes together, to educate, inspire, and empower them to channel their energy for a common goal: to make a difference in the world.
Q1: What does Athletes for Hope Australia do?
Athletes for Hope Australia has been established to inspire and empower athletes to discover, connect and engage with community causes: “inspired athletes, better communities”.
In Australia, the program includes:
“Discovery” workshops: free of charge, thought-provoking, interactive and tailored educational workshops that help athletes discover their personal passion/purpose and explore the value of community service.
Skills training: Ongoing tailored training to develop relevant leadership and personal skills essential to optimise each athlete’s engagement with community organisations including:
Storytelling and teamwork;
Exploiting social media;
Empathy, connection and resilience.
Connection: We connect athletes with appropriate cause-based organisations that align with our athletes’ areas of passion.
Athletes for Hope Australia is working with National Sporting Organisations and other stakeholders to operationalise the program and provide it free of charge to Australian sports and athletes.
Q2: How does Athletes For Hope Australia benefit athletes, sports and community organisations?
For athletes: better performances, a sense of purpose, perspective, mental resilience and skills for life.
For sport: a quality, turnkey program that can be adopted into wellbeing programs without cost. Balanced, high performing athletes can help raise the profile/reputation of their sport.
For community organisations: can use an athlete’s profile and efforts to amplify the impact of their organisation.
Q3: What is the background of Athletes for Hope Australia?
Athletes for Hope Australia is the first international chapter of “Athletes for Hope”, founded in 2007 in the United States by a number of high-profile athletes, including Muhammad Ali, Andre Agassi, Mia Hamm, Alonzo Mourning and others. Athletes for Hope was established to educate, inspire and empower elite athletes to make a difference in the world. Nearly 7,000 major league, Olympic/Paralympic and college athletes have signed onto the program over more than 13 years.
Q4: How is Athletes For Hope Australia funded if it is provided free-of-charge to athletes and sports?
Athletes for Hope Australia relies on philanthropic funding to deliver its programs to sports, teams and athletes free of charge. A single investment in Athletes for Hope Australia can support dozens of community organisations and change the lives of hundreds of athletes.
Q5: What are "Ambassador Athletes" and what are required of them?
To support Athletes For Hope Australia (AFHA) in our promotional and operational efforts to attract funding and enable us to provide the program free-of-charge to athletes and sports, we are looking for Ambassador Athletes. AFHA relies on Ambassador Athletes to champion the cause by promoting the Athletes for Hope Australia program and the importance of community service in an athlete’s sporting (and post-sporting) career.
Our Athlete Ambassadors:
Understand the importance of and have proven experience in community service;
Readily demonstrate their own passions and links to community causes; and
Are effective advocates, prepared to share their own stories, as to why community engagement is so important to athletes, their sports and the community.
The involvement of our Athlete Ambassadors would include:
Athletes being promoted as an Ambassador for Athletes for Hope Australia via our website and social media channels, including through the use of their image to promote the program and the importance of community engagement by athletes;
Cross-promotion of any community work athletes would like Athletes for Hope Australia to showcase, both in our materials and in workshops as leading examples of community work undertaken by athletes;
Introductions to appropriate potential funding and community partners in your network;
An invitation to participate in our Athlete Ambassador advisory group to ensure that the program materials and marketing materials are fit for purpose; and
Invitations to attend or participate in 2-3 AFHA events/campaigns/promotions per year, which may include corporate networking/fundraising events, athlete/community events, and potentially awards functions.
Q6: Is this program better suited to professional athletes, who can more easily donate their time rather than unpaid athletes, who may need to sacrifice paid, part-time work hours?
The premise behind AFH Australia is to inspire and support all elite-level athletes to discover, engage and connect with community organisations. This means helping them to discover their philanthropic side, whether they are paid or unpaid athletes. We believe – and it is backed by evidence – that athletes who have a number of “strings to their bow”, are more rounded people who have better mental wellbeing and ultimately, better on-field performances.
The initial engagement with AFH Australia is only to participate for up to two hours in a “Discover” workshop with us that is often fitted around other education or team sessions. It is then up to each individual athlete whether to progress to:
the next “Connect” phase to explore their best match to a community organisation that aligns with their individual interests, values, passions, strengths and background; and
depending on their background and experience, personal skills training modules to help develop them as individuals and maximise their impact in the community.
Ultimately, there is also a time commitment required to engage with community organisations. This can be as much or as little as they can afford to offer. The hope is that athletes realise their passion for community service and intrinsically want to give back to the community.
We strongly believe that the AFH Australia experience will drive a deep personal connection to athletes’ chosen causes, as well as help athletes with their career pursuits, both during and after their athletic career. This has been the US experience.
Q7: What evidence is there to support the belief that, athletes with broader perspectives and who engage in meaningful activities outside of their athlete careers, perform better?
Not only has this been the experience of the original Athletes for Hope organisation founded 14 years ago in the USA, but recent studies by Australian academics support this premise too. A few of those studies are linked below for your information.
Purcell, R., Gwyther, K. & Rice, S.M. Mental Health In Elite Athletes: Increased Awareness Requires An Early Intervention Framework to Respond to Athlete Needs. Sports Med - Open 5, 46 (2019) https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0220-1
Rice SM, Purcell R, De Silva S, Mawren D, McGorry PD, Parker AG. The Mental Health of Elite Athletes: A Narrative Systematic Review. Sports Med. 2016;46(9):1333-1353. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0492-2
Sutton J, McIlwain D, Geeves A, Bicknell K and Williamson K Sustaining Elite Performance: Emotional Skills and the Mental Game in Australian Professional Cricket (2018) Macquarie University.
