Town Hall Loses Amex Charity Click-Race By a Hair, But Will Collect the Money Anyway

The music will go on, without crumbling walls.
We noted on Tuesday that there was a tight finish developing in the race for a $125,000 restoration grant from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Seattle's Town Hall was within a few clicks of catching an environmental-education schooner called the Adventuress (which, in the campaign for online votes, used its inherent mobility to claim every city and town along the Puget Sound as its home base).

The online voting was extremely tight all the way to the finish, according to sponsors of the contest, with the lead changing hands several times yesterday, the final day. In the end, the schooner pulled ahead. But the sponsors came up with the brilliant idea of giving both organizations the $125,000.

It's a win-win P.R.-wise, and doesn't cost them an extra dime.

That's because Amex has already pledged to give $1 million total to projects in the Puget Sound area. The winner of the popular vote was guaranteed a grant, while the rest of the money is to be distributed according to the decisions of a committee. The extra $125,000 being given to Town Hall will simply be subtracted out of the balance that's available to other organizations--$750,000 rather than $875,000.

It's a huge victory for Town Hall, which can now do important restoration work to its nearly century-old home, a former Christian Science church. (And we like you too, Adventuress, even if you seem like a bit of a carpetbagger. We'd be happy to include you in our Summer Guide. Write to

We've expressed some skepticism about the tedious click-harvesting that nonprofits are lately being required to undertake to win sometimes paltry grants. But this project showed how it can be done well--raising the profile of a bunch of worthy projects in town, and providing plenty of good PR for the corporate benefactor, who could have chosen any number of more fashionable causes on which to spend their money.

Amex will announce on June 15 who among the 23 other local projects will get a cut of the $750,000.

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