Placemaking Through Crowdfunding

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications and Training Specialist

Crowdfunding is a popular go-to fundraising method used by people to launch new businesses or projects, raise money to help distressful situations and almost every other imaginable circumstance. While many charitable projects have depended on donations in the past, modern crowdfunding has succeeded through the development of an online platform with different donation levels and a rewards system. Donations as little as $1 or $5 are accepted, providing a low-barrier to entry. Statistics show that overall more money is  raised through a lot of smaller donations rather than fewer larger donations.

arrow-21509_1280Organizations and other groups are now using crowdfunding as a strategy to make projects without formal funding a reality, and evolved to become a community-based investment. Participation is voluntary and is used to direct the development of their neighborhoods. While those with deeper projects have typically had more influence regarding funding decisions, crowdfunding and the internet help raise awareness about different opportunities and is a very low-entry way for a person to contribute and participate. Trends show that a little skin in the game helps a project because they are actively supporting it and have an invested interest in the project success.

Public Spaces & Community Places

Enter the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A long time investor in communities throughout Michigan, they are a funding source for community development corporations (CDCs) and other business development initiatives. As much as anybody, they want their investments to succeed and for communities to grow collaboratively.

Public Spaces & Community Places is their newer program in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League offering funds to communities across Michigan through a crowdfunding match campaign. The grant program is available to municipalities with projects that are designed to activate public spaces and include parks enhancements, trail expansions, outdoor plazas and other community places and are working with therestaurant-766050_1280ir communities for local momentum. To participate, a community outlines the details of their project and proposes it to the MEDC. Once approved, they work with the MEDC and Patronicity, a Detroit-based crowdfunding company focused on community development, to develop a crowdfunding campaign. Once launched, there is a specified timeline to raise money, with up to $100,000 matched by the MEDC.

Locally Driven Momentum

Since the program’s inception, the MEDC reports that 100% of municipalities have raised their goal funds, and speculate that all projects have gotten underway within 30 days of receiving funds. They have high hopes for the future of this program, and believe that successful implementation is tied directly to community collaboration.

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The Beacon Soccer Field concept in Downtown Lansing.

One example of a project going on right now is in Lansing where they have a few days left to raise money to put a soccer field in an available parcel in an existing park downtown Lansing. The goal is to help connect youth and adults through health and fitness education, and provide access to those who otherwise are unable to afford participation. There is still time to participate in this campaign, and you can watch their video here.

See a full list of some of the different participating municipalities and their projects here.

The Implications for Michigan Organizations

While all organizations would love to be able to plan large-scale projects, smaller projects are more easily attainable and can be a catalyst for even more development once completed. The MEDC and MML are ahead of the game by offering the first program of its kind with potentially big impacts across Michigan. Not only are more communities able to participate, but this program helps organizations to better articulate and plan a project by developing a solid marketing plan based on well-crafted visions considering timelines, numbers and overall feasibility, with local support at the root of the effort. That’s half the battle of any project, and groups are getting help from the professionals and funders to leverage success. This process will prevent a lot of failed projects and feelings of detachment or disengagement.

marketing-toolkit-biggerFunders (even micro investors) want to see well-thought out plans and budgets. By creating a communications and marketing plan, organizations can understand how to find more sustainable funding, engage and reach their audience and grow their programming. CEDAM members can download communications and marketing planning toolkits for free to get started on some of this research.

So, what are the projects your community hopes to implement soon and do you have a plan for how to do it?