The Sports Philanthropy Executive Certificate

Increase Your Impact • Expand Your Network • Advance Your Career

The first and only of its kind, the Sports Philanthropy Executive Certificate program provides a groundbreaking online curriculum tailored to the unique needs of those who work for professional sports teams, leagues, athletic foundations, sport-related companies with an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, nonprofits using sports for social good and those looking to enter the field.

Built around your busy schedule, the certificate includes 11 core, online courses and an in-person residency at GW at the beginning of the program. The residency will not only provide an opportunity for experiential learning but allow time to meet fellow students and exchange ideas.

Enrollment is Now Open

Sports Philanthropy Application Form

Student and faculty meet to discuss Sports Philanthropy.

Enrollment, Dates & Location

Fall enrollment is now open.

The date for the orientation kick-off at the George Washington University in Washington DC will be announced soon.

Students Can Expect To…

  • Learn what makes sports philanthropy unique.
  • Know how to develop a clear and focused mission.
  • Recognize the key components of a successful strategic plan.
  • Build skills for developing programs that meet organizational goals and have deep impact.
  • Understand how to identify and secure potential partners for effective collaboration.
  • Learn different assessment methodology and know how to collect, analyze, and use data effectively and efficiently.

  • Develop skills to market and gain recognition for programs.
  • Discover unique assets and be able to creatively leverage these for marketing, funding, programming or other purposes.
  • Find out legal risks and liabilities associated with the unique culture of sports.
  • Hear from experts who offer new and innovative ways to obtain funding for programs.
  • Identify successful models of board governance and management.
  • Interact with other students to share ideas and learn new approaches to challenges and opportunities.

Who Should Enroll?

The Sports Philanthropy Certificate addresses the needs of people working with:

  1. Professional Sport Teams
  2. Professional Sport Leagues
  3. Professional Athlete Foundations
  4. Sport-Related Companies Working in Corporate Social Responsibility
  5. Nonprofits Using Sports for Social Good
  6. Professionals interested in starting a new career in sports philanthropy

Sports Philanthropy Application Form

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.


There are 11 online lectures that make up the Sports Philanthropy curriculum taught by top industry leaders, executives, and thinkers representing organizations across the country. The topics covered include:

  • What Makes Sports Philanthropy Unique
  • Program Design
  • Board Governance
  • Finding Focus
  • Strategic Planning
  • Legal Issues

  • Relationship Development & Finding Brand Alignment
  • Collaboration & Partnerships
  • Sustainability & Funding
  • Measuring Success
  • Communicating Impact

Guest speakers working for sport teams, leagues, foundations, non-profit organizations, sporting good companies, and corporate sponsors participate in conference calls to supplement lectures and expand networks.

Capstone Project

In addition to the online curriculum, each student will complete a capstone project focused on either a personal or organizational challenge, goal, or research need. Based on individual topics, students are assigned to a faculty member to mentor them over the next 5 months. The faculty member will assist the student in researching and writing a plan on how to overcome their unique challenge or achieve their goal. The students will draw insights from the various courses plus guidance from faculty and alumni. For example, some students may be faced with financial challenges to keep their programs going, or some may be starting a non-profit and looking for the best organizational structure, while others are seeking a career transition into sport philanthropy. For those students who prefer, a project can be assigned that will test and enhance skill sets for professional development.

Sports Philanthropy Application FormSports Philanthropy Alumni Testimonials

The Sports Philanthropy program has 72 alumni.

Infographic of program's associations.


