CARE for the Cape & Islands was founded in 2012 as a grassroots organization to engage visitors in ways to help preserve and protect the natural environment, cultural and historical treasures of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Jill Talladay, who lived and worked in the region for nearly three decades, founded CARE because she was concerned about the negative impact of a rapidly growing population and wanted to help find ways to balance the economic benefit of tourism with preservation.
To date CARE has awarded more than $65,000 to fund over 50 projects through its grant program, generated more than 7,000 hours of volunteer labor, and engaged more than 70 companies and organizations in the Cape Cod Stewardship Collaborative.
Funded projects include historical trail development such as a Pilgrim trail and Sea Captains Row that share stories of early settlers, food forest and pollinator demonstration gardens, marine debris education and water bottle filling stations to help reduce single use plastic.
CARE also organizes an annual "CARE for the Cape & Islands Day" with the goal to inspire residents and the business community to become stewards of the home we love. In partnership with a local nonprofit attraction, attendees have the opportunity to make a difference through hands on service, learn about our funded projects, and take a tour of the grounds of our host. The event is a great way to meet other volunteers from the business community and recipients of CARE grants. Participants often remark that they’ve never visited our host location before and develop a newfound appreciation for their backyard.
CARE’s work and leadership has been recognized by local and regional DMOs–Jill recently addressed the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Forum and the North of Boston Tourism Summit, where attendees acknowledge the importance of responsible tourism for both attracting business, but also ensuring the destination’s continued support of tourism business.
CARE’s Stewardship Program gives the tourism industry a variety of opportunities to support its mission, advance its mission, and benefit their business. All funds raised by CARE stewards go to the Stewardship Fund Grant Program and are used to fund a variety of projects and programs that affect the visitor experience, improve our environment, and create a sense of place.
Travelers donate by participating in one of the Stewardship Programs (i.e. in-room donations at a resort), purchasing CARE reusable products (Skip-the-Straw reusable straws, bamboo eating utensils, and a guide to under-touristed local ponds that offers preservation tips), and direct donations. All donations are tax deductible.
CARE’s first pilot program was set up in collaboration with Wequassett Resort to launch their Green Guest Program, which focus on recycling, electrical energy conservation, and water conservation. Prior to arrival, Wequassett guests pledge a level of participation that results in energy and cost savings for the resort. In turn, the resort then donates some of the savings to CARE. Using this model as a foundation, other hospitality providers who want to participate in CARE’s programs may adapt it to their own needs and resources.
CARE also works with hotels and tour operators and helps them to develop travel packages each built around one or more of CARE’s projects and incorporates a donation. Another opportunity, our alternative gift program, allows to for participants to make a sustainable donation in lieu of purchasing potentially wasteful material items. For example, wedding hosts may opt donation to CARE in lieu of wedding favors. Lastly, local businesses and organizations are invited to become supporters and recognized based upon their level of financial contribution.
We have an annual request for proposals and an online application. Applications are only accepted from a recognized 501c3 nonprofit. Projects must fit within at least one of five established priorities: environmental stewardship, environmental education, food and culture, infrastructure for sustainability and sense of place; and meet specific criteria such as the ability to be completed with one-time funding, involve multiple stakeholders, include elements of Geotourism, be measurable and long-lasting, and provide a benefit to both visitors and residents. Geotourism is defined as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place - its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents."
What is the structure to ensure ongoing accountability?
CARE’s grants are delivered only upon completion of a project, and projects must be completed within one year. Prior to payment, the grant recipient must complete a written report outlining key outcomes, lessons learned, any collaborations and potential for replication and sustainability of the project. We also maintain an ongoing dialog with our grant recipients and visit the project when possible.
CARE’s staff and Board regularly check-in on progress of the project in order to align messaging for volunteer opportunities and promotion, provide assistance when necessary, and to ensure compliance with the grant agreement.
How is the destination-wide impact tourism promoted or marketed to visitors?
We rely heavily on our tourism businesses, chambers of commerce and travel leaders to share information on our projects. Regional and local DMOs often donate advertising and social media to promote CARE’s work and vision. The CARE-led Stewardship Collaborative has launched a major messaging campaign (Take Care Cape Cod) to encourage responsible behavior by guests and residents alike, with support from local broadcast and print media. We also provide material such as bookmarks and a resource sheet that may be placed in hotel rooms or home rentals with responsible travel tips and FAQ’s.
Are travelers given opportunities to support impact tourism programs?
CARE has had success engaging seasonal residents and visiting student groups in cleanups, and aspires to better engage shorter-term guests in partnership with hospitality providers.
Cape Cod is blessed with a very robust (and competitive!) non-profit community, providing both the challenge of boosting CARE’s impact through collaboration, and the risk of duplicating its work with other organizations.
CARE launched the Stewardship Collaborative to address this challenge and opportunity, and Collaborative partners–including local DMOs, NGOs, business leaders and government agencies –are regularly consulted on CARE’s work, and work together to identify solutions.
Sustainability is of significant concern to the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Wendy Northcross, CEO Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce recently remarked "CARE plays a vital role in educating Cape Codders and our guests of our shared responsibility to sustain what makes this place so special, and in equipping and empowering us to fulfill that responsibility".
After 8 years of growth, CARE’s greatest challenge is developing a funding model for sustained future growth, and building capacity to accomplish its mission. We believe the key to future growth and impact is tied to educating prospective partners about our track record, about the continued and growing need for our work, and getting buy-in for how much more we will accomplish with their support.
We believe that local businesses and organizations have a vested interest in supporting Cape Cod’s brand as a destination of rare natural beauty and a culture of care and responsibility. Enlightening our community to its own self-interest is our most powerful lever.
CARE for the Cape & Islands is a fiscally sponsored program of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST).