Category Archives: Under the Hood

Website upgrades to help your project shine!

The ioby website is all for you.

It’s where ioby Leaders post about and raise money for their projects, where volunteers and donors find the projects they want to support, and where we sing out everyone’s successes as much as we can.

We’re always working on ways to improve—especially ways to make it easier for our community to create, share, and search for projects. To this end, our product team just rolled out a suite of upgrades to our campaign pages that we’re hoping you’ll love.

We’re excited enough about them that instead of a regulation show-and-tell, we’d like to turn this fun unveiling into a game:

Check out the  Biggs Hillside Garden  campaign page. Take a niiiiiice looooong look. Ok, got it? Good.

Now check out what it used to look like:

campaign page before

So?  Did you notice…?

  • The Countdown Clock showing “x days left”—a more urgent call-to-arms for your donor network
  • A Photo Gallery that allows you to upload up to five photos and one video into a dedicated gallery instead of directly on to your campaign page. You can now embed a video (file or URL) to make it the featured image, display additional photos or videos as thumbnails, choose the order in which images appear, and add captions to all of them.
  • A Giving Levels rewards/incentives chart where you can create up to five reward levels, incentives, or suggested donation amounts for specific project needs (totally optional!)

ioby campaign page after

These are just a few of the many changes we have in the works that will let you better customize your campaigns and promote your projects on ioby. (We think they’re just plain good-looking, too. Win-win!)

We’d love to know what you think. Please comment below, or drop us a line at



Unpacking Wired’s Cheeky Crowdfunding Formula

James McGirk’s calculus equation (Wired, June 2014) to a successful crowdfunding campaign has some good points.


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Your campaign should be presented as professionally as possible, it should be communicated in an interesting way, it should be interesting in and of itself, and there should be some tangible and some intangible benefits to the potential donor. The “Money Woe Multiplier”, defined as ‘the factor by which the donor’s rent exceeds the national mean multiplied by their student debt loan,’ is where ioby’s mission and Kickstarter’s business part ways.

ioby is a funding tool for all people, not just young creatives with access to wealthy roommates and uncles (young creatives welcome, too!). If you’re working to make positive change in your community, we’ll make sure you can build support from within your neighborhood, from an important source of patient capital: your neighbors. You can learn an actual formula to a successful crowdfunding campaign with ioby’s friendly staff through our training program, FastCash, or join us in person at GIFT’s Money For Our Movements in Baltimore August 2-3.

Like Kim Klein says, no matter who you are, you already know all the people you need to know to fund your work.

MIT Report on Civic Crowdfunding

The leadership team at ioby wants to take this opportunity to commend Rodrigo Davies on his excellent, recently published research on the emerging field of civic crowdfunding. We’re grateful to have had the chance to work with him and share our work in his research process over the last two years. He’s taken the field a huge step forward, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Thanks also to, Rockefeller Foundation, FastCompany and Next City, for contributing recent stories on the topic (by the way, to those Next City readers who decide to crowdfund your urban chicken farm, here’s a video, on how to start your urban chicken farm once you’ve crowdfunded it on ioby).

As the first U.S.-based civic crowdfunding platform and the civic platform that has supported the largest number of projects to date, we wanted to take this opportunity to share our opinions on a few of the challenges that Rodrigo has raised, and respond with a few case studies of our own.

In his blog announcing his report, Rodrigo raises two important questions that ioby leadership has some pretty strong opinions about. They are “Will civic crowdfunding deter public investment or encourage it?” and “Will civic crowdfunding widen wealth gaps?”

To the first question, thus far, ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform only suggests that our successful campaigns encourage public investment, and greater investment of all kinds. ioby campaigns, because they are funded by neighbors, implicitly demonstrate community buy-in, support and long-term stewardship. Supporting an ioby campaign is akin to a petition, where instead of signing your name, you give $35. It’s a powerful reminder to decision makers in public investment how difficult it is to assess whether communities truly support new projects.

