On the road tonight, so but with MLS teams flaunting their charitable wares in the coming month, here is a vault interview with Lizz Summers of the New England Revolution.
Today we take a look at charitable efforts at the team level, and our focus is the New England Revolution. Revs Director of Communications Lizz Summers was kind enough to share a few words about the Revs’ good works. Ms. Summers joined the Revs in 2006 after three seasons as the director of media relations at the University of Texas. In her current role, Ms. Summers, who holds both an undergraduate and MBA from Boston College, oversees team media relations, public relations, corporate communications and new media activities. In addition to directing the New England Revolution Charitable Foundation, Ms. Summers also directs the club’s other community relations efforts. Thanks to Ms. Summers for answering our questions about the Revs’ charitable efforts.
Footiebusiness.com: The Revs are involved in charitable and community activity through the New England Revolution Charitable Foundation. What is the goal of this group and what are the programs that the Foundation is trying to reach? How is it determined what charities the Foundation assists?
Lizz Summers: The New England Revolution Charitable Foundation was actually founded very recently, in 2007, with a mission to assist New England-based charitable and community-based organizations, specifically those involved in education, family and health-related areas. Additionally, assisting programming involving and supporting youth soccer was also a priority. For the first few years, most of this support came through in-kind donations, although we’ve also made monetary donations to a select number of organizations. The Foundation’s mission statement has been the backbone for the team’s evolving community relations initiatives, too, so we have a consistent theme between the two entities.
Now that the Foundation has been going for several seasons, we’re taking a deeper look at the impact it’s had in several areas, and we’re re-examining its focus and mission statement. Being a sports team, we have tremendous ambassadors both on the field and off who can speak to a variety of health and wellness topics, more so in some respects than education and family. In 2010, we’re beginning the process of re-focusing the Foundation’s efforts, and extending the health and wellness theme to not only youth programming, but also adult programming to further involve our supporters. Between the Foundation’s growing involvement, its increasing fund raising activities and some of the team’s new community relations initiatives, we’re looking to increase our ability to help charitable organizations with more monetary support as we head into the future.
FB: Many MLS fans are familiar with MLS W.O.R.K.S. Do the Revs participate in such league-wide charitable efforts, or does the team focus on its own local charities and organizations?
LS: We do get involved with several of the MLS W.O.R.K.S. initiatives, and will have some deeper involvement in 2010 in some programs. The great thing about the MLS W.O.R.K.S. set-up is that teams can opt-in to most of the programs if they compliment the team’s efforts. Some teams may have conflicts either with local ties or sponsors and they’re unable to participate in some programming, but can incorporate other programs. We’re becoming more active in the league’s overall efforts as we continue to refine what our goals are in the community.
FB: Are the charitable efforts of the Revs separate and distinct from those of the New England Patriots and Kraft Sports? Is there a company wide charitable philosophy that is consistent through all aspects of Revs/Pats?
LS: Where the Kraft family owns and operates two professional sports teams, as well as other sports and entertainment operations, there is certainly some crossover between the two teams. We also share a lot of best practices, especially us leaning on the Pats staff for advice and guidance since they have so much experience through national NFL programs, as well as their own. We’re actually looking to launch a program this year that we’re modifying from something the Patriots have done in the past, but tying it back to a health and wellness theme. The big thing that the Revs are now trying to do is create community and charitable opportunities where our fans and supporters can join us in giving back or lending a hand – hand-in-hand with the team. The great thing about the soccer community is that it’s a very close-knit group, especially in each city. We’re developing programs and opportunities that we hope our supporters will connect with, and that together with us – players, staff – we can make a greater difference.
FB: How is it determined which players attend certain charitable events? Are players contractually obligated to participate in community/charity events?
LS: In the past, players have agreed to make a certain number of charitable or community appearances a year on behalf of the team, but we have never pushed players to participate if they don’t want to. Every year, we have some players who are more civic-minded than others, or who just enjoy being active in the community and they seek out opportunities to get involved. We’ve even helped a players connect and get involved with agencies and groups that they have an affinity to outside of the team’s work. Usually, we’ve tried to balance the appearances and rotate all the opportunities around, especially ones that fall in the afternoons or on weekends when the guys are looking to spend time with their families. For some higher-profile events, we’ll offer it up to the team to see who wants to participate.
Great stuff from the Revs and Ms. Summers. Soccer is indeed a tight community and it is great to see players and teams acting as such valuable ambassadors for the sport.
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