With Giving Tuesday recently behind us and the holiday season now upon us the notion of “gift giving” is at the forefront for many of us these days. In recent weeks an organization called Charity Intelligence Canada published an article suggesting people need to “Keep … your wallet in your pocket when it comes to giving to professional sports foundations”. It was a bold statement accompanied by a fulsome report that garnered national media attention.
The Ottawa Senators Foundation (OSF) wasn’t immune from the coverage. And that’s okay. We want our supporters and donors to ask questions. We’re proud of our 20-year history of giving back to the National Capital Region. In that time the OSF in partnership with its fans has gifted more than $30 million to hundreds of charitable organizations and programs. We endeavor to be transparent, intentional and accountable in all areas of our business.
It is very important to us that our supporters, fans and people within the region understand that not all revenue raised by the OSF is the same and this is where Charity Intelligence Canada is doing a disservice to people and communities that are fortunate enough to have large pro-sports teams in place with Foundations. Lumping all of our revenue and expense sources together isn’t a fair or accurate portrayal of our actual business. Simplifying our revenue as “donations” is grossly inaccurate because in reality only 10% of our gross revenue actually comes from philanthropic donations — those that would qualify for a charitable tax receipt. The remainder of our revenue is generated by way of gaming, event sales, event sponsorships, and auctions. None of this revenue qualifies for a charitable tax receipt and is not charitable in nature.
Professional sports teams and their Foundation have a unique opportunity to raise funds that other charities wouldn’t as a result of their powerful fan affinity, celebrity, and entertainment brands. But these revenues can’t be confused as donations. By way of example, the largest revenue stream for the OSF is gaming revenue from its 50/50 raffle. Fifty percent of this revenue is given to the winners of the raffle draw. These winnings are recorded as a fundraising expense. For example, in the 2017-18 season the OSF took in $2.7 million through its 50/50 raffle ticket sales. We gave $1.35 million to winners and had an additional $260K in expenses (lottery licensing fees, gaming system fees, part-time staff salary, uniforms, bank fees, postage, marketing, office costs, etc.) to run 82+ raffles in Ottawa and Belleville. After this $1.61 million in expense is recorded we have more than $1+ million left to support charities throughout the region. Yet, Charity Intelligence Canada would tell you this XX of our organization as only $.41 of every ticket sale ended up supporting charities.
With respect to the funds we generate through signature events, such as the Senators Soiree, the direct expenses of the event, things like venue rental, event production, décor, food & beverage, and entertainment, are costs that are offset by our event sponsors. Sponsorship revenues are not “philanthropic monies”. Nor are the monies we take in by way of ticket sales or auction items. These are purchases people are making and are getting something back in return. In this case it’s a first class, black tie event, with the full hockey team in attendance. We create an opportunity in our community for people to mix and mingle with NHL celebrities and after all event expenses are reconciled, the OSF generally has $250K-$350K to give back to charities. Remember, none of the money to put on this event came from charitable donations.
In the context of philanthropic campaigns, whereby the Foundation is seeking donations from individuals/corporations, for example, like in our recent Tornado Relief Campaign in September of 2018, which resulted in $285K from individual and corporate donors, we endeavour to invested 100% of those types of gifts made to the Foundation back to the community. In this specific case we not only invested the $285K we received but added an additional $100K to disburse $385K to seven different charities in Ottawa and Outaouais focused on food security and mental health support services. We even absorbed the fees charged by the Go Fund Me platform.
The Ottawa Senators Foundation and Hockey Club are very proud of our work supporting charitable causes throughout the National Capital Region and the partnership we’ve built with people like you who believe in the work the impact our work is having. Please trust that your “gifts” to us, both philanthropic and otherwise, are being put to very good use within our community and are making a measurable difference.
To learn more about our collective impact together, please check our ‘What we do‘ section