Category Archives: Neighbors making neighborhoods

Erin Barnes & Miriam Parson: What Pittsburgh means to us

The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue was a horrific hate crime, the deadliest attack on Jewish Americans in history. There is no question that violence like this has no place in our world, our country, in Pittsburgh, or in Squirrel Hill. It’s a particularly cruel irony to see such an explicit outburst of anti-semitism and hate befall a community made famous for its generosity, philanthropy, love and neighborliness.

We have no doubt that Pittsburgh will come together, as we’ve already seen our city do, and lean on one another to mourn and to heal.

As our grief turns to resolve, many of us find ourselves wondering: what next?

Pittsburgh, as many have pointed out, is the hometown of Fred Rogers, America’s archetypal good neighbor. Perhaps for just one moment it’s worth reflecting on the first episodes of Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired in 1968 and focused on conflict. A puppet named King Friday was worried about an invasion of people who wanted to change the neighborhood and installed border guards to keep them out. Over the course of these episodes, Mr. Rogers and his cast of characters talk to and assuage King Friday of his fears. They had a conflict, and resolved it by opening up a caring, compassionate dialogue to uphold their values of being welcoming and caring to everyone.

We could still learn a thing or two from the puppets of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. In the face of hate, in the face of problems that seem infinitely big and insurmountable, it can be difficult to know what to do. But it never hurts to start small, and start with your neighbors.

For example, in The Hill District neighborhood, Elizabeth Chitester leads the Rising Voices Youth Choir, which she says “uses music as a social building tool” for kids ages 8 to 18. Elizabeth’s vision for the newly formed, mostly adult Liberty Interfaith Choir is to “use music with a mostly white, middle class population to discuss social issues like race, gender discrimination, and sexuality.” Studying, appreciating, and performing music that deals with such complex and sensitive topics provides both groups a “way in” to talking about them. Elizabeth worked with the nonprofit organization we work at, ioby, to raise money to print music and flyers, rent rehearsal spaces, and pay an accompanist. It’s a seemingly small gesture, but one that deepens compassion for one another in our youth and invites us adults to challenge injustice.

Whether it’s smiling at a stranger or creating spaces for just a few people to come together to question and challenge injustice, small actions let neighbors get to know each other and helps us build stronger connections and become more resilient. In doing so we embody Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call, when he eulogized the murder of Black children in an act of terrorism in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, that we confront not just the murderer but also the “system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.” We have the opportunity to address hate before it festers.

At ioby, we believe residents know what’s best for their neighborhoods, and that healing that Pittsburgh needs now should be led by our neighbors. Neighbor-led change is an important, effective, and straightforward approach to tackling the insidious challenges that we confront as a community and as a country. We’ve seen people in neighborhoods across America, including Pittsburgh, use ioby to build resources, and strive for peace in the face of systems of oppression felt in their own communities. It’s what gives us boundless hope for Pittsburgh.

There are thousands of meaningful ways Pittsburghers can mourn, heal and rebuild community together through this painful tragedy. We admire and lift up the work that Pittsburghers are already doing to assist the families and friends of the Tree of Life synagogue today. Start small, and start with your neighbor, or:

How to build people power any time of year? Crowdfund!

With midterm elections in the rearview, it can feel like this season’s chance to stand up and be counted has passed, and we just need to wait for the next opportunity to cast our votes.

At ioby, we love scoring that “I Voted” sticker as much as any righteous ballot-puncher, but we also know that democracy isn’t a date on the calendar, and voting isn’t the only way to speak your mind. People power can go strong all year long!

One great way to make it happen, no matter the season? Crowdfund with ioby!  Continue reading How to build people power any time of year? Crowdfund!

How fundraising events can boost your project this holiday season

The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming!

As the weather cools down, the calendar heats up. Between Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Halloween, Diwali, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa (among many others), the last quarter of the year is packed with events that bring people together for fun, fellowship, and commemoration.

The holidays are all about community, making them a perfect time of year to get eyes and ears on your community crowdfunding campaign—and win some hearts (and dollars) in the process. Continue reading How fundraising events can boost your project this holiday season

How to fundraise for racial justice projects

Fighting for racial justice can be daunting. We know it can sometimes make you feel like tearing your hair out, because sometimes it makes us feel that way too. But like you we at ioby remain firmly committed to racial justice. We’re also committed in our belief that everyday people can play a BIG role in tearing down systems of injustice, especially because we’ve seen so many people do it; people