Rodrigo’s second question is a little more complicated. Crowdfunding, even all $6B worldwide, is a relatively small portion of overall financial transactions, so it’s hard for us to assess a claim about wealth gaps at this time. But, taken at the neighborhood scale, it’s an interesting question. ioby projects are required to have a public benefit, so no matter who from the neighborhood gives to a project, the entire neighborhood can benefit. In some sense this could be considered a transfer of wealth from private assets to public assets within the same community. Rodrigo’s paper speaks to this definition of civic crowdfunding in terms of the production of the public good at length (beginning on page 28). But, having a public good accessible to all residents of a neighborhood, isn’t the same thing as increasing wealth or access to wealth (or decreasing either).

For now, the best we can do to answer the question is explain how ioby operates to in terms of a wealth dynamic in communities. ioby’s mission is to deliver resources (timely, right-sized funding) into the hands of civic leaders at the neighborhood scale undertaking projects for positive change. We work intentionally to support leaders in underserved neighborhoods, and the majority of ioby projects are in neighborhoods with average household incomes at or below the poverty level, led by residents of those neighborhoods, funded by the residents of those neighborhoods. Grounded in asset-based community development, ioby’s foundational principles are that residents of communities know what’s best for their neighborhoods and are the best equipped to design, implement, and steward local solutions. In addition, we believe that funding by neighbors is an important civic engagement tactic, source of personal accountability, and source of patient capital — the community itself.

And finally, no ioby projects were selected as case studies, but some speak to some of the questions Rodrigo has raised.

  1. In Next City’s September 2012 Forefront, When We’re All Urban Planners, you can read about a resident-led urban chicken farm in Cypress Hills Brooklyn, supported by the Verde program at the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, which was supported by a match campaign from the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation.
  2. We think an important use of crowdfunding is responding to urgent needs, like the ioby campaign Muckraking the Mayflower Oil Spill, a collaboration between the Arkansas Times and, who raised $26k to put two reporters on the ground in Mayflower, Ark, during a particularly underreported oil spill. The results of their work were notably a state-wide health inspection of affected families which found exposure to hazardous fumes significant enough that the State of Arkansas brought a lawsuit against Exxon Mobile. Read the story here.
  3. The tactical urbanism project, the 78th Street Play Street, is a great example of building civic engagement. Watch Erin Barnes speak about this case study at Poptech’s City Resilient.
  4. The Hampline, a state-of-the-art, two-way, protected and signalized bike lane in the Binghampton neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee is an excellent example of civic crowdfunding and public investment used together, and of civic crowdfunding used as leverage to secure additional private funding. You can read all about it in the Memphis local paper the Commercial Appeal.

And finally, if you’re still reading, we do want to build on and underscore a few points from Rodrigo’s massive tome. First, ioby’s name is written in all lower case because our name comes from the opposite of NIMBY, and because ioby is a place for resident-led, neighbor-funded projects in public spaces that make neighborhoods stronger and more sustainable. We’re a mission driven 501(c)3 non profit organization dedicated to working in underserved neighborhoods. Our goal is to provide access to untapped source of patient capital – the community itself – and to amplify local work to a national audience in those communities that often have a greater number of local challenges and fewer resources available with which to address them. Our fundraising training program teaches communities to pool funds as startup or demonstration funding that can be leveraged to access other funds.

All of this is to say that ioby’s work is defined by collective grassroots action, working from the ground up, thus the all lower case name, the lowest median project budget size ($1,725) and ioby’s average donation amount (just $35).

ioby serves neighborhood residents. ioby Leaders must be residents in the neighborhood of their project. And most ioby Donors live within a couple miles of the project site. But we do work with governments, and have a long history of working with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, the Miami-Dade County Office of Sustainability and the City of Memphis Office of the Mayor and Shelby County Office of Sustainability. We strive to work as a flexible facilitator to recognize the role of community leadership in meeting municipality goals and to expedite citizen interactions with governing agencies. We believe crowd-resourcing, as ioby defines it, can be a useful listening tool for government to understand where its citizenry’s interests and concerns are. In addition, we’ve just published two guide books for citizens working for change in Miami-Dade and in Memphis.

And finally, in response chart on page 40 in Rodrigo’s report, we want to mention that ioby’s tax-deductible donations are available to individuals and organizations not associated with a 501c3 by acting as a fiscal sponsor, most closely like a Type C fiscal sponsor (details here).  For a complete list of ways that ioby differs from similar platforms, check out our blog on the topic.

