If anyone thought it was going to be difficult for the Ultimate Foundation and our supporters to maintain the success and impact we achieved last year, 2019 put all of those questions to bed. We further expanded our outreach programs to more youth and communities across the country, as well as increased our number of supporters contributing time and money to those programs.
Coming into 2019, the Ultimate Foundation wanted to focus on not only providing playing opportunities to more youth than 2018, but also expose more members of the community to the amazing youth outreach programs that we support. As a result, our supporters contributed over 1,400 donations (a 28% increase on last year’s total!) totaling almost $58,000. That increase in support helped us conduct more programs in more states and led to us engaging with ~1,900 youth participants, a huge increase on 2018’s number of around 1,300.
Given that last year included a 50th Anniversary Celebration and a matching grant campaign to Ultimate Impact, almost reaching last year’s contribution total (over $60,000) is a huge accomplishment and a tribute to how important youth outreach is to the ultimate community.
Speaking of Ultimate Impact, 2019 started off with the youth-serving organization putting their grant money to superb use. Primarily serving at-risk youth from the San Francisco Bay Area, the leaders at Ultimate Impact achieved a number of goals they set at the beginning of the year.
“Through Ultimate Impact, I get to do so many different things like travel, meet new people and bond with others,” added Taleni, an Ultimate Impact youth participant.
They expanded their school partnerships to 15 different locations where they provide P.E. and structured learning sessions, organized eight field trips connecting their girls with top female athletes from the ultimate community and continued to increase the number of young leaders they mold in their Developing Leaders program.
Photo: Rocky Beach
Building off a successful start to the year, the Ultimate Foundation set its eyes on building its presence at USA Ultimate’s flagship championship events, starting with the D-I College Championships in May and the Masters Championships in July.
Traditionally, the Ultimate Foundation has provided team buttons (creatively displayed across a map of the United States) to parents of athletes competing in the College Championships to show their support for their child’s team, as a way to introduce the work of the Ultimate Foundation. This year, we decided to take things to another level.
In addition to the team buttons, we provided parents with a plethora of information about the foundation, including a brochure detailing the different youth programs we support and the accordion “yearbook” mentioned earlier. We also accepted on-site donations for the first time, as we found parents were eager to donate on the spot once they were more informed about what the Ultimate Foundation does.
Photo: Paul Rutherford – UltiPhotos
New to the Ultimate Foundation in 2019 was the creation of the inaugural Masters Fundraising Contest. This online fundraising campaign was a contest among all of the teams competing at the Masters Championships to see which team could raise the most money for our youth programs. For the first iteration of the campaign, the contest was extremely successful as the players and their communities helped raise over $5000! The team that raised the most money was Snowbirds, a masters mixed team from Arizona.
“We have all benefited from being involved in the ultimate community,” commented Eric Bay, a member of the Snowbirds. “Putting a donation towards getting others involved in the sport so they can have the same life changing opportunities is more than worth it.”
Eric’s statement directly correlates to the reasons why we felt this contest would be most successful with our masters players. We featured this contest at their flagship championship event after determining they were the athletes from the ultimate community who could provide the most significant support, given their historical ties to the sport, their financial resources and their willingness to contribute to the next generation of athletes.
Photo: Kayleigh Hudson
Another new initiative established in 2019 was the Girls’ Development Grant. Provided through the Girls’ Ultimate Movement (GUM), the grant’s goal is to provide qualifying new or developing U-20 girls’ teams with financial support to attend the Youth Club Championships (YCC). The grant covers the player fees for 10 girls to help mitigate the costs of attending YCC. This year, two teams were awarded funding and, as a result, were able to compete at the tournament: Equi’Knox from Knoxville Youth Ultimate and Rip Tide from Maine Ultimate.
“Being a ‘Girls’ Start-Up’ recipient was helpful for us to get our program going, so we very much appreciate it!” acknowledged Mia Letterie, one of Equi’Knox’s coaches.
“Maine has sent U-20 girls in the past, but it was, for lack of better words, a flop,” explained Rip Tide’s coach and Ultimate Hall of Famer Jackie Pierce. “I am so fired up to make a U-20 girls’ team successful and return year after year.”
Photos: Equi’Knox and Rip Tide
Not only did these athletes get to experience YCCs, but they joined many others from the community in attending the GUM Ball! Held at the U.S. Open for the second year in a row, the GUM Ball brought together girls, women, non-binary folks and more to break down barriers and build long-lasting friendships among people who might otherwise never cross paths.
