Cause Marketing & The Boston Common: An Open Letter to the City of Boston

Note: As promised, I took your comments from Cause Marketing Challenge: The Boston Common and offered our help to the City of Boston. Based on my outreach to my contacts at City Hall, they advised I send our suggestions to Toni Pollak, Boston Parks Commissioner. Here's a copy of the email I sent her this morning.

Dear Ms. Pollak,

My name is Joe Waters and I'm a local cause marketer who writes the blog I read recently that the City is considering opening the Boston Common to company sponsorships to pay for repairs and improvements. I got to thinking about how cause marketing might play a supporting role.

I'm unsure how familiar you are with cause marketing. There are other definitions, but I define it as a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual profit. The "profit" for the cause is generally funds and greater public awareness. The business "profits" from enhanced favorability in the public eye and perhaps increased sales.

You can read more about cause marketing here.

After I read about the Common I wrote a post inviting my readers to brainstorm on ways cause marketing could support the Common. I got a great response on my blog and Twitter, and wanted to share with the Mayor and you what my readers suggested.

Yyou can read their comments here.

First, based on the conversation I came up with a realistic outline of what cause marketing could truly accomplish.

  • Engage companies and shareholders in the effort to restore the Common
  • Raise public awareness of the deterioration of the Common and the serious need for repairs
  • Demonstrate the power of consumerism as a tool for social change instead of just consumption
  • Raise incremental dollars to support the repairs and improvements on the Common
  • Identify and attract more lucrative forms of funding (e.g. government grants, major individual gifts and corporate foundations to name a few)

Second, there was a general consensus that we needed to leverage the Common and the businesses around it for fundraising. The Common has been the site of so many fundraisers, why not one for the Common itself?

Third, we talked about commemorative items stamped with the Boston Common image that could be sold in area stores with a percentage going back to support the Common.

Fourth, what about a Boston Common affinity credit card? I noticed in the article I read that neighborhood groups support the Common. Perhaps they could kick-off a credit card that would donate 1% back to the Common. Can a charity license plate be far behind?

Fifth, a couple of readers pointed to other cities that are doing city park sponsorships well, including Chicago's Millennium Park. They should be a model for our efforts. As should the National Parks Foundation. Including the Boston Common in a larger group of city parks across the country would make it a more attractive partner for national cause marketing.

Finally, thanks to its great foot traffic and tourists, cause-based businesses have great potential on the Common. Everything from photo booths to food vendors to souvenir hawkers selling licensed Boston Common gear could support restoring the area.

Ms. Pollak, I hope you'll take a moment to read my post and the suggestions my readers and I offered. I'm happy to volunteer my time to meet with you or anyone from the City to discuss our recommendations and to help the Boston Common partner with local and national companies.

I'll follow up with you shortly, but in the meantime don't hesitate to contact me first if you wish to further discuss these ideas.


Joe Waters