Sport and Belonging: A “how-to” for community foundations (2016)

“Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”

Mother Teresa


In conjunction with our Vital Signs report on Sport and Belonging, we have developed this guide to help community foundations explore this approach in your community.

Since we know that sport:

  • already attracts the highest number of volunteers and volunteer hours in Canada,
  • is present in all communities and is an important part of Canadian identity;
  • has a proven and significant impact on belonging for individuals, teams and communities whether they are playing, volunteering or cheering

…your community foundation has an opportunity to use the power of sport to enhance belonging while tackling significant societal issues.

If your foundation was moved by the Vital Signs report on Sport and Belonging and wants to be a catalyst to engage your community, you can:

  1. Localize and share data
  2. Engage in community dialogue and planning
  3. Broaden grantmaking or create targeted grants

1. Localize the data to “measure what you treasure”

Meaningful data – particularly on the quality of the sport experience and its value in creating inclusion – is very difficult to find. But that’s what makes it so valuable!

  • Unpack local indicators on existing national or provincial data on belonging, volunteering, quality sport and sport participation or lead the country in developing indicators that are meaningful in your community. (Appendix A)
  • Consult with experts in your community to provide greater community focus like public health, parks & recreation, sports teams, the volunteer centre, seniors’ centre, immigrant services and other key players.
  • Find out what local data is available. Identify gaps and determine whether existing surveys could be enhanced or whether new ones should be created.
  • Collect data that can tell you whether the gender gap is narrowing, whether newcomers are staying active and whether participants feel they are “good enough” and belong on their team. Are people having fun and making friends? If not, what needs to change?

2. Engage in community dialogue and planning

Throughout the cycle of Vital Signs activity, there are many opportunities to engage the community including, but not limited to, advisory committees, working groups, forums or surveying the community.

From a broad cross-section of stakeholders, find out:

  • How do participants feel about the Sport and Belonging report and/or local data?
  • Which challenges exist in the community (eg: seniors, youth, disabled, newcomers)? Which are the most pressing?
  • What opportunities and assets exist to use sport to address challenges and enhance belonging in the short term?
  • What existing events or programs (eg: cultural, civic) could be enhanced by adding a sport dimension?
  • How could you collaborate on longer term plans to: set a long-term vision for community sport and recreation; identify gaps in community programs, infrastructure and communications; develop a process and a plan to use sport – in its broadest sense – in an inclusive way to address community issues?
  • Are participants familiar with True Sport values? Physical literacy?


  • Asset based community development (ABCD) is a great way to involve of all sectors to strengthen communities through sport
  • CFC’s Vital Conversations Toolkit (coming soon) to help start the discussion
  • Successful programs within Indigenous communities recognize and incorporate the history, tradition and culture of the communities that they serve.  Here is a great resource  to help communities build and promote physical activity in their community by learning from successful approaches developed by Indigenous people in Canada and abroad.
  • The True Sport Scorecard can help introduce, discuss and evaluate the values of sport in your community.  Click here for further information about True Sport.
  • Becoming a Canadian Sport for Life Community 2.0 is an excellent tool for generating discussion and evaluating where you are along the path of being a Canadian Sport for Life community. CS4L also offers facilitated workshops to better understand physical literacy and the steps to becoming a CS4L community.

3. Expand your granting definitions or programs

Community Foundations often can not grant to sport organizations because they do not meet the qualified donee status.  However there are opportunities for you to consider to help facilitate granting.

Such as:

  • The Support for Sport Program:  The True Sport Foundation is a registered charity that promotes the seven principles of True Sport; sport experiences that reflect these will serve to instil character in our children, strengthen our communities and increase our opportunities for excellence.  Click here to learn more about how TSF assists community foundations to make funding available to local sport organizations, projects and individuals and click here for a FAQ sheet.
  • Work with a neighbourhood association, municipality, charity or agency that supports programs that could use sport (for example an agency that welcomes newcomers could use sport as a way for them to get to know people and better integrate).


Here are a series of questions to help your foundation explore these opportunities:

Add a new lens to your existing granting approach

  1. Do any applications use sport to enhance belonging or to address local issues?
  2. Does the organization identify, accommodate and include groups that face barriers to participation?
  3. Does the program tackle obstacles like cost, childcare, flexibility, inclusion, transportation, communication, etc. that exclude certain groups
  4. Does the program maximise use of community infrastructure (municipal and school facilities)?
  5. Does the organization require and advance True Sport values? If so, click here

Consider small grants for sport and belonging

One of the Vancouver Foundation’s most successful initiatives to counter a trend in social isolation has been Neighbourhood Small Grants. The program provides grants under $500 for projects created by local residents — such as block parties, community meals, greenspace cleanups — with all grant decisions made by local volunteers. To date, 82% of participants report a greater sense of belonging in their community. What could a small grant for sport do?

Explore co-granting with other funders

Work with, and across, multiple government departments – health, tourism, parks & recreation, etc. – and with local organizations, service clubs, businesses, foundations and relevant agencies that have a stake in the issues and opportunities identified in the report. Commit to pooling resources to address them.

Help identify new funding sources

Some sport organizations have significant reserve funds (legacy funds) from capital fundraising or Canada Games operations and the like. Good Sport (on p. 33) suggests these pools of sterile cash could be donated to local community foundations to create dedicated sport and recreation endowments.  For example with the surplus generated by the 2003 Western Canada Summer Games, the Selkirk and District Community Foundation created  the 2003 Western Canada Summer Games Legacy Fund that continues to grant to sport organizations in their community.

Be a catalyst for new initiatives

When opportunity arises, bring together all your skills and resources. Gather those who care most and who are in a position to take action. Take a deep breath and dive in! The Victoria Foundation has many great examples of this type of vision and action. Every Step Counts is simple and effective and the PISE Physical Literacy story started small but blossomed to be bigger, stronger, broader.


By definition, community foundations take a long-term view of building community wellbeing and vitality. We know that providing positive sport experience for children, teens, women, newcomers and low-income families now means healthier, more connected communities in the short – and the long term. Set your sights on the goal. Recruit your team and develop a vision for your healthier and happier community!!

“Sport has the power to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela

Looking for more stories about how community foundations are using the power of sport to transform their community?  Have a look at Smart & Caring True Sport in Action for more inspiring stories.

Questions?  Contact us at:

Appendix A

While you may find considerable data on children and youth in sport, finding existing data measuring sport participation and sense of belonging in other segments of the population is very difficult.

You may want to model local indicators on existing national or provincial data on belonging, volunteering, quality sport and sport participation or lead the country in developing indicators that are meaningful in your community.

Data on belonging include:

Data on volunteering

Data on health and activity

Data on quality sport

Data on sport participation