“The GUM Ball itself plays well to the tightness of the ultimate community,” described Laurel Oldershaw, a member of D.C. Scandal in the women’s division. “You’re really seeing a connection between the younger and older communities to really develop a greater women’s game for the future.”
New to the GUM Ball this year was a Polaroid photo map, where arriving attendees would have their pictures taken and placed on a map showing what communities were represented, and also a photo booth featuring some of your favorite club teams, including GUM Ambassador Teams San Francisco Fury, Philadelphia Amp and Boston Brute Squad.
“The GUM Ball was a great idea,” said Kate Patterson, another of Rip Tide’s coaches. “[The girls] definitely enjoyed the photo booth and being able to meet some of the Brute girls.”
Photo: Maelyn Wisch
GUM provided additional support to new high school girls teams through the Girls’ Team Startup Project (GTSP), now in its third year. One of GUM’s most impactful initiatives, the GTSP is a community-wide outreach program designed to increase girls’ participation in ultimate. The project provides a multitude of resources, including free coach and youth memberships, free uniforms and a $500 coaching stipend.
“Being able to establish a team in our area and give these girls a way to explore such a fun sport has been so incredibly rewarding, and I cannot wait to see what next season brings,” said Caroline, a player at Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School in Atlanta.
Along with Maynard Jackson, five other schools joined the project in 2019: Bethlehem Central High School (Delmar, N.Y.), Cheltenham High School (Wyncote, Pa.), Evanston Township High School (Evanston, Ill.), Grant High School (Portland, Ore.) and Maine Coast Waldorf School (Portland, Maine).
Photo: Michael Boardman
In addition to GUM, the Ultimate Foundation continued to support our athletes through the Play It Forward program. This program provides membership and financial assistance for youth from underserved populations to learn about and play ultimate.
“I never played a sport in my life until high school, which was ultimate,” expressed J’Lynn, a former player at SLA who currently plays at Temple University. “[Now] ultimate is a part of me. I use it as a getaway. I love ultimate; I can’t imagine myself not playing anymore.”
In 2019, we supported over 200 youth athletes with free youth memberships, and each year we are looking to continuing to grow that number and help support more kids in having access to this amazing sport.
“Play It Forward changes the game,” stated Chris Lehmann, the founding principal and ultimate head coach at Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia. Every year, Chris implores all of his athletes to apply to join the program. “Play It Forward allows kids who otherwise would not have access to ultimate to have access to ultimate.”
In addition to supporting youth memberships, Play It Forward also covered the U-20 National Team tryout fees for any player who was currently part of or qualified for the program. This year, we increased the number of athletes we supported to 14, easing the opportunity for more youth athletes to experience the chance of a lifetime.
“Being able to try-out for the U.S. U-20 National Team means a lot to me,” commented Monica, one of the tryout scholarship recipients. “I would have never thought this would happen, and being the very few to get selected from the Southend of Seattle to try-out means the world to me.”
December brought our final two fundraising campaigns for the year, Giving Tuesday and Signature Series, and the results of those campaigns revealed how much support for youth outreach there is from the ultimate community.
Giving Tuesday, a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world, was very successful for the Ultimate Foundation. While we barely scratched the surface in our inaugural campaign last year, we vastly improved this time around. With multiple preliminary emails and featured blogs to remind our community of the work throughout the year they made possible, we were able to raise over $3,300, over seven times as much as was raised last year!
Lastly, encompassing Giving Tuesday was the Ultimate Foundation’s signature fundraising campaign, the Signature Series. Held from December 1 – January 31, the Signature Series is a collection of discs that commemorate players, events and moments that signify the sport and USA Ultimate each year. The 2019 disc represented USA Ultimate’s commitment to supporting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives with a goal of increasing access to ultimate for youth from underserved communities.
Last year’s campaign saw a huge jump in contributions as we raised over $16,500, almost three times as much compared to last year and the most since 2016!
Thanks to generous donor support, the Ultimate Foundation made a significant impact and difference in the lives of more than 1,800 underserved and underrepresented youth around the country in 2019. Your support of our programs and outreach initiatives is invaluable, and we cannot thank you enough.
We look forward to making even bigger strides in the future and are counting on your continued support to help us to share the sport of ultimate and Spirit of the Game with our next generation.