How the ‘One Fund Boston’ Relief Effort Was Created in Seven Hours

We talked last week about a company’s major PR failure in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Now, we’d like to share an epic PR win inspired by the same tragedy.

Shortly after the attack that killed three and wounded over 180 at last Monday’s Boston Marathon, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick contacted Jim Gallagher, executive VP of John Hancock (which has title-sponsored the race for years) in an effort to brainstorm ways to provide assistance to the victims.

At 10 a.m. the next morning, Mr. Gallagher got on a conference call with Mike Sheehan and Karen Kaplan, CEO and president of Boston ad agency Hill Holiday. Within hours of that call, the agency created One Fund Boston, a foundation designed to help victims.

During the 10 a.m conference call in which Mr. Gallagher promised John Hancock would donate $1 million to get the ball rolling, the Mayor’s office requested it be able to announce the creation of the fund at a 5 p.m. press conference. That left Holiday Hill seven hours to create a charity from scratch.

Communicating mostly via text message, the agency got to work.

First, in an effort to avoid the splintering of donated funds across multiple charities (like what occurred after the Sept. 11 attacks), Mr. Sheehan coined the name “One Fund” as a way to centralize fund-raising. Next, he asked agency designer James Adame to create a new logo, and within 20 minutes Mr. Adame drew up a blue and gold flag featuring a large No. 1, with the words “One Fund” on top and “Boston/2013” across the bottom. By 11 a.m. the logo was approved by the Mayor’s office and advisor Jack Connors.

Then it was time to create the website. Agency technologist John Running registered multiple “One Fund” domains on his personal credit card, and Hill Holliday set up PayPal to accept donations. Local law firm Goodwin Procter then volunteered to register the fund and handle the legal paperwork.

As planned, by 5 p.m. Tuesday night, the new One Fund Boston was fully operational and the site was successfully accepting donations at By Friday the fund had raised over $10 million.

Mr. Sheehan said in an interview on Friday that the lighting-fast teamwork that created the relief fund was an example of how individuals, politicians and businesses in Boston unite in a crisis. “Boston is a big city, but it’s a small town,” he said.