It’s that time of year again where everyone is glued to their (multiple) screens and work productivity comes to a halt. March Madness is here, but once again we are left wondering about the philanthropic impact.

With the advent of legalized sports betting in several states across the US, the monetary value of March Madness has increased even more. Per Front Office Sports and the American Gaming Association, 47 million people will wager approximately $8.5 billion on this year’s men’s tournament.

March Madness is the most profitable postseason tv deal in sports, Forbes reports. The 2017 generated $1.285 billion in ad revenue and last year’s tournament brought in $1.32 billion in national TV ad revenue. The audience of the tournament reaches close to 100 million people in 180 countries, and over 700,000 attending live games. While the NFL brought in $1.68 billion for the 2018 postseason, the amount of money that the networks pay for broadcasting rights makes it much less profitable. Last year’s NCAA March Madness Championship game reached a record price of $1.7 million for one 30 second spot.

How to Improve the Social Impact of March Madness

Last year, we wrote a piece about the social impact of March Madness and how the tournament and schools themselves really had no sport for good or philanthropic partners despite all the eyeballs on them.

We’ve seen some small scale initiatives of specific brackets going to charity or individuals donating money surrounding the tournament. The star of the famous crying Northwestern fan is even donating his cut from a Pizza Hut commercial to First Book, a charity from Pizza Hut that gives books to kids in need, and the Harvest programs, which donate foods. But we still haven’t discovered any kind of initiative from an NCAA level or much from the school level that incorporates philanthropy into the tournament.

Organizations like Brackets for Good are still doing great work around the community impact of March Madness. This year, they launched Champ’s Charity Challenge, where users can fill out a bracket for the tournament in the name of the charity of their choice. This means that people can use their brackets to raise money for charity instead of only nonprofits creating brackets to raise money against other nonprofits. (We participated in the Philanthropy Playmakers pool to support Girls in the Game!)

Creating a Philanthropy Component to March Madness

Allowing people to create bracket pools for charity on a larger scale opens up opportunities for athletes and influencers to get involved. Imagine being able to join your favorite athlete’s March Madness pool and being able to compete and compare your picks against theirs? Brackets for Good asks for $20 for each participant. $10 goes to charity, $5 goes to processing fees and $5 goes to the pool donated to the winner. This allows athletes and influencers to raise additional funds and awareness around a valued charity partner.

The impact could be even greater if we involve athletic departments and the NCAA to contribute some of the revenue they bring in from the tournament.

Stick with us here: what if each of the 64 teams in the tournament picked a charity that they would play for? To ensure that each charity benefited even from being selected, they could each receive $1000 for being featured in the Round of 64, and maybe a 30 second ad spot during their team’s game. The broadcasters could even give them a shout out during a break in play or time out.

The further a team advances, the more money it would raise for its chosen charity. For example, a team that made it to the Round of 32 would receive $2500, a team that made it to the Sweet 16 would receive $5000, Elite 8 teams would receive $7500, Final Four teams would get $10,000 and the Championship teams would receive $25,000 as consolation and $50,000 for winning it all. To donate to each team’s charity at their respective levels would be a total of $237,000.

Given that the NCAA receives about $771 million per year from CBS and Turner to broadcast the tournament, a $237,000 donation to charity would account for just .03% of broadcast. That doesn’t even include ticket sales and merchandise that the NCAA receives. The institution could increase the amount donated at each level by 10 times and still only give up .3% of their broadcast revenue.

Not only would financial donations be a great benefit to the charities, but the awareness and exposure could be a game changer for them as well. Remember, over 100 million people across 180 countries watch the tournament. That’s 100 million people that have a chance to see and learn about an amazing organization and support a great cause.

We are glad to see organizations like Brackets for Good and individuals using their love of March Madness to support their favorite causes. It’s time for the NCAA to take a serious look at the opportunities they have to make an impact to dozens of worthy organizations across the country, and engage their member schools and student-athletes about the importance of giving back as well.

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