  • Dallas Cowboys Football Club
  • ESPN
  • Houston Astros
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. Sports & Entertainment Marketing
  • New Jersey Devils
  • NFL Players Association, Inc.
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Shootout for Soldiers
  • Stanford University Athletics
  • Tiger Woods Foundation
  • Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (Barclays Center)
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • Eagles Youth Partnership
  • Right to Play

  • Entertainment Industry Foundation
  • Garden of Dreams (Madison Square Garden)
  • The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation
  • The Paul Rabil Foundation
  • Turner Sports
  • Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Foundation
  • Detroit Lions
  • Homes for Our Troops
  • Israel Idonije Foundation
  • Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation
  • eBay
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Pledge It
  • Women’s Sports Foundation


Nicole Hawkins • Director

Nicole Hawkins

At the age of 27, Nicole Hawkins was named Public Relations Director for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Washington Wizards. Nicole made history as the first African American woman to be named Public Relations Director for an NBA franchise. While working with the Wizards, Nicole worked closely with players, coaches, staff and members of the media. She was responsible for all aspects of the running the department which included pitching and facilitating media interviews, traveling with the team to ensure all media relations requirements were met and ensuring that game night media operations ran efficiently.

Although she loved working for a professional sports team, Nicole always envisioned starting her own business. She was interested in continuing working in sports while expanding to other fields including non-profits and media. So at the age of 30, she founded Nicole Hawkins Communications (NHC). Since founding NHC, Nicole has worked with clients including current and former NFL players Lorenzo Alexander and Leigh Bodden, retired NBA player Jarvis Hayes, the Atlantic 10 Conference, the Capital Classic Boys High School All-Star Game, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, ABC 7/Newschannel 8, Panera Bread, AARP and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

Noticing a lack of media coverage surrounding athletes who are making a positive impact in their communities, Nicole founded Admirable Athlete in the fall of 2016. Admirable Athlete is a multi-media platform that focuses on only the good work athletes are doing off of the field of play.

Nicole serves on the board for the DC Chapter of Women in Sports and Events, the leading voice and resource for professional women in the business of sports. She is a member of ColorComm, an organization designed to unite diverse women in the communications industry and the Association of Women in Sports Media, an organization that supports the advancement of women working in various aspects of sports media.

Born and raised in Watertown, New York Nicole is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.

Rob Canton • Founder & Chairman/CEO of Athletes+Causes

Rob Canton

Serving on the board of JDRF Tampa Bay, and co-chair of its two most successful annual fundraising galas, Rob first developed Athletes+Causes as a way to further bring attention to and raise money towards finding a cure for Juvenile Diabetes. He enlisted the support of others in the sports industry affected by Type 1 Diabetes, including Tampa Bay Lightning Forward BJ Crombeen, Rays Outfielder Sam Fuld, and Buccaneers Tight End Tom Crabtree and in January 2014 hosted the first Athletes+Causes event in the Chase Club of Amalie Arena. Sponsors and individuals took advantage of the opportunity to mix and mingle not only with the three professional sports hosts, but with the dozens of fellow Lightning, Rays, and Bucs players that showed up to support their teammates.

Having spent 25-years conducting strategic and economic analyses within sports and tourism, Rob is a highly-respected expert and thought leader in the industry. He has worked with hundreds of teams, destinations, and developers representing a multitude of initiatives including development, transactions, performance improvement, project feasibility, and strategic planning.

Rob previously served as Senior Advisor to Ownership for Vinik Family Office, following his position as Executive Vice President of Finance and Strategic Planning for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to his work for the Lightning, he consulted on projects across the country involving the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Denver Broncos, Miami Heat, San Diego Padres, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Nationals, and dozens of other professional sports teams. He has also consulted on sports projects for Louisiana State University, the University of Oklahoma, Duke University, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, Texas Tech, The Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Louisville.

Allison Hawk Collinger • Principal, AHC Consulting LLC

Allison Hawk Collinger

A sought-after speaker, connector, big thinker and trainer, Collinger has been behind some of the St. Louis regions’ key initiatives and celebrations including generating support for two professional sports venues in downtown St. Louis (Edward Jones Dome and Scottrade Center), returning professional football to St. Louis, opening the region’s light rail system, being responsible for two Super Bowl Post-Parties, and rebranding the Spirit of St. Louis Marathon and Family Fitness Weekend into GO! St. Louis. Her vision and commitment has been responsible for connecting multiple individuals and organizations, including creation of Coro Connected Women, the Diversity Awareness Partnership, and the Healthy Youth Partnership.

