The Power of Crowdfunding
I have found a successful process for crowdfunding video games, startups, real estate, and design projects that may have not been funded through traditional channels. But today civic crowdfunding—the direct funding of public projects by citizens—is a new realm for me and I am moving forward via research and building relationships with alternative funding methods.
Niche Crowdfunding Portals
This principle of going straight to the customers to fund new projects is an exciting prospect for nonprofits and community development organizations who are looking for alternatives to grants for funding their projects. Civic crowdfunding startups such as Spacehive, Citizinvestor, SmallChange.com and Patronhood are built upon that notion.
The Hidden Value of Crowdfunding
Although securing funding for projects civic or otherwise is still difficult, crowdfunding sites can offer an alternative to the standard gridlock of funding public projects. Currently if a an individual or nonprofit wants to get their project funded they have to raise the money through their connections. Putting their projects online provides scalability and gives them a better chance of reaching beyond the resources they personally know and using technology to scale the fundraising. Plus, sites that are dedicated to funding civic projects will attract people who are interested in those types of projects creating a multiplier where more projects bring in more people to fund them, whereas searching for grants and offline donations does not have the same effect.
Who Should Pay
Although crowdfunding can be an alternative route to getting civic projects funded, a frequent criticism of the crowdfunding model is that civic projects should be funded through taxes and managed by city governments. Caitlyn Duer wrote, “we pay taxes, we vote, and the person we vote into office directs our tax money into the projects we want to see.” The view that government should be able cover every civic need is unreasonably idealistic. It would be ideal if taxes paid for everything, but there is a difference between the way things should be and the way they are.
Using the crowdfunding model for civic projects also brings with it some hidden benefits such as much higher levels of community engagement via social media and its ability to scale one-to-one and one-to-many conversations. Using civic engagement and crowdfunding brings the question to the public forum should people rely on government to supply both the ideas and capital for civic projects?