How to build people power any time of year? Crowdfund!

With midterm elections in the rearview, it can feel like this season’s chance to stand up and be counted has passed, and we just need to wait for the next opportunity to cast our votes.

At ioby, we love scoring that “I Voted” sticker as much as any righteous ballot-puncher, but we also know that democracy isn’t a date on the calendar, and voting isn’t the only way to speak your mind. People power can go strong all year long!

One great way to make it happen, no matter the season? Crowdfund with ioby! 

How local crowdfunding grows people power

People Power Roundhouse Revival[Musicians performing at Roundhouse Revival, a neighbor-planned annual celebration of Memphis’ Mid-South Coliseum.]

1) Crowdfunding elevates grassroots ideas

ioby is built on the belief that residents know what’s best for their own communities. That’s why we provide tools, trainings, and services for people to organize their neighbors around projects that make their blocks better places to live, work, and play—and why we help them fundraise for these projects from within their own communities. As their campaigns progress, residents get to know one another, building resilience. As they exchange knowledge and perspectives, they refine and improve their ideas and methods. And as their successes become visible, other funders often take notice and expand on those initial investments. That’s people power from the ground up.

In Memphis, the Roundhouse Revival series has attracted thousands of attendees and drummed up widespread public support for saving the historic Mid-South Coliseum—one of the first racially integrated facilities in the South and the site of thousands of school graduations, music concerts, and sports competitions—from demolition.
By putting their heads together, Memphians have shown the potential of this local institution to once again host inspiring events and unite the city around some of its most beloved traditions.

2) Crowdfunding gets folks to invest in the change they want to see

Since ioby’s beginnings, we’ve known that when people feel a personal connection to something near them, they take care of it. When residents of a neighborhood donate to an initiative they like that’s taking shape right where they live, they’re investing in their own future. There’s a lot of great philanthropy that sends resources far away, and there are a lot of well-meaning people who agree with an idea but don’t know how to support it. By crowdfunding within their communities, ioby Leaders harness people power—both the will and the funding—to make the improvements those around them want to see.

Just north of the Mid-South Coliseum, the 1.7-mile Hampline bike path will transverse the hearts of the Binghampton neighborhood and the Broad Avenue Arts District and provide a much-needed connection between Overton Park and the Shelby Farms Greenline. Though it’s still under construction, the Hampline has already raised occupancy in the once-struggling Broad Avenue commercial district to 95 percent, and begun attracting crowds to weekend events at its formerly underutilized Overton Park terminal.
To meet the project’s $70,000 budget gap, 700 people who live within a few miles of the path donated a median amount of $50 through ioby (many chipped in just $9.01—the city’s area code). Not only did this outpouring of local giving demonstrate a groundswell of people power, it also fostered a culture of ownership and local stewardship of the nascent space that will help to ensure it’s used and cared for long into the future.

People Power Firefly Trail[The first mile of the Firefly Trail under construction in Georgia.]

3) Crowdfunding shows electeds and officials what people want

We’ve heard skepticism about the efficacy—even the morality—of crowdfunding for neighborhood improvements. Some ask, “Doesn’t community crowdfunding undermine government responsibility?” While we get that line of logic on paper, our decade of practice has shown just the opposite to be true. ioby works with mayor’s offices, city parks and transportation departments, and sustainability agencies nationwide, all of whom turn to us to help them catalyze resident-led projects that align with their own goals around sustainability, safe streets, and more. These entities know that supporting people-powered projects is one the surest ways to earn authentic community buy-in—a cornerstone of long-term success.

Georgia residents raised over $62,000 on ioby to help construct the Firefly Trail, a 39-mile multimodal rail trail stretching from Athens to Union Point. Following that triumph, they realized a rare opportunity to keep the momentum going. They knew area voters would decide whether to approve the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST), a one percent sales tax that would go toward local transportation projects. If they could get the Firefly Trail on the ballot, they could win millions for its implementation.
As ioby Leader Ivette Lopez Bledsoe explained, “When people open up their wallets and give, that speaks really loudly. They have bought into something that they want to see succeed. So, when we went before the project selection committee and the Mayor and Commission, our donors gave us tremendous credibility.” The Firefly Trail was approved for inclusion on the ballot, and the people of Athens-Clarke County voted to raise an impressive $16 million for its construction.

Are these success stories inspiring you to ramp up the people power in your neighborhood? Don’t wait till the next election! Share your idea with us and we’ll help you plan how to make it happen.

Further reading:
– The Coliseum Coalition is working to reopen the historic Mid-South Coliseum.
– Learn more about the Hampline on BLDG Memphis.
– The nonprofit Firefly Trail, Inc. is working to create this unique multi-use trail.