Q8: How does Athletes for Hope Australia fit with community engagement programs that Olympic athletes undertake with the AIS and AOC?
AFH Australia is an adjunct to those programs. We support the AOC “Olympics Unleashed” school visit program and the AIS “Athlete Wellbeing & Engagement” offerings which focus on compliance, mental health, careers, professional development and community engagement.
Olympics Unleashed intends to inspire the next generation of athletes through school visits, whilst the AIS community engagement program is developing through incremental partnerships with community causes for which athletes may be asked or volunteer to become an ambassador for a specific cause.
AFH Australia complements these programs by delving deeper with athletes to explore with them their personal interests, motivators, interests and backgrounds. It then matches athletes with a community organisation that shares their passion for a particular cause.
In addition, AFH Australia can offer skills training to athletes to enhance their impact in any community engagement, whether organised by us or by the AOC/AIS.
Q9: Can you provide some background on the operations and governance of AFH Australia?
Athletes for Hope Australia is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. Overseeing our operations is our Board of Directors including Malcolm Speed, Leon Zwier, Sue Stanley, Lisa Hasker and Chris Downes. Iain Roy and Laura Johnston also sit on the Board as co-founders.
AFH Australia is the first overseas chapter of the successful US program founded by a number of high-profile athletes in 2007, such as Andre Agassi and Mohammad Ali. We have a close and supportive relationship with our US colleagues, who are also keen to ensure funding support for, and the program success of, our Australian operations.
The AFH Australia operating model is to deliver our program to sports free of charge thanks to the donations of philanthropic and corporate partners. As at 21 August 2020, our operations are subject to funding. However, we are currently undertaking fundraising activity and are confident that our workshop offering later in 2020 will be supported.
Q10: Are there any limits on the community organisations AFH Australia will work with?
We are in the process of determining a range of partnerships with community organisations in Australia. Whilst our aim is to align athletes with causes and organisations that match their passions, we do have some limits on the types of community organisations we support.
We vet charitable organisations that approach us to ensure their probity, and only approach organisations that align with a particular athlete’s passion if they are reputable. We use the Australian Charity Reputation Index and other quality assurance tools for this assessment.
Q11: Will athletes participating in the AFH Australia program promote AFH Australia, their sport or their individual sponsors when representing AFH Australia?
AFH Australia facilitates the introduction and engagement between organisations and the individual athletes. Athletes are representing themselves, although by extension, that also means they are representing their sport, sponsors, etc.
Should a sporting team or club want to engage with a community organisation as a result of their AFH Australia experience, in this case, athletes will also be representing their team or club.
Q12: What provision is there to manage conflict of funding or sponsor partners? If sports that are sponsored by X and AFH is funded by Y, who are in the same sponsorship category, how is that managed? Will your funding partners be silent or seeking exposure?
There is unlikely to be a material conflict. Our preferred model is to secure funding from philanthropic foundations. However, any AFH Australia funding partners - corporate or philanthropic - will be:
formal partnerships entered into in accordance with our Partnerships Policy;
recognised on our website and in collateral materials. This should not impact individual athletes when they are engaging with community organisations. We do not ask athletes to acknowledge our funding/sponsor partners.
Q13: How will AFH Australia engage with athletes? Will it be optional for athletes to participate or mandatory?
AFH Australia offers workshops to our sporting partners free of charge to the entire athlete cohort. Other sports or clubs may approach us to request their athletes attend an AFH Australia workshop.
At the end of our initial “Discover” workshop, we ask athletes to sign on as members of the AFH Australia cohort. This provides athletes with access to training and to our matching process with community organisations. We prefer as many athletes to sign on as possible but we understand that not all athletes will.
Q14: What staff support/resources does AFH Australia need from sport partners to arrange workshops?
Very little. AFH Australia can work with a sport’s Athlete Wellbeing & Engagement Manager or Community Engagement team member. All we need to do with that person is arrange a mutually convenient date, time and venue for the initial workshop. Those team members assisting us to coordinate logistics are welcome to attend our workshops too.
From there, AFH Australia do the rest with each individual athlete who signs onto the AFH Australia program. Of course, AFH Australia values its sport partnerships and will regularly report to our partner sports about progress.
AFH Australia also wants to help you build the profile of your sport or clubby showcasing successful community engagement case studies. To do this we would need to work with your marketing/communications team.
Q15: Who will coordinate the athlete 'appearances'?
AFH Australia prefers to think of athlete involvement with community organisations as “engagements” or “connections”. They are not appearances in the same way they may be asked (or be required under contract) by their sport or club to go to a school or charity for a couple of hours, once or twice a year. Once in the AFH Australia program, we want the athletes to find an organisation they resonate with and spend as much time as they can with them!
The process of connecting an athlete with their chosen community organisation is something we do. We also encourage athletes to self-manage their visits or engage their manager (where there is one) to coordinate with the rest of their schedule. Our experience is that athletes become passionate about their cause and they liaise directly with the organisation. All we ask in that instance is that they let us know when they are going, so we can keep track of how many engagements our athlete cohort is undertaking.
Q16: Who will manage costs associated with getting athletes to and from their engagements?
Most connections are local, in which case athletes tend to organise their own travel. As noted above, the success of our program is in having athletes connect with a cause and when this happens, it becomes something the athletes throw themselves into, travel costs and all!
Of course, if there are additional hard costs such as getting athlete ambassadors to another city for an event, we would discuss covering those types of costs.