“Fundraising 101” for your community health project

Community health initiatives can be as diverse as the people they serve.

Even the term itself has broad reach. Community health as a field concerns the health status of certain populations. Community health centers provide services to patients who lack access to traditional doctor’s offices. Community health workers act as liaisons between a specific community and health services, especially where language, culture, or other barriers exist.

bugs garden school ioby

At ioby, community health projects are led by residents who want to support their neighbors’ wellness in one way or another. Most of these projects provide opportunities for people to adopt healthier habits, like exercising more, eating fresh food, or taking up a stress-relieving hobby like meditating or gardening.

We love that these projects are so wide-ranging. But the fact that they can take such different forms can make them tricky to raise money for, since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Luckily, we’ve worked with many awesome local leaders who have crowdfunded thousands of dollars for community health projects right where they live—many of them through the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge, our partnership with the New York State Health Foundation. Several of these leaders have been kind enough to lend us their fundraising wisdom, and we’re pleased to offer you their knowledge in the list below!


ioby Leaders’ real-world fundraising tips for community health programs

crosswalk flags memphis ioby

Reach out to other people who face the issue you’re trying to solve

From Sarah Newstok of Memphis, who led the ioby campaign Crosswalk Flags, which provided reusable orange safety flags that neighbors could use to heighten their visibility and cross busy streets more safely:

“I was able to raise all the money I needed in a day or two by pinging people on Facebook who I knew were frustrated with the same situation. ‘Hey fellow PTA mom—how do you like not being able to cross the street to reach the park?’ Appeal to people first who you know have had the same problem. Then, as soon as they donate, shout them out on social media and ask, ‘Who’s next?’ Keeping that process up is pretty easy, and it works!”


los angeles walks ioby

Identify potential community partners

From Colleen Corcoran of Los Angeles Walks, who led the ioby campaign Walk This Way, LA, a network of street signs that lets pedestrians know how long it takes to walk or bike from where they are to nearby amenities, landmarks, and neighborhoods:

“We wouldn’t have succeeded if we hadn’t worked with the National Health Foundation and their Health Academy students at Jefferson High, as well as the City Council Office, and numerous other community organizations in the area. Approach organizations who work in your target neighborhood and know it well.”


bk farmyards ioby

Plan ahead, so you know what to ask for

From Stacey Murphy, founder of BK Farmyards, who led the ioby campaign Cooking the New $1 Menu: Straight from the Farm, which brought nutrition education and healthy cooking classes to high school students in Brooklyn:

“Set your curriculum first, so you know what equipment you’ll need [and therefore how to create your budget]. We went with metal utensils and ceramic plates, but paper and plastic might be a better choice for you. You probably won’t need a knife and cutting board for each student; maybe one per four or five. Some schools will go all out to provide you with materials; others can’t or won’t. Consider bringing in your own tools from home, or borrowing them, to save costs.”


nycha garden ioby

Cash isn’t always king: consider every type of donation

From Veronica Vasquez, the high school student who (with her mom, Veronica) led the ioby campaign Blooming Streets – NYCHA Community Garden, a plan to build a community garden on the grounds of their New York City apartment building:

“We’ve never done anything like this before, so if people have things like seeds, gloves, or building materials they can donate, or if they can lend a hand with expertise or want to volunteer, we want them! If not, they can just spread the word and tell others about it. Whatever people can do to let us all live a little healthier.”


south bronx farmers market

Offer your donors and volunteers meaningful ways to be involved

From Jorge Cubas, who led the ioby campaign The South Bronx Farmers Market – New Market Day, which raised money to increase the number of days the market operates:

“A big part of doing this is mentorship. We take the time and effort to make volunteering here a meaningful experience for people. It’s part of my philosophy … that ‘helping’ is not as useful as feeling invested in a movement or endeavor. If you have a network and invest in it, you have a pretty powerful tool to drive the needle in your direction.“


lydias magic garden ioby

Consider what you need for long-term sustainability, not just for getting started

From Alicia Williamson, who led the ioby campaign Lydia’s Magic Garden, which restored a beloved community garden after it was reduced and littered by nearby real estate development:

“At some point, after you get [a garden] set up, the need for funding drops off, but people contribute in different ways: often by just using it! Or by setting up cultural events and holding celebrations. You can be involved steadily, or just once, but people coming together is a big part of sustaining a place like this.”

bike chicago

Bonus tips:

  • The ioby Guide to Making it Rain offers how-to stories from local leaders who’ve raised $10,000 or more for their neighborhood project
  • We Started Here discusses how “crowd-resourcing” (a term we coined) can help you pair the money you earn for your project with all the other capital you’ll need to succeed (things like community buy-in and a plan for ongoing stewardship)
  • Recipes for Change gathers tales and tips from experts in storytelling, graphics, city politics, volunteer management, and other fields to help set you up for a winning campaign

Whatever form your community health initiative takes, we hope these tips will be able to help you bring it to life on your block. As always, we’d love to help! Tell us your idea and let’s get started.