A Lesson from Modern Family

In the last episode of Modern Family, Jessie Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network) plays the character of an environmental hero. His character walks down the street to talk to his neighbor, Mitch Pritchett (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and engage in a friendly conversation about innovative technologies and the moral imperative to protect the living creatures on Earth. For those of you who didn’t see it, here’s the clip.

Stings, doesn’t it?

Eisenberg brings a holier-than-thou attitude of extreme environmental superiority. He insults, demeans and one-ups Mitch in every single sentence. He is a smug, judgmental, rude, obnoxious, snobby and disdainful know-it-all. He is a modern environmentalist.

Many believe that the best neighbors are the ones you never see or hear. As a result, most neighbors don’t interact very often. Nobody likes an asshole, but it’s particularly poignant when someone you share so much in common with—your block, trees, air, fences, backyard, schools, places of worship—turns a rare interaction into an unpleasant one.

The result is that this very personal, very high touch criticism is very motivating. Mitch’s reaction, while absurd, is not at all uncommon. Most people would react negatively to being treated like that.

Multiply this interaction times 16,000, the approximate number of environmentalists in the world.

Individually, we are total assholes.

As a community, we are screwing ourselves.

The opportunity cost of this kind of behavior is huge. Mitch’s character, like many, is actually an environmentalist himself, the most likely to actually care about the message that Eisenberg’s character has to deliver, and the most likely to actually take action on it. Instead, he’s completely alienated, and possibly now engaged in community self-loathing. He receives no recognition for any of the behavior changes he’s made already. His Prius, his profession,… None of it is good enough for the planet.

What if, instead of criticizing other people for their shortcomings in conservation, we invited our neighbors to join us in some positive action, together? What if, instead of comparing greenhouse gas expulsion lawn by lawn, we focused on shared, public spaces in the neighborhood? What if we worked to be better neighbors first, then focused on solving bigger problems, together?

ioby is interested in this problem exactly. So far, 2% of ioby donors have become leaders of projects themselves. Something in their experience in the community project, initiated by one of their neighbors, made them consider that they should, too, step up to lead and create. We’re working on a project to increase that percentage from two to ten percent. If you’re interested in the way that ioby’s network of 750+ leaders can provide opportunities to their neighbors to become more involved through local investment, advocacy and volunteering, let us know and email us. You can find all our contact information here.


Miss us at #EPIPCrowd?

Last night was a fantastic event at the Housing Works Bookstore hosted by EPIP-NY with DonorsChoose, kiva, and Benevolent moderated by The Networked Nonprofit co-author Allison Fine.

If you missed it, you can listen to the whole podcast right here. Enjoy! Photos below are by Vlad Drekalo. Thank you, Vlad!

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Trust, Accountability and Your Neighbors

There is one question that every foundation and every local government partner asks us about crowdfunding, “What about accountability? How can you guarantee the group will actually do what they say?”

Of course you cannot guarantee anything. Just as in grantmaking or any other capital endeavor, there is risk. At ioby, we have spent a lot of time minimizing that risk, by building structure to ensure projects do what they promise and building policies around what would happen if someone didn’t deliver what they promised. We talk to every project leader on the phone, we review every project, and, if we have concerns about a project, we ask for others to vouch for it before it goes live.

And in 380 cases, no one has ever come close to taking advantage of the system – not once. For some reason, when people post their ideas on ioby, and get them funded online, they actually realize their ideas. And that goes for even the most “out there” ideas.

Read the rest of this blog in Erin’s guest piece “Trust, Accountability, and Your Neighbors” on Philanthrogeek.

Jack Johnson and ioby join smallwater to rebuild in the Rockaways

Thanks very much to Jack and Kim Johnson and the whole team at the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation for matching donations to smallwater’s project on ioby. smallwater began serving the Rockaways in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy, on Beach 96th Street (across the street from Rockaway Taco), and now, with serious elbow grease put in by neighbors and Jack Johnson himself, a vacant lot that was just six months ago used to deliver food and clothing to people in the Rockaways is now being transformed into a community center and garden. Give to the project now, and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation will match your donations.