inSERVICE: Building Champions & Saving Lives

A single month of formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning in children by 88%, and can cost as little as $50 for children, or $60 for adults. Drowning is the top cause of unintentional death in the U.S. for kids 1 to 4, and the second leading cause for kids younger than 14, and the stats are even worse for some populations, with African-American kids ages 5 to 19 nearly six times more likely to drown in a pool than their white peers. Adults don’t fare better, with more than one-third unable to swim the length of a pool. These are all stats cited by the USA Swimming Foundation to support its ongoing work to save lives and impact communities.  

The USA Swimming Foundation, the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, was established in 2004 with a goal of strengthening the sport of swimming by supporting learn-to-swim programs with grant funding, supporting the USA Swimming National Team, engaging in outreach to traditionally underserved populations and more.

The foundation’s work rests on four pillars:

  • Raising money through initiatives that have a long-term impact on fundraising, including annual giving and major gifts.
  • Making a difference in communities through learn-to-swim, membership and clubs, and support of the National Team.
  • Engaging alumni by fostering ongoing relationships.
  • Supporting facilities and pools, recognizing that the need to build and maintain aquatic facilities is crucial. 

Entirely funded by memberships, sponsorships and private donors, USA Swimming has invested $12.8 million in building champions, $16.6 million in saving lives and $4.1 million in impacting communities. These three goals help make up the foundation’s mission.

When it comes to building champions, the foundation provides grant funding to “keep coaches, officials and team leaders at the forefront of the sport.” With USA Swimming, the foundation works to make sure that athletes never walk away from the sport for financial reasons.

To save lives, the foundation “…aims to provide the opportunity for every person in the U.S. to learn to swim.” It does this through an annual grant program, as well as partnering with swim lesson providers and water safety advocates to support swimming lessons and educate kids and their families on the importance of learning to swim. And in 2021, the foundation took over the adult learn-to-swim fundraising efforts from U.S. Masters Swimming, bringing all learn-to-swim fundraising efforts under a single umbrella.  

Impacting communities was officially added to the foundation’s mission statement in 2023, and embodies the foundation’s “efforts to grow a diverse community of champion athletes by creating competitive opportunities within traditionally underserved communities.” It does this by providing grant funding for learn-to-swim programs, scholarships, technology and equipment and administrative support.      RM