Linda Mantai is Vice President of Flyers Charities, the charitable nonprofit arm of the Philadelphia Flyers and a new member of the Satell Institute. She explains how the work of the Flyers extends off the ice, and why their organization is investing in the greater good through corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Is CSR a popular concept in professional sports right now?
“CSR is so hot right now, especially in professional hockey. The NHL All-Star Game in Tampa this past year even had a whole presentation just on CSR. We have to find a way to give back. We work in sports and entertainment, but if people leave satisfied from a game we’ve only done half our job – we need to find a way to bridge our connection to the community. Our mindset is that we’re very fortunate to do what we do, now let’s turn around and pay it forward.”
How do you identify which causes to give to?
“As much as we like the fact that we’re so diversified in our giving, there are just so many organizations looking for help. We want to be sure our money is making an impact. That’s why committing to a charity for a longer period of time (a period of 4 or more years) makes sense to us, because we know the recipient is getting the full weight of that donation. The types of causes we give to are almost always causes that affect the constituency of our team – from the players, their wives, the coaches. It’s important to us to identify causes that mirror the concerns of your organization and the needs of the community.”
Do other sports teams share your CSR interests?
We’ve found there is tremendous excitement about CSR, and by this point almost all teams within each major sports league have established their own foundations. The Philadelphia Flyers are no exception, and Flyers Charities gives to more than 100 charities across the Philadelphia region each year.
How much money has flyers charities given away to various causes over the years?
“As an organization, we’ve helped give away many millions over the past 42 years. It all began in 1977, when one of our players was diagnosed with leukemia and the team wanted to help with medical costs, so they came up with the idea of holding a carnival. That carnival made $85,000, and our Founder & Chairman (the late Ed Snider) saw value in keeping it going. That’s turned into the ‘Flyers Wives Fight For Lives’ carnival, which we still do to this day.”
What direction did Mr. Snider give for how these charitable efforts were to be conducted in the future?
“He said, ‘[As a non-profit] you give away whatever you make. If you make $900, you give that away. If you make $900,000, you give that away.’ And that’s how we’ve run things. Every team is different in sports, but it’s important to point out the nuances between ‘community relations’ and ‘the foundation’ – the community relations team is out in the community doing good deeds, while the foundation is the revenue-generating element. We do good as well, but our job is primarily fundraising. We raise money, and then give it away.”
What advice would you give to ceos (in pro sports or otherwise) looking to get involved in CSR efforts?
“As a brand, when you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself – take it.”