JetBlue and KABOOM! Build a Playground – and So Much More

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JetBlue and KABOOM! Build a Playground – and So Much More

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Volunteer power couple @JetBue & @kaboom collab to make dream playground reality for Oakland school @VM_Solutions #CSR

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Icema Gibbs, Director of CSR for JetBlue, at the playground build in Oakland, Calif.

Monday, September 10, 2012 - 2:00pm

Guest post by Charlotte Payton

A few months ago, children at the Community School for Creative Education in Oakland, Calif. designed their dream playground. On Saturday, August 18th, their dream became a reality thanks to JetBlue, KaBOOM! and 250 volunteers.

This is the 15th playground JetBlue and KaBOOM! have built together. The project was so impressive that I asked Icema Gibbs, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for JetBlue and Meredith Darche, Manager of Corporate Partnerships for KaBOOM! to share what makes their seven-year partnership so successful.

“We started by dating,” Gibbs quipped. “JetBlue was invited to participate in a build with another funding partner and we had a great experience that turned into a marriage.” She added that KaBOOM! didn’t ask for money up front. “They wanted our involvement.”

JetBlue seeks nonprofit partners that can provide volunteer opportunities for its crewmembers and customers and projects that have a lasting impact in the communities JetBlue serves. They also favor a nonprofit that has similar brand values – KaBOOM! and JetBlue align on fun, passion, and safety.

Darche says what sets JetBlue apart as a national partner is that it brings all of its resources to the table. JetBlue not only provides a significant financial contribution, but has brought in more than 3,000 volunteers so far (employees and customers). It also helps with logistics and planning, travel vouchers, thought leadership, JetBlue swag, public relations efforts, and JetBlue even helps provide food for the events.

As partners, JetBlue and KaBOOM! create positive volunteer experiences with good food, fun music and well-organized activities. During the build, volunteers are divided into teams. A team leader provides direction and answers questions so that no volunteer is left wondering what to do next.

JetBlue encourages customers to come out and do something fun that is also good for the community. If customers participate because JetBlue inspired them, that inevitably helps JetBlue’s brand and supports its business. Dozens of TrueBlue (JetBlue’s loyalty program) members participated in the Oakland project. And more than one Community School parent remarked that they will now choose to fly JetBlue because of this build.

Gibbs and Darche both agree that listening to your partner is the most important part of building a successful long-term relationship. KaBOOM! employees listened closely to JetBlue’s specific interests so that they could facilitate the best possible program.

Additionally, Gibbs recommends that other CSR leaders express a genuine interest in the cause and try to understand how the nonprofit organization works. She also suggests an inclusive strategy, not a top-down approach.

For example, JetBlue provides opportunities for customers and staff to provide input. In February, JetBlue customers were asked to choose the location for this project by voting on Facebook. “You want the passion to be contagious,” says Gibbs. “The only way to do that is to listen.”

JetBlue has committed to building 3 more playgrounds with KaBOOM! through 2013, but together they are building more than playgrounds. They are building up a neighborhood. The Community School now has a new network of supporters who will help the community thrive, and the children of Oakland now have the opportunity to play in a safe environment.

Charlotte Payton is a corporate philanthropy and cause marketing consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. Charlotte has eight years of experience helping Bay Area companies and nonprofits do more good by coming together.


Casey Brennan
+1 (415) 321-3634