Foundation launched to enhance parks

Borough council sets up Bournemouth Parks Foundation to support improvements over and above normal maintenance.

Talking parrot: takes donations
Talking parrot: takes donations

Bournemouth Borough Council has launched a new charity and company to protect and enhance the city's 100-odd parks and green spaces.

The Bournemouth Parks Foundation (BPF) is independent from the council and will support improvements over and above normal maintenance.

It is one of 11 UK projects being trialled by NESTA as part of Rethinking Parks, a £1m lottery-funded programme to find new business models for parks.

BPF is now trialling a range of fundraising mechanisms, including digital donations and legacy giving.

Speaking at a 30 July NESTA conference on digital technology in parks, BPF project manager Theresa McManus said: "Bournemouth Council's parks department was aware that we are really rubbish at marketing our parks as an asset."

The rundown state of advertising and noticeboards seen in parks "gives the wrong message about parks and is not inspiring people to give to their park or green space," she said.

BPF wants to challenge this perception and create "moments of emotional intensity" that encourage visitors - including the 10 million tourists who visit the city each year - to donate to green space causes.

One new feature is a talking parrot sculpture in the Lower Gardens, fundraising for a bigger tropical bird aviary. Donating a £1 coin to the bird gets a cheeky response and visitors can give instantly via text or mobile giving platform Donate, which offers a quick, easy way to donate on the spot.

Specific causes are more compelling than a generic charity, so the platform offers a choice of four causes - the Stour Valley Sculpture Trail, a bird sanctuary, a new bench in a park of the donor's choice and a planting fund. It also allows non-specific donations.

Bournemouth Borough Council officers Mark Holloway and Michael Rowland have been running BPF but will shortly hand over to independent trustees. The foundation will continue when the project ends in March 2016 and findings from all Rethinking Parks projects will be analysed to decide which are worth implementing more widely.

Donations - Digital giving seen as the future

William Makower, a founder of Donate, told the NESTA audience that parks must be prepared for a future in which people give digitally. More than one-third of online sales in 2013 were on mobile phones, suggesting people are buying on impulse.

Parks foundations can tap into that by allowing instant digital donations, said Makower. They also have the opportunity to collate donor data and create a database of engaged users.

The Donate platform has been very successful in the arts sector, where philanthropy is well accepted. But donating to parks is still a new idea for the public so it is important to frame it well and make the experience positive for the donor, he said.

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