How to start a movement

The internet has revolutionized how we reach and communicate with each other, and it’s changing how we interact with government and politics. Recent surveys have found that Americans are becoming more politically engaged. With more options than ever for connecting, and growing interest in how we are governed, there’s never been a better time to start a movement—starting right where you live.

But wait—does that sound daunting? Do you wonder how you can make a difference when you’re not rich, famous, or in government? Are you thinking, “What do I know about how to start a movement?!”

We hear you! Movements aren’t built in a day, and they require time, effort, and funding to build momentum. But you’re one of the top experts on what’s going on in your community, and how to make it stronger–alongside your neighbors–and ioby exists to support YOU.  

For the past decade, we’ve been working to grow and support a movement of resident changemakers in doing good, wherever they are. Since 2008, we’ve worked alongside more than 1,750 passionate, committed community leaders and have watched as their small projects have turned into larger initiatives, and as they’ve have grown into movements.

[The Firefly Trail in Macon, Georgia, used crowdfunding as a springboard to major funding–including a successful $16 million ballot initiative, and jumpstart a movement for active transportation in the region.]

How to start a movement

We like the way Kes Sparhawk Amesley lays it out. In this quotation, Kes starts with a reference to the Saul Alinsky book Rules for Radicals:

Alinsky’s most important advice is, Start where people are, not where you want them to be. So if you want, say, to start by organizing a neighborhood (which is practical and do-able for an individual or so) you go around talking to the people who live there and find out what’s bothering them. It may be something as basic as no crosswalk on a busy street, or something as significant as not being able to get bank loans to improve their houses. … You make handouts, find a local place to meet… and ask a couple of people you’ve met who are good at explaining why they’re worried to do the talking…

Now, supposing you want to start a national movement… The work still mostly has to be on the ground. It starts with people… talking to other human beings… finding funds to keep going… and enjoying the work.

Kes could have been writing about ioby Leaders—literally!

Case in point #1: Crosswalks are a huge safety make-or-break in neighborhoods around the country. From the residents behind Congress Street Crosswalk in Brooklyn, to the attention-getting crosswalk flags Sarah Newstok and her team provided for their neighbors in Memphis, local leaders across the US are making safe street crossing a priority—and getting national attention. Last year, the state legislatures of California, Florida, and Maine implemented new rules and directed new studies designed to enhance pedestrian safety in intersections, increase school crossing visibility, and empower crossing guards.

Case in point #2: Bank Black USA is a social movement to support Black financial institutions and, crucially, the communities they serve. As Justin Garrett Moore, executive director of the New York City Public Design Commission and a Bank Black leader, explains: “You look at the FDIC data, and 13-14 percent of people in America are Black, and these big banks loan 1 percent of their money to Black people. It’s not rocket science.” Justin and his team raised over $2,200 on ioby to mount an online and printed media campaign that has since gotten them national press in outlets like USA Today and NerdWallet

Alternative Economy Time Bank[Crowdfunding can help raise money for projects and movements that might have a harder time raising money from traditional sources, like foundations. The Unity in Our Community TimeBank in Southwest Detroit turned to crowdfunding through ioby when they found it challenging to receive grants, and strengthened their community along the way.]

Community crowdfunding is a natural fit with movement building

The concept of crowdfunding might be as old as civilization itself—or, at least as old as money. Pooling our assets to achieve a common goal is nothing new. (For example: did you know the Statue of Liberty was a crowdfunded project?)

Today’s selection of online crowdfunding platforms has become pretty specialized: Kickstarter is popular with people launching creative projects, GoFundMe is associated with raising money for life events, Indiegogo is “a launchpad for entrepreneurial ideas.”

When you want to get good done in your own backyard, we’re the ones to call. ioby is for movements! (And for the record, we were doing it even before the word “crowdfunding” was coined.)

We can show you how to use crowdfunding to build lasting local buy-in, avoid becoming reliant on grants, create a springboard to more major funding, and much more.

[ioby projects can be large, like Memphis’s Hampline that raised nearly $70,000, but many also have budgets of less than $500.]

ioby started small, too

How to start a movement when you’re just starting out? We have some good advice to share—in part because we’ve been there, too! ioby began as an idea between three friends over ten years ago. With the help of resident leaders, project participants, and donors all over the country, we’ve grown from a small pilot in New York City to a nationwide movement of neighbor-led change.

We started with $0, but to date have helped communities raise over $5.3 million to improve the places they live, work, play, and gather. Their projects have been as simple as crowdfunding a few hundred dollars to buy a volunteer groundskeeper a new lawn mower to maintain a beloved community garden, and as grand in scale as Memphis’s Hampline, which raised almost $69,000 to help the city design a much-needed two-mile multi-use urban trail.

What do all the projects we support have in common?

They are all driving community-powered movements—whether on the block scale or the national level. When you’re ready to start a movement for good where you live, let us know. We can help you forge connections, build engagement, and make change—in your backyard or beyond.


How to start a movement: more useful ioby resources
– Our 2018 Giving Report celebrates 10 years of civic change with stats, stories, and the lowdown on many resources we offer to help local leaders succeed.

Beyond Voting: Flexing Your Civic Muscle for Change: If you missed this webinar when we hosted it live on December 18, check out the recording to learn how ioby leaders like you are rallying their communities to take down confederate monuments, build food security, and inspire large-scale movements.

The Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) provides training, resources, and analysis to strengthen organizations, particularly those focused on social justice issues and based in communities of color, with the idea that how and where movements raise funds is just as important as where it goes. GIFT also organizes a biennial social justice fundraising conference called Money for Our Movements.