You may have heard about a crowdfunding campaign for a border wall. We at ioby think this campaign—motivated by fear and hatred—not only runs against our principles, but runs counter to what crowdfunding can be: a powerful tool for change within our communities. Instead of a tool to wall us off, crowdfunding has tremendous power to build bridges across difference. When used to bring our communities together, there’s no shortage of ways crowdfunding can encourage community members to have a stake in a project, bring people together, and build civic strength.
Here are a few powerful examples of neighbors coming together and using crowdfunding to bridge differences and celebrate what makes our communities strong.
The Bridge that Bridges, Cleveland, OH
Gwen Garth and Kaela Geschke noticed that I-90, a highway that cuts through Cleveland, was a gash in the landscape that separated thriving downtown Cleveland from its historically Black neighborhoods to the south; a physical representation of the racial and cultural barriers in the city. They responded by crowdfunding over $3,000 through ioby to bring people who work, live, and go to school on either side of the highway to come together as a community. They held intentional conversations about race, co-created a mural that crossed the highway and showed their vision for a more equal and integrated future, and strengthened bonds in the city they love.
Barrier Free, Memphis, TN
In the midst of growing anti-immigrant sentiment in 2016, Yancy Villa-Calvo felt like she couldn’t stay silent any longer. An immigrant herself, she crowdfunded nearly $14,000 through ioby to create an interactive art installation about family separation, and invited visitors to participate and build empathy. “It’s very direct,” Villa-Calvo says of the installation’s message. “Whoever is standing in front of it is going to see themselves in the family silhouette, and then the caregiver is gone, so it definitely gets to you, as if ‘this can be me or my family, if I don’t do something.'”
Black Hills Unity Concert, Black Hills, SD
For the Lakota Native Americans, the Black Hills of South Dakota are the most sacred place in the world. But they haven’t claimed the land as their own for over a century, despite a promise from the US government in 1868 to return the land to the Pte Oyate (or Buffalo Nations, which include the Lakota). The Black Hills Unity Concert gathers native communities from across the world to celebrate the wisdom of their native ancestors, address injustices facing their communities, and pray for reclamation of the Black Hills. Over the past few years, they’ve crowdfunded nearly $100,000 through ioby to host the concerts and bring native communities together.
Mayday Space, Brooklyn, NY
The volunteers at Mayday Space, a community-based collective and organizing space in Brooklyn, wanted to push back against a political climate that fuels hatred towards immigrants and kindles racial animosity. They leaned on their community to crowdfund over $10,000 with ioby and created a joyous, celebratory event that highlighted the victories of the immigrant rights movement, and lifted up their inclusive, empowering community.
Cleveland Refugee Bike Project, Cleveland, OH
Clevelander Tim Kovach knew that one of the most important factors in whether someone can get a job, succeed in school, and build strong social networks is their physical mobility; literally, whether they can go from one location to another with ease. He also knew that for the many refugees moving into the Cleveland region each year, most with very limited resources, mobility can be a big challenge. An avid biker, Tim leaned on his biking community to crowdfund over $13,000 through ioby to provide safety training and refurbished bikes to welcome his new neighbors to Cleveland, help them land on their feet–and wheels–and better adjust to their new homes.
Unity in Our Community TimeBank, Detroit, MI
Southwest Detroit boasts a vibrant and diverse community, with many long-time residents living alongside younger newcomers, including a growing number of first and second-generation immigrants. Where tension might arise elsewhere, though, the Unity in Our Community TimeBank has forged close bonds between neighbors by sharing skills with one another. They recently crowdfunded nearly $3,000 through ioby to host more skillshares, and exchange time and hard work with one another–rather than pay with money–to connect neighbors across differences. “It’s a lot harder to feel mistrust when the people you’re suspicious of are clearing off your walkway, or are checking up on you to make sure you’re ok,” says Alice Bagley, the TimeBank’s coordinator.
Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir, Pittsburgh, PA
The care Pittsburghers show for each other is a point of pride for the city, and Elizabeth Chitester takes that seriously. Since 2015, she’s led the Rising Voices Youth Choir, which she says “uses music as a social building tool” for young people. Most recently, Elizabeth and her choir community fundraised nearly $2,000 to form the Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir, a multicultural community choir that fosters an accessible, affordable, and inclusive space to share music. A big part of enjoying music together is also sharing their message of tolerance and civic duty with the Pittsburgh community.
Here’s the thing about crowdfunding: like many tools, it can be used for destructive purposes, or to build something positive. But when used to bring people together, it unlocks what we at ioby believe is its great potential.
Because what’s raised is so much more than money, and what’s built is so much more powerful than hate-and-fear fueled internet outrage. Crowdfunding can amplify the voices of people who have been marginalized and silenced. It can connect people across difference to build bonds, and it can make lasting, positive change to communities. We know this because we see it happen every day, across the country. From small towns to big cities, when we commit to caring for one another and to each other as people, there’s no stopping the good that can be done.
Have a great idea to bring your community together? Share your idea with us and we’ll help you crowdfund to make it happen. Looking for inspiration or some advice on how to get started? Check out our latest webinar, and learn how neighborhood leaders like you turned their great ideas into powerful change, and strengthened our communities and our democracy outside the election cycle.