Formerly vice president of Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. and executive at the St. Louis Rams, she has received three Silver Anvils from the Public Relations Society of America, the highest award bestowed on communications professionals. The St. Louis Business Journal named her to the 40 Under 40 list in 2001. Collinger holds a B.A. from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, is a former Coro Fellow in Public Affairs and a graduate of the 1996-1997 Leadership St. Louis program. You can find her on Twitter @ahawkcollinger.

Tara Greco • Founder of Postgame PR

Tara Greco

Prior to opening the doors at Postgame PR, Tara served as Director of Communications at the NBA Players Association and spent time on the corporate communications team for both Walmart and Deloitte. Earlier in her career she served as a senior vice president in APCO Worldwide’s corporate responsibility practice where she managed a portfolio of corporate and non-profit clients. Prior to APCO, she spent more than seven years in nonprofit communications with two youth development organizations: America’s Promise and Reading is Fundamental. Tara honed her communications skills while running the community relations department for the Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Capitals (NHL) from 1993 to 1998.

Tara graduated from the College of William and Mary with a business degree and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Georgetown University. When Tara isn’t working, she serves on the Board of Directors of 826DC, a creative-writing program for city students.

Andrew Morton • Partner at Handler Thayer LLP and Chair of the firm’s Sports & Entertainment Law Group

Andrew Morton

Andrew Morton is a Partner at Handler Thayer LLP and Chair of the firm’s Sports & Entertainment Law Group, serving a client base of professional athletes, Olympians, actors, entertainers, artists, chefs and other public figures who wish to maximize their social impact. His innovative practice operates at the intersection of celebrity and philanthropy, encompassing all aspects of high-profile philanthropic engagement and branding – from the initial formation of a tax-exempt organization, to ongoing oversight, compliance, governance and reporting consistent with legal requirements and best practices. With a deep understanding of nonprofit legal structures, Andrew often recommends alternative solutions when appropriate, such as establishing a fiscal sponsorship or donor advised fund (DAF).

Andrew’s breadth of experience in 501(c)(3) governance enables him to intervene at the eleventh hour to support crisis management strategy, and remedy operational issues that may threaten an organization’s tax-exempt status. Over the past decade, he has successfully obtained numerous retroactive reinstatements of tax-exempt status revocations, and waivers of IRS penalties for tax filing deficiencies. Based in Washington, DC, Andrew also has led the development and execution of public policy efforts, ranging from organizing and overseeing highly-visible appearances before congressional committees, to arranging targeted private meetings with key members of Congress and the Administration. Leveraging his depth of experience and relationships within professional sports leagues, Hollywood and Washington, Andrew helps clients navigate the political landscape and integrate public policy into his clients’ long-term business strategies.

Suzanne Potts, LMSW, MPH • Executive Director for the Autism Society of Texas

Suzanne Potts, LMSW, MPH

Suzanne is the Executive Director for the Autism Society of Texas, Evaluation Consultant with Athletes for Hope and teaches two macro focused courses at the University of Texas, Austin Graduate School of Social Work. She has worked as a medical social worker, funder and capacity building consultant for over 19 years and has experience bringing supports and resources to underserved populations.

Suzanne has broad nonprofit and foundation experience, and is cross-trained in multiple disciplines such as domestic violence, child abuse, mental health, foster care, health care, education, and employment. She currently convenes the Austin Interfaith Inclusion Network focusing on faith and inclusion in Central Texas as part of a larger collaborative with the Interfaith Arts Council. Suzanne most previously worked at LIVESTRONG as the Community Program Officer for Community Grants, and in San Diego at the San Diego Workforce Partnership as the Youth Program Manager providing program design, evaluation and monitoring for Youth Workforce Investment Act funds.

