What is gratuity? Or what it means to be a community-sustained nonprofit

You may have read our recent post “ioby: More than a crowdfunding platform” that outlined all the other ways we help bring neighborhood projects to life. We educate local leaders about grassroots organizing, promote projects on our website and social media, maintain a dedicated staff that reviews and provides feedback on every project idea submitted to ioby… and lots more.

So that’s what we do. Now, how do we do it?

Well, it takes a lot of passion, dedication, positivity… and, well, money!

NJ and Khara Woods

[Khara and NJ Woods’ Headshots Mural Project in Memphis. Photo by David Leonard]

ioby was founded to be a community-sustained nonprofit. Our formative work was funded in large part by philanthropic foundations and individuals who believed in what we were doing. We’re beyond grateful for their support in helping to get us off the ground.

But now, as we grow and scale up, we want to phase out our reliance on these one-time philanthropic gifts and move toward a revenue model we think is more sustainable, and more aligned with our philosophy of community-supported positive change.

That’s where gratuity comes in.

Every time you support a project on ioby, you’re given  the  option of adding gratuity to your total – this is similar to the successful model used by Donors Choose.   Gratuity is a totally voluntary—but crucial—piece of your support. Your initial donation (all of it) still funds the project you choose, but your gratuity is what keeps us going and allows us to provide  a high level of hands-on support for our network of neighborhood leaders.  Gratuity  pays our hardworking   and dedicated staff, and funds the development of the custom-built website technology that’s our leaders rely on. Just as the neighborhood projects we support rely on your generosity, ioby relies on these small gratuity donations to keep us thriving.  

We suggest that you add 20% (like a restaurant gratuity) to your total when you make a donation, but you can always change that to any amount you’d like, including $0. It’s entirely up to you.

ioby does also receive a small amount of revenue from platform fees: the $35 project fee we ask for from leaders raising more than $1,000. We intentionally set this fee very low—much lower than other crowdfunding sites—so that leaders are able to keep more of their money and make a bigger impact with their projects. Ultimately, it’s the revenue generated from gratuity that supports the one-on-one work we do with our leaders to help them reach their goals.

Did you know that ioby projects have a  higher success rate than projects on other major crowdfunding sites? Ours is 87%! A big reason for this great rate is our ability to offer personalized training and resources to neighborhood leaders. Project donors who include gratuity are directly responsible for our ability to maintain this high level of service, and therefore for leaders’ greatly increased chances of success. Beautiful, eh?

So, while gratuity isn’t required, it is a powerful vote of confidence in the neighbor-led, neighbor-funded model of positive localized change we keep working to promote. We hope you’ll feel inspired to include it the next time you donate. You’ll be helping us in a real, tangible way to continue creating grassroots change in our own backyards.