Sophomore uses fantasy sports to help charities

September 27, 2018 — by Neeti Badve

Sophomore Ajay Gupta uses his fantasy sports organization Project 4 to fundraise charities.

With NFL season well underway, millions of fans have drafted, picked and made bets within their fantasy football leagues in hopes of winning money for their own wants and needs.

So it is perhaps surprising that sophomore Ajay Gupta has taken a new approach that contrasts with the usual betting: using fantasy sports to raise money for good causes.

With his idea, Gupta and his younger sister created Project 4 over the summer, an organization aimed at taking the hobby of fantasy sports and using it to fundraise for various charities. For his first event on the FIFA World Cup, Gupta sought to benefit the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI), an organization that allows young girls with disabilities to play sports.

“Throughout the whole event, we were in contact with BAWSI’s CEO Jennifer Smith, and we even got former U.S. Women’s soccer legend Brandi Chastain to fill out a bracket, which was really cool,” Gupta said.

Project 4 had been formulating the June pool and instructions since April, yet in order to get started on its operations, Gupta needed to tackle the problem of ensuring his plan cannot be seen as gambling, which would make it illegal.

After a call with a lawyer, Gupta was told that Project 4 could not award a prize to the winner; in this case, people donating money to be a part of a pool could be accused of gambling.

By the time of the pool, Project 4 had recruited 75 people to try to pick the most winners out of the games throughout soccer’s World Cup.

Gupta sent out notices through BAWSI’s Facebook page to the organization’s contacts and used his own social media to spread awareness about his cause. However, they were posted late, not giving people enough time to join the pool, which is an aspect Gupta aims to change in his football event.

Sophomore Arnav Mangal was lucky enough to register on time for Project 4’s World Cup pool.

“I decided to join because I enjoy watching the World Cup, but finding out about my money going towards charity made me want to participate even more,” Mangal said.

Mangal knew his contribution would be put to good use.

“I knew it would be a great experience, and clearly, the idea was a success with the amount of money raised for the foundation,” Mangal said.

Smith and Chastain helped with the logistics of the event from BAWSI's side and ensured the money was coming through with accurate data. Through player donations, Project 4 raised over $3,000 for BAWSI.

“Coming in I had no idea what to expect and ended up getting a fairly good turnout,” Gupta said.

Excited about his previous accomplishment, Gupta was determined to apply it to the football season, this time choosing a widespread issue that continues to affect teens all over America: depression.

“We’ve selected a charity that focuses on preventing teen depression because it is a very relevant issue in this area and in our generation,” Gupta said.

In order to participate, individuals must donate $20 directly to the charity to  join a “Pick ’Em” pool set up by Project 4 to play against other players.

The Pick ’Em method is a basic pool where members predict the winners of all the games for that week, earning a point for each correct outcome as the week goes by. As the games finish, players will receive a report generated by the pool with a summary of their standings and total points gained from that week.

“I chose to create the project in this way because from my experience, fantasy sports become a lot more interesting when there are friendly rivalries that emerge,” Gupta said.

Although Gupta intended to hold his second event during NFL regular season, he will instead try to run it during playoff season due to the increased excitement and drama.

Ultimately, Gupta hopes that Project 4 can inspire people and encourage them to use their passion for good rather than greed.

“At the end of the day, I just really wanted to make something where people can channel their love for sports into raising awareness and funding for good causes around them,” he said.