YMCA CEO seeks $60 billion for nonprofits and aid for youth sports

Key Points
  • Kevin Washington, the CEO of YMCA of USA, is seeking additional funds from lawmakers to help aid nonprofit organizations affected by Covid-19.
  • Washington said money will also be used to save youth sports offerings that could be impacted this summer if YMCA locations are closed. 
Lindsay Whalen #13 of the Minnesota Lynx and the Lynx Basketball Academy surprise children at the St. Paul Midway YMCA with a free basketball clinic on April 17, 2017 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
David Sherman | NBAE | Getty Images

Fearing organizations will suffer irreparable financial shortfalls due to Covid-19, YMCA of the USA CEO Kevin Washington is calling on federal lawmakers to provide additional funds to save nonprofits.

The YMCA and more than 100 politicians, including U.S. representatives including Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), support the Save Organizations that Serve (SOS) America Act. The legislation asks for emergency funding for nonprofits and inclusion to qualify for funds in new Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. 

Washington is seeking $60 billion to save non-profit organizations, including the YMCA, which has already laid off more than 75% of its employees. Washington said the YMCA lost $400 million in April due to forced closures which "devastated" the organization as a result of coronavirus.

"We want them to understand how we are suffering and how their support is needed," Washington said of lawmakers. If funding isn't approved, some YMCA organizations may only be able to stay open for three months. The association will lose roughly $2.5 billion if operations are suspended throughout the summer.

With insufficient revenue, YMCA' across the country will not afford to fund youth programs. 

Youth sports will suffer

patrickheagney | Getty Images

The YMCA serves seven million youth under age 18 through youth sports and after-school programs, according to YMCA officials. But revenue shortfalls and staffing issues could force some locations to close permanently.

Youth sports suffer in economic downturns and a void could hinder child development.

Participation among children playing sports declined from 45% in 2008, the start of the last recession, to 38% in 2014, according to data from The National Fitness Foundation cited in a recent report by The Wall Street Journal.

Covid-19 has already suspended youth sports events throughout the country, including the Little League World Series tournament that could resume operations after May 11, according to the nonprofit's website

"If we don't get the resources we need, there will be so many kids that will miss out on those opportunities to develop themselves fully," Washington said.

New opportunities 

A fastball thrown in Okayama, Japan.

Though acquiring federal funds could be hard, youth sports programs are eligible for several grants through big-league programs like the $30 million available from Major League Baseball's Youth Development Foundation. Other factors are impacting youth sports.

The rise of the e-sports is becoming a distraction for children, for example. The sector grew to $1.1 billion last year and more growth is expected.

"I think it's going to be as big as traditional sports," said John Fazio, the CEO of Esports company Nerd Street Gamers. "The rest of 2020, we're going to see this huge push for online competition and content."

Joshua Jacobs, the CEO of TGA Premier Sports, said youth sports organizations need to develop a "high-value proposition" in both in-person and online programs for youth to stay engaged with traditional sports.

"I think for [clubs] to thrive in the future, they're going to need both," Jacobs said. of in-person and online programs. "One is not going to be able to happen without the other."

Jacobs said TGA, which specializes in teaching youth sports in schools and community centers, has already received inquiries about setting up online camps this summer.  

The sports activity lessons will offer activities "that kids can do not only from a skills development standpoint, a practice standpoint but also, an education standpoint," Jacobs said. 

An increase in parents and clubs selecting online offerings, even at the youth sports level, is expected as social distancing becomes the new normal, according to Jacobs. And once youth sports recovers, Jacobs said organizational changes, including a higher regard for cleanliness, will be needed to prepare for a new normal. 

"It's going to be an evolution," he said. "It's going to be a multistep process to see what the youth sports landscape looks like. The YMCA – what do they look like at the end of this? What programs step up and figure out both online and in-person resources are needed?"

Hope for contactless sports like tennis and golf

Golfers wear masks as they walk up the fairway at Torrey Pines golf course during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Diego, California, U.S., May 4, 2020.
Mike Blake | Reuters

With Covid-19 placing such an importance on social distancing, some youth sports may continue to suffer, at least in the short-term. There's hope for contactless sports like tennis and golf but organizations will need to prepare for a potential growth spurt in those activities by improving infrastructure.

"They are going to get a real good look," said Jared Bartie, co-chair of O'Melveny's Sports Industry Group. "They are going to get a chance to earn new fans.

"If they are the first events we see on TV, people will be drawn to that respective sport," added Bartie, who advised USA Track and Field on their content streaming commercial negotiations. 

The PGA Tour is set to be the first major U.S. sporting organization to hold a live playing event this month and officials also released the date of the Tiger Woods- Phil Mickelson charity match. The PGA-Turner Sports collaboration will also feature National Football League stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. 

But it means little if those sports have no access to youth for participation on the grassroots level. And funding for nonprofits will be significant in preserving youth programs, said Washington.

"If this continues, we will have communities that are devoid of YMCAs," he said. 

What sports will look like as the pandemic eases
What sports will look like as the pandemic eases