Funders! Matching crowdfunding campaigns gets your money closer to the ground

Health foundations exist to improve the wellbeing of the communities they serve. That’s why their grantmaking is often focused on local nonprofit organizations. And that’s great.

But did you know there’s a way for foundations to get their funding even closer to the ground, and encourage more community engagement in health initiatives—while helping to generate additional money for beneficial programs and projects?

All these things are possible when foundations leverage the benefits of community crowdfunding to boost the impact of their efforts and dollars.

How match funding campaigns can help foundations support communities

Here’s a great case study that illustrates just what we’re talking about.

In 2015, the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) launched the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund, which awarded grants to six communities throughout the state to help them become healthier, more active places. According to an article NYSHealth published in early 2018 about this work, “We knew access to healthy and affordable food, opportunities for physical activity, and the overall built environment of neighborhoods greatly influenced health outcomes. But we also knew that community leaders were the key to making any real change.”

Guided by that conviction, NYSHealth “decided to step out of our traditional grantmaking comfort zone and provide resources at the hyper-local, neighborhood scale.” They partnered with ioby on a matching grants program called the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge that would give resident leaders in their six target communities a dollar-for-dollar match on all donations they could crowdfund for their projects, up to $1,000 per donation, and $10,000 per project.

Here’s an example of how that looked, step-by-step:

  • Renee Matthews of Niagara Falls (one of the six communities chosen) had an idea to get her neighborhood moving: she would host “Turn It Up Tuesdays” public dance events in a local park.
  • Renee told ioby about her idea, started a campaign page on our site, and got to fundraising (with a little help from us).
  • For every dollar Renee raised through crowdfunding, the NYSHealth-funded match added another dollar to her donation total. She met her goal handily—and got her neighbors outside and active.

It’s easy to see how supercharging a community crowdfunding campaign with a match funding program benefitted Renee and her project: a dollar-for-dollar match is a dream for any local leader on a mission to raise money. But how did the dynamic duo help NYSHealth?

1) Working directly with local leaders got the foundation’s funding closer to the ground, advancing their mission:

As NYSHealth wrote in their article:

  • “Although policymakers and city planners may recognize the health disparities that a community faces, they are typically not directly tied to these neighborhoods the way residents are. Far too often, however, the residents of communities are the ones left out of important decisions that shape their neighborhoods. … Who better to say what a community needs most than the residents themselves?”
  • “Though Program Officers spend a lot of time in the field with grantees, we are not necessarily embedded in the neighborhoods we fund and therefore may not have the connections needed to identify resident leaders. … Community leaders have earned the respect of their fellow residents. But how could we, as a foundation, find, support and fund those natural leaders?”
  • “Placing full trust and power into the hands of an impactful, on-the-ground intermediary like ioby helped us further our goals. … Encouraging neighborhood-level, resident-led activities directly supported our goal to build healthier communities by improving opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.”

2) Supporting the deep roots encouraged more community engagement in public health initiatives:

More from the NYSHealth article:

  • “Without the support of these resident leaders, our Building Healthy Communities priority area would have completely missed a key aspect of what makes communities safer, healthier, and more prosperous—the residents themselves.”
  • “Through ioby, we were able to help community-minded organizations find and connect with residents who are both capable and eager to be involved in making their communities healthier.”

To date, the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge has supported more than 120 local leaders in implementing close to 50 wellness projects in their communities: everything from fitness events like Renee’s to healthy food access programs, initiatives to expand green spaces and active-living amenities, and neighborhood education events focused on living well. Crowdfunding each of these projects helped boost community buy-in for all of them.

3) Community crowdfunding helped to generate additional money for needed health programming:

Match funds give foundations a great return on their investment (ROI). In this case, for every dollar NYSHealth put toward the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge, citizen philanthropists gave $1.29! (NYSHealth contributed $100,000 in matching funds, and crowdfunding donors—an average of 31 per campaign—collectively chipped in $128,522.) That’s well over a 100 percent rate of return! Hello, great grantmaking data.

To put the point in case: Imagine if the foundation had given $1,000 directly to Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge grantee Linda Kemp’s project Bringing the Peace and Building Community. That would have been great. But the foundation did one better: they matched what Linda’s neighbor-donors contributed to the project through her crowdfunding campaign. With this approach, NYSHealth’s outlay of just over $600 netted the project over $1,300 total.

The foundation wrote in their article:

“We considered this investment so successful that we recently issued ioby another grant to conduct a second round of their program across the state to lead change in the six Healthy Neighborhoods Fund sites.”

How can your foundation leverage crowdfunding to achieve its goals?

Many factors influence our health: access to healthy food and physical activity, the built environment, income, race, zip code—the list goes on and on. Because many of these factors are place-based, resident leaders can and do affect these social determinants of health—especially when they’re empowered by smart funders.

If your foundation is looking for new ways to support grassroots leaders in the communities you serve or if you want to increase local buy-in for programs that serve your mission, consider providing match funds to community crowdfunding campaigns. For more info on how to get started, or just drop us a line.