Our Dream Playground
Our new step-by-step project planner offers the money and know-how to make your playground dreams come true.
Tools and Resources
Get funding, learn the nuts and bolts of building a great place to play, and improve your local playground.
Become a Community Partner
Build a great place to play for your community with the help of your neighbors, friends, KaBOOM! and our Funding Partners.
Save Play in Your Community
Get tips, ideas, and inspiration for making your community more playful.
Playful City USA
Our Playful City USA program recognizes cities and towns that embrace play as a priority.
Our collection of books will inspire you to bring more play to your family, neighborhood, and community at large.
What We Do
KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America’s children.
Who We Are
We are peppy, purple-adorned people who passionately promote the power of play!
Partner With Us
Our partners help us to create new playgrounds and to spread the word about the importance of PLAY.
Breaking New Ground: Using the Internet to Scale
Released June 2, 2010 by the Monitor Institute, Breaking New Ground: Using the Internet to Scale: A Case History of KaBOOM!, examines the innovation in organizational growth implemented by KaBOOM!.
The case study, commissioned by KaBOOM! and authored by Katherine Fulton and Heather McLeod Grant, looks at the challenges we faced and lessons we learned while pioneering an online strategy to scale our impact.
This strategy involves giving away our non-profit model online for free to empower others to act on our behalf. While the idea of giving away a non-profit model itself isn’t new, KaBOOM! is one of the first non-profit organizations to put this approach online.
Necessity—the Mother of Invention
In 2004, KaBOOM! hit an inflection point. After years of double-digit growth leading playground builds across the United States, we realized that we were not growing fast enough to ensure that every child in America has a great place to play within walking distance.
“The reality was, we were only making a dent in the problem,” says COO Bruce Bowman. “We were building hundreds of playgrounds when we needed to be building thousands.” KaBOOM! management considered all of the viable, tried-and-true models of other nonprofits and realized that none of them resonated with our operations, vision and mission.
The Path to Growth is Paved with Challenges
Without an existing model to copy, we have had to learn by doing. The Monitor Institute case study enables us to share the seven key lessons we have learned so far in the hopes that other nonprofits can move up the learning curve faster.
- Keep it simple and concrete.
- Treat your online strategy as mission-critical.
- Build your own technical competency.
- Nurture your online community via its leaders.
- Create incentives for action.
- Give up credit to increase your impact.
- Care more about real-world outcomes than online metrics.
Despite a few false starts, KaBOOM! has seen a positive impact from the new strategy. In 2009, a dollar spent by the organization on online tools helped to improve 10 times as many neighborhoods as a dollar spent more directly on playground equipment. Online outreach efforts helped people build more than 1,700 do-it-yourself (DIY) playgrounds in communities around the United States last year—almost as many as KaBOOM! has assembled directly during the past 14 years. By persevering on this new path, we have accelerated our growth and affected the lives of many more children and communities.
The Monitor Institute case study also examines the interactive tools we have made available to communities to build playgrounds and further advance the cause of play. KaBOOM! was an early adopter of the Internet, building our website in 1996 and consistently improving our online tools for more than a decade. Today, visitors to the KaBOOM! site can take advantage of compelling online resources and tools such as the Map of Play, a user-generated map of playspaces across the U.S.; the Build Planner, an online tool that enables individuals to fund, plan, recruit for and execute a DIY playground following detailed, step-by-step instructions; and online trainings for DIY builders.
What We Want Our Online Users To Do
Non-profits use the Internet as a means to various ends, as outlined here:
Many non-profits happily (and for good reason) live in the bottom left quadrant. The prime purpose of their online efforts is to tell a compelling story about the organization—so compelling that visitors will hit the donate button and give. The money raised online supports the organization’s own real-world efforts. The American Red Cross, American Diabetes Association, and the ASPCA are just a few among thousands of examples.
An entirely different cadre of non-profits lives in the same quadrant: online-only organizations that facilitate donations (or micro-loans) to the worthy projects of others. Kiva and Donors Choose are innovative examples. They serve as matchmakers between potential donors and small organizations or projects that lack the means to solicit donations effectively on their own.
Though many non-profits include issue-specific petition drives in their web offerings, a few organizations find their prime purpose in the lower right quadrant. Common Cause (appealing to users who share values) and Change.org (which is more agnostic about the cause) bring disparate individuals together around a shared objective via online petition drives.
In the upper left quadrant, non-profits increasingly use their websites to drive volunteering, asking users to leave their computers and do something in the physical world. They may promote the organization’s own off-line efforts (Habitat for Humanity, Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure) or serve as brokers between potential volunteers and third-party projects (Volunteer Match and Hands On Network are perhaps the best known examples).
KaBOOM! is a pioneer in the upper right quadrant, providing tools that enable would-be volunteers not just to join a project (though it does that, too), but to organize their own project—to determine its scope, pick the date, recruit the volunteers, raise the money and build something for their neighborhood. The projects we enable are play-oriented, but the approach is relevant to any organization willing to cede leadership and open-source its know-how in furtherance of its cause.
Of course, we work in the other three quadrants, too, but our primary metric of online success is the number of offline projects completed by others.