Crowdfunding is undergoing a transformation. Typically used for individual causes or organizations (disaster relief, political campaigns, company funding, artist fan support, etc.), civic projects are now taking advantage of what crowdfunding has to offer. Defined as the collective effort of individuals who pool their money to support efforts jump-started by other people or organizations, most crowdfunding takes place over the Internet. There are multiple websites devoted purely to crowdfunding, like Kickstarter, Mosaic and Citizinvestor.
In the beginning of 2013, crowd-funded solar projects hit over $1 million of community-based funding. This demonstrates the rapid growth that is occurring for crowd-funded projects relating to sustainability, solar and local government initiatives. Crowdfunding is a great way for local governments to jump-start initiatives and encourage community participation, recognition, and support for civic initiatives and programs.
Mosaic, a crowdfunding site that focuses on solar projects in need of financing, has had rapid success since its start in January 2013. Forbes further dissects the site here, stating that “ordinary individuals can crowd-fund solar projects for investments of as little as $25.” Communities that have gotten their projects onto Mosaic have experiences a steady stream of support from investors, ultimately pushing the projects towards success. Communities that have taken advantage of Mosaic’s platform include multiple cities in California; Wildwood, NJ; Navajo Nation, AZ; and Flagstaff, AZ. The Environmental Defense Fund also highlighted Mosaic in their Energy Innovation Series article.
Another example of a crowd-funded community project is a sustainable school in Chicago. The school has already raised more than $50,000 through a campaign on Indiegogo (a crowdfunding site), which will be matched by the school’s board of directors. $30 million is required to completely fund the project, but crowndfunding has played a big role in starting the financial process – and spreading awareness of the project throughout the community and the United States.
Philadelphia is building a crowd-funded garden and reached its $26,300 goal for building a rooftop farm at South Philadelphia High School. “What's really fascinating,” said citizinvestor.com co-founder Jordan Raynor, “is that 50 percent of the project's donations came from outside Philly. We had a significant amount of donations coming in from all over the country, from Boston to New York to Florida to the West Coast."
And that is one of the primary benefits of crowdfunding municipal projects – anyone can contribute. Whether spurred by their hometown, where their family and friends are, or simply an interest that is close to their heart, donors can come from anywhere. One of the most positive things about crowdfunding is that all citizens and donors can contribute regardless of location, and all civic leaders can take advantage of these tools. This is a great opportunity to leverage marketing and promotion power to not only gain support for initiatives and programs but also tap into previously hard-to-reach sources of funding.