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Preserving the Big Apple

March 19, 2012

Last week, American Express announced that our ten-year effort to increase public awareness of historic preservation in the United States, Partners in Preservation, is coming to the Big Apple -- New York City. With our partner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we are launching our seventh local market program geared toward engaging the public in helping us decide what historic sites to support with preservation grants.

We started this program in 2006 in San Francisco. At the time, American Idol was all the rage and there weren't any crowd sourcing programs designed to allow the public to vote on grants (this was pre-Members Project and pre-Pepsi Refresh). So, we were in virgin territory. All we knew was that we wanted to get people involved in their communities, to learn more about historic preservation and historic sites in their neighborhoods, and to connect our stakeholders with historic preservation as one of our corporate giving themes.

I remember the day that we launched the Partners in Preservation program in San Francisco. At the time, we would have been thrilled to have 10,000 votes cast. At the end of the four-week voting period, we had close to 200,000 votes cast and over 260 media stories in local and national media on the program. So, we were off and running!

Since San Francisco, we've hosted Partners in Preservation programs in Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul generating hundreds of thousands of votes (over 300,000 votes in Boston alone) and hundreds of media stories (over 425 stories in Seattle alone).

In each location, we've chosen 25 historic sites that compete for $1 million in preservation grants. Through this program, we've helped restore 70 historic sites ranging from the Paragon Carousel and Museum of African American History in Boston to the Pui Tak Asian Cultural Center and Frank Lloyd Wright Unity Temple in Chicago to Point No Point Lighthouse and Schooner Adventuress in Seattle.

In New York, we will announce the selection of 40 historic sites that will be competing for $3 million on April 26. The voting period – when anyone can vote once a day every day – will run through May 21. There will be three popular vote winners who are guaranteed to receive preservation grants. The rest of the $3 million will be distributed by an Advisory Committee comprised of local business, civic and preservation leaders.

We have plans to promote this program extensively both internally and externally, and we also have plans to engage employees in Serve2Gether volunteer projects with the sites.

We can't give you too many other details at the moment, but watch my CSR Now! blog for more details over the coming weeks. And, get ready to get engaged, and to vote early and often on or Help us invest $3 million to support historic preservation in the Big Apple!

If you have a question or comment, let us know here.

P.S. Did you know that American Express has contributed over $40 million to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund during the past 20 years?


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