Providing necessary infrastructure and services has become more and more expensive for municipalities in the past few years, and some communities have been forced to cut back on the services they provide, or to think creatively about what is most important and how to fund projects. Enter crowdfunding, a tool that allows a project, and the funding necessary to complete it, to be made public on the internet so that individuals can donate and watch a project’s fundraising progress. Recently, crowdfunding has been used successfully by some municipalities as a funding tool.
DCI took on an administrative role in a statewide crowdfunding effort for independent theaters, using the platform Community Funded (a Fort Collins based crowdfunding company). While crowdfunding cannot take the place completely of traditional fundraising techniques, especially in small communities, we are excited about the possibilities of using crowdfunding for downtown redevelopment projects. Crowdfunding presents advantages in that it allows for a central location for anyone to view information on a project, the progress of fundraising for that project, and the ability to make an easy contribution to the project with a credit card.
Traditionally, crowdfunding platforms have been used for small businesses, non-profits and creative work by individuals. However, all over the United States, municipalities that can’t afford important infrastructure projects are turning to crowdfunding. CNBC reported that Central Falls, RI, a city of 20,000 that was forced to file for bankruptcy, used crowdfunding to pay for trash cans and other essentials. In Colorado, Pagosa Springs used Citizinvestor, a crowdfunding platform dedicated to municipal projects, to fund construction of an observation deck on Reservoir Hill. In Philadelphia, the Parks and Recreation Department used crowdfunding to launch an intergenerational gardening program at a local recreation center, reported NBC.
Most successful crowdfunding projects are less than $10,000 (though with the help of traditional fundraising means, projects can be much larger, as DCI can attest to with the Save Our Screens Initiative). But while the projects may be small, the importance of citizen involvement in municipal projects cannot be emphasized enough. The possibilities opened up to municipalities and others involved in community revitalization work by crowd funding are limitless. While it won’t make your community rich, it is always good to have another tool for completing public projects.