Crowdfunding for social justice issues

For better and for worse, social justice issues are in the limelight these days. It’s heartbreaking that events like the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, abuse and harassment exposed through the #MeToo movement, and crises like the first rise in American homelessness in over a decade are making headlines every day. But it’s also important to shine a light on these problems, and encouraging to see such a swell of energy rising to overcome them.

Since 2008, ioby Leaders have been taking on social justice issues right in their own communities. By seeing something that needs to be addressed, thinking through a plan to make it better, and rallying their neighbors around implementing their good ideas, these resident activists are tackling social justice issues in one of the most effective ways: locally, right where they live, and led by the people who will be affected most by whatever happens next.

We’re so proud to have helped local leaders raise over $5 million for over 1,600 community-level projects in the past 10 years. Below, we shout out a few who’ve focused their efforts on specific social justice issues that are manifesting in different ways across the country, accompanied by some of our best advice for bringing such projects to life.

But first, a note on intersectionality. It is impossible to separate the work of racial justice, for example, from the work of economic justice, health justice, education justice, environmental justice, or any other good fight. The social justice issues we’re highlighting below might be centered in a particular area, but none are their own islands. Such interrelated problems call for interdisciplinary approaches—and for a village of (crowdfunding) supporters!


Social Justice Issue #1: Gender Justice
Great example: S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective

Location: Miami, Florida & New York, New York
Project summary:
Tanisha Douglas and Caitlin Gibb, 2015 ioby Superheroes, founded this youth organization that interrupts cycles of state violence, poverty, and oppression by supporting girls and femmes of color who have “lived and breathed” these inequalities as they grow to become the next generation of leaders.

The S.O.U.L. Sisters crushed their original ioby crowdfunding goal, raising over $12,300 when they had sought less than $10,000. Less than four years (but a lot of stellar work) later, they were awarded $40,000 from the Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Invest in Youth initiative. Going to funders with a winning crowdfunding campaign under their belts proved they had the motivation, community buy-in, and planning savvy to be successful.

Social Justice Issue #2: Racial Justice

Project summary:
We can’t pick just one! ioby has been honored to work with scores of local leaders who have made it their business to upend racism by working arm in arm with their neighbors. The six Cleveland leaders featured in our Racial Justice Toolkit are particularly great examples of how to turn a good idea into real world impact.
Our blog post “How to crowdfund for racial justice projects” lists many of our top resources, case studies, and troubleshooting tips specific to racial justice work that can help you get your project off the ground.


Social Justice Issue #3: Food Justice
Great example: UJIMA Refresh

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Project summary:
Entrepreneur Bianca Butts knew that many of her neighbors in the food desert of Buckeye wanted to eat more healthfully, but local fresh food options were slim to none. To be the change she wanted to see in her community, she started making inexpensive, tasty juices from fresh fruits and veggies so her neighbors could grab good nutrition easily.


Bianca didn’t just set up shop and wait for juice lovers to come to her. She first gave out samples of UJIMA Refresh at community events, then organized tasting pop-ups with local artists and musicians. Getting more people on board wasn’t only a tribute to her juice’s name (Ujima is the third principle of Kwanzaa: collective work and responsibility), it also worked wonders to help her spread the word about her campaign and get authentic support from her community.

Social Justice Issue #4: Housing Justice

Great example: The Abandoned Housing Conversion Project

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

Project summary:
Developers including Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, and the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council were lining up to rehab some of Kansas City’s 7,000 abandoned properties, but many of the homes had legal claims (like mortgages and liens) against them that  had to be cleared before rehab could begin. Neighborhood Legal Support (NLS) raised over $2,000 on ioby to clear title on five properties that could then promptly be transformed into much-needed, good quality housing for local families.

Maybe it came naturally to them as lawyers, but NLS made a compelling case for their project on their ioby campaign page. They quoted a Kansas City Chamber of Commerce initiative that concluded clearing titles “is the most impactful avenue for reinvestment in vacant and distressed urban core properties.” They provided project updates in boldface type, as they happened. And they included a short video narrated by a Kansas City native that illustrated the personal investments the project’s leaders were making in its success.


Crowdfunding for social justice issues

Social Justice Issue #5: LGBTQ Justice
Great example: Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP)

Location: New York, New York

Project summary:

QDEP fundraised with ioby to support their 2017 programming for LGBTQ migrants and Muslim immigrants contending with language barriers, fear of violence, unemployment, and other obstacles to resettlement, safety, and independence in their adopted American home.

The organization set up their ioby campaign page to appeal to donors with inspiring photos, an itemized list titled “What will your gifts fund?”, and a detailed testimony from someone who had personally benefited from their work. They also articulated that “community is our largest asset. … Our funding needs to grow organically from those that center our politics in their everyday lives.”


Have an idea to spotlight social justice issues in your community? Let us know! We want to help you get started.