Written by Noemi Pollack on December 29, 2010.
I came across a “feel good” story that made sense, as my last blog of 2010.
The Christmas season is traditionally a time for giving. Clearly annual corporate charitable donations are planned and, as such, happily millions of dollars are donated to worldwide needy causes such as hunger, poverty, aids and more.
But children’s playgrounds as a needy cause?
That’s right. Now companies such as Kraft Foods, MetLife, CVS and Dr Pepper/Snapple Group, have recognized a need, in face of plummeting local tax revenues that support schools, and are pitching in to build new school playgrounds or re-build the decaying ones – literally. It’s not just about a check, although that too, but about thousands of employee volunteers (as is the case with Kraft) that are actually getting into the nitty-gritty of the construction work, such as putting together a climbing wall, shoveling gravel onto walking paths, spreading a mountain of mulch beneath play equipment, or sanding newly-constructed picnic tables. Even Kraft’s chief executive, Irene Rosenfeld, pitched in with the actual building of 13 playgrounds.
There are others, of course. Dr Pepper/Snapple Group has pledged $15 million this month to build or fix 2,000 playgrounds over the next three years. The insurance business, clearly another good fit, joined in. Foresters, the Canadian life insurance provider, recently pledged $1.5 million to build 20 playgrounds in the United States and MetLife continues to regularly finance playgrounds to promote physical fitness.
It’s smart. The companies’ savvy marketers are picking up Michelle Obama’s lead in the fight against childhood obesity and with it, the need for children to exercise. Moreover, with charitable cash in shorter supply, volunteers can take up the slack and companies get to add volunteerism and community engagement to their giving.
If providing play spaces is a winning cause for the food and beverage companies that have come under fire for high calorie snacks and drinks, so be it, for it is a win-win situation for all. If the companies are embracing the playground as an opportunity to make their names better known – and better liked – locally and to encourage employees to volunteer in their communities, so be it. And if companies sound self-serving and a bit smug in doing so, as when Foresters CEO, George Mohacsi, said, “…we get more bang for the buck when we build a playground,” that, too, can be forgiven.
If the melding of charity, philanthropy and marketing helps children, then I say – It’s the American way.
Happy New Year to all…