San Jose Parks Foundation’s plan has always been to build a base of individual donors large enough to support a lean organization that leverages funding from other sources and directs those funds to programs and projects for our public parks and trails.
When a few thousand citizens contribute $50 to $150 every year, San Joe Parks Foundation will be able to create a variety of community partnerships, as well as attract funding for city programs that the city would not otherwise be able to garner.
From the beginning of its existence, the Parks Foundation’s emphasis has been on reaching out to neighborhoods to find people who understand that we are now living in a new paradigm, where parks and trails are dependent on more than what city governments are able to provide.
Since we were concentrating on building a base of individual donors, I was pleasantly surprised to have been approached by corporate donors prior to mounting any sort of corporate campaign.
The first to do so was Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), which has since become San Jose Parks Foundation’s top private sector donor. Initially, PG&E was concerned about Martin and Fontana Parks, where many of the native oak trees were growing into power lines.
After an initial confrontation with neighbors, who formed the all-volunteer Martin-Fontana Parks Association, we decided to form a partnership to address all of the long-term concerns.
So, the number of trees and the timing of their removal or trimming, as well as the re-planting and re-shaping of the park—including preservation of vast numbers of the beautiful oak trees—is a shared responsibility between the three of us.
Beyond Martin and Fontana Parks, PG&E has provided substantial funding for Buena Vista Park’s expansion through its matching gifts program. Board member John Leyba has secured these funds through his own generous gifts, and last year he secured an additional grant.
Finally, PG&E made a grant at the end of last year to help San Jose Parks Foundation’s community empowerment program, making it possible for us to reach out to more than 20 neighborhood associations and community groups. In all, PG&E has provided more than $32,000, by far the largest corporate contributor.
A very innovative corporate partnership also began with contact from eBay, which has provided both funding and volunteer support. eBay’s employee-directed GIVE Team became the initial funding source for San Jose Parks Foundation’s KIDS@PLAY Program.
KIDS@PLAY provides fitness activities and education for at-risk youth through San Jose’s Parks and Community Centers. Last year, the program reached several hundred youth. eBay’s seed funding led to additional funding of more than $30,000. eBay’s Green Team also provides volunteers to help clean parks and trails. To continue this work, San Jose Parks Foundation hopes to secure additional corporate partners in the coming years.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at email@example.com or 408.893.PARK.