Sustainability’s Been No Slam-Dunk for Hoops 4 Hope

Mark Crandall thinks it’s amazing how much Hoops 4 Hope has been able to do with so little in the past 18 years. Jack Graves

   Mark Crandall, who’s hopeful that the Hoops 4 Hope program he’s overseen in Zimbabwe and South Africa for the past 18 years will continue to grow, is nevertheless mindful that, despite the organization’s fine reputation, fund-raising has been a continuous struggle, he said during a conversation at The Star before flying to Africa the other day.
    “We’ve got 2,000 pairs of sneakers at the Neighborhood House,” he said, “but, while everyone wants to give you sneakers, they don’t necessarily want to raise the money so that you can send them across the world. . . . In Zimbabwe we’re in over 100 schools, but we don’t have basketballs.”
    Well-wishing was well and good, he said, but Hoops 4 Hope, which uses basketball as a gateway to its life skills courses in such topics as H.I.V. prevention, gender equality, and leadership, courses aimed at redirecting at-risk youth, needs to become “sustainable. . . . We want to take our model and share it farther and wider, but we can’t undersell it anymore. We need $1 million to become sustainable, and in order to do that we need corporate sponsorships.”
    “We led a $100,000 grant from the German government that reached 1,000 kids and 120 coaches in Cape Town during the World Cup. It was about upscaling these amazing coaches and investing in them. It allowed us to go out from the city into rural areas. It allowed us to show our model and made it clear how much money we should be spending. Angela Merkel came down and checked it out and was pleased. But now that money is gone.”
    Crandall, while he still remains a volunteer C.E.O. after all these years, has hopes for the Internet. “We’ve dived into social media, the word’s definitely getting out, we are getting more exposure, but we’ve got to harness it. It’s amazing we’ve been able to do so much with so little.”
    There had, he said, been some especially good news recently, in the fact that Cape Town had agreed to turn over an indoor-outdoor recreation complex in the center of the city to Hoops 4 Hope’s management. The complex will serve as the organization’s center there.
    “There’s an all-purpose pitch, indoor and outdoor basketball courts . . . a weight room, a stage, offices. . . . The city has the facilities, but can’t afford any programs. We have programs, but, until now, no space. So it’s been a good partnership.”
    The Amagansettter added that “the family and friends of a guy from Brooklyn who visited our pilot program in Mozambique last year with his son, and who died in the fall, are raising money so that we can refurbish the outdoor court and name it after him, Steve’s Memorial Court. A recent party in the city raised $8,000 so we can do this and pay a coach too.”
    “We have a big presence in Cape Town, but we’ve been on austerity the last couple of years. This center, in the heart of where we’ve had our programs over the years, and which has an indoor gymnasium, will provide us a fun and safe place where we can deliver our curriculum.”
    The center would also serve as a home court for Hoops 4 Hope’s all-star club team, some of whose members, he said, have gone on to play for provincial and national teams.
    Hoops 4 Hope had also served, Crandall said, as a stepping stone for its all-star coaches, alumni leaders whom the organization had made “as employable as possible. . . . We are making an impact on these people’s lives.”
    Hoops 4 Hope’s Zimbabwean center, in Harare, has had Internet access for the past two months, he said; the one in Cape Town as of yet did not. “We’ve got an Internet clubhouse ready to go, but we need a corporate sponsor. Then we could tell their story and show their logo and prove our programs are working.”
    Speaking of Harare, “United States consulate people there are going to send one of our girls to the N.C.A.A. women’s finals in Denver, and two of our coaches are going to the men’s N.C.A.A. finals. . . . The N.B.A. has enabled us to benefit from the sale of tickets to the Broadway play celebrating the lives of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. I’m hoping that will help us get our word out in New York. That’s where we need to be. We’re trying to find office space in the city, in an incubator space or with a like-minded organization — a place where we could have an intern. It would have to be basically free. We can’t pay rent.”