Dean Osaki • Co-Founder, Kristi Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation

Dean Osaki

Dean Osaki currently manages his own consulting group specializing in sports, corporate philanthropy and cause-related marketing initiatives. Most recently, Dean worked for the national retailer Target in their Community Relations Department, where he managed the Western and Southwest Regions developing their community relations strategies and enhancing Target’s brand by creating relevant local community sponsorship initiatives. Prior to Target, he was the Director of Marketing for the Examiner, a newspaper owned by Philip Anschutz. One of his responsibilities included forming marketing alliances with all the professional sports teams, creating unique content and building brand loyalty among its readers. Over a twenty year span, Dean has worked with Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and established Kristi’s own charitable entity, called the Always Dream Foundation. Under Dean’s leadership, ADF has received national recognition for their innovative program and cause-related marketing initiatives. His experience and passion for integrating sports philanthropy and community began during his career with United Way of Silicon Valley, where he worked on community partnerships with the likes of Jerry Rice (SF Niners) and Barry Bonds (SF Giants).

Joanne Pasternack • Executive Director of 49ers Foundation & Community Relations, San Francisco 49ers

Joanne Pasternack

Joanne Pasternack recently completed her ninth season with the 49ers and currently serves as Vice President and Executive Director of Community Relations and the 49ers Foundation for the San Francisco 49ers. In this role, she oversees all community relations functions for the team, creating and managing high visibility programs based on the 49ers objectives and areas of focus, leveraging the power of community involvement to share the importance of respect and its central role in helping young people become outstanding community citizens. In her role with the Foundation, she works with team ownership to facilitate signature fundraising events and the donation of funds to non-profits that support the Foundation’s mission of keeping kids “Safe, on Track and in School.” In 2016, the Foundation donated $4 million to Bay Area charities, including $1 million to support the expansion of the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute, and has donated nearly $40 million since its inception in 1991.

In recognition of their tremendous commitment to philanthropy, the San Francisco 49ers were named the 2015 Beyond Sport International Award for Outstanding Philanthropic Sports Organization and were the 2013 winners of the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Steve Patterson Award for Sports Philanthropy. They were also finalists for the ESPN Humanitarian Sport Team of the Year (2015) and supported Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin in his successful 2015 campaign for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Prior to joining the 49ers in 2008, Joanne served as a Senior Analyst for the City of Mountain View. Before working for Mountain View, Joanne was the Manager of International Corporate Relations for Special Olympics, Inc. at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Joanne holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a law degree from Santa Clara University and completed the Executives in Non-Profit Leadership program at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Additionally, she serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Sports Management programs at the University of San Francisco and George Washington University and has guest lectured at Stanford University.

Marjorie A. Snyder, Ph.D. • Sr. Director of Research and Programs, Women's Sports Foundation; Nonprofit Management Consultant

Marjorie A. Snyder, Ph.D.

Marj Snyder is currently a consultant in nonprofit management, research, evaluation, and program development. She serves as the Sr. Director of Research and Programs for the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), and is the Research Project Director for a study on attrition in youth sports for the Aspen Institute’s Project Play.

Previously, for 20 years, she was the Chief Program and Planning Officer for the WSF where the award-winning GoGirlGo! Program, which has served more than one million girls, was developed under her leadership and where she had primary responsibility for research and evaluation.

She began her career as a high school social studies teacher, college professor and coach. She is a graduate of Kalamazoo College (B.A.), UCLA (M.S.), and Temple University (Ph.D.).

Melinda Weisberg • Assistant Professor in the Marist College School of Management & Co-Principal, CG Consulting for the Common Good

Melinda Weisberg

Dr. Melinda Weisberg has a long and distinguished career in nonprofit management and education. She is currently Assistant Professor in the School of Management at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY where she teaches undergraduate courses in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at the undergraduate level, as well as Change Management in the MBA Program. Melinda has served on and worked with boards throughout her over 30+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector, while helping community and national organizations fulfill their missions in behavioral health care, HIV/AIDs, volunteerism and social justice. As a leadership trainer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she counseled grantees on board development, strategic planning, financial management and resource development. She holds a Doctorate in Management as well as a Lean Six Sigma black belt.

Melinda is president and founding partner of CG Consulting for the Common Good, a New York State certified woman-owned business whose mission is to “help cause-driven organizations embrace their power to impact lives.” In this role she developed a volunteer management curriculum for the NYS Office of National and Community Service and has worked with numerous organizations on strategic planning and board development. Throughout her career, Melinda has been active in community service. She is currently a New York State delegate to Vision 2020, a national coalition of organizations housed in the Drexel University College Institute of Women’s Health. She also serves as faculty advisor for Enactus, an international organization that involves students in entrepreneurial opportunities for the common good.

Larry Weisberg • Professor at the Marist College School

Larry Weisberg

Larry is an adjunct professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, and is a founding partner of CG Consulting for the Common Good. His career has had three phases since he received his MBA from Columbia University a long time ago, 1967. From 2000-2008, he was the director of communications for a $100 million grant program for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, called Faith in Action. The goal was to establish community organizations comprised of interfaith groups (churches, synagogues, mosques) and other community groups working together to help individuals, who are homebound due to chronic health conditions. The program was able to fund and help initiate almost 2,000 such organizations.

From 1993 to 1999, he was a full-time professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and headed the Undergraduate Program in Advertising. His career from 1967 to 1992 was spent on Madison Avenue and with large marketers. He was a marketing manager for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati and for Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. He also worked for large and mid-sized advertising agencies, overseeing accounts such as Pepsi, Fisher-Price Toys, and Lever Brothers.

Larry looks forward to sharing his knowledge, and to learn about each of the student’s organizations and individual goals.

Program Policies


To be admitted to the Sports Philanthropy Certificate program, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. The application form should be filled out and e-mailed to George Washington University at Your application will be reviewed for approval by the program staff.

Sports Philanthropy Application Form


The enrollment fee for the Certificate in Sports Philanthropy is $4,000. This covers access to the online course system, 12 courses taught by experts in the industry, all course materials, attendance at the in-person residency, access to university resources, and individual support from the program director.

Special Offers*

  • For each cohort an early bird rate of $3,750 is available. Please inquire about deadlines.
  • Payment plans are also available for those who register in advance.
  • Register two or more students from the same organization and take advantage of the discounted rate of $3,500 per student.

*Please note that students are required to cover the cost of personal travel to the residency, as well as lodging and transportation.

Financial Aid

Because the Sports Philanthropy Certificate program is a non-degree program, federally funded student loan programs are not generally available and the program is not eligible for deferment of such loans. But private lending institutions may be able to finance your education.

Where are Classes Held?

Classes for the Sports Philanthropy Certificate program are held on-line with the exception of the residency which will be held in a location where best practices in sports philanthropy can be experienced first hand.

Important Policies

Extension & Reinstatement Policy

The Sports Philanthropy Certificate program is a five-month program. After the residency program, you will have five months to complete your courses and group assignment. If for some reason during the five-month period you need an extension, you can request one by forwarding a letter of explanation to

Staff will review your request and determine if it will be granted. You can only receive one extension for a maximum of six months.

Refund Policy

If a student withdraws form the program 30 days before the start date, refund is 100% of tuition minus a $100 withdrawal fee. If a student withdraws from the program within seven days of the start date, no refund is granted. A student who withdraws between the 30- and seven-day will either receive a full credit to the program the following year or a 50% refund.

For More Information

For more information on courses, faculty, residency or other general questions, contact the Sports Philanthropy Certificate program at or (202) 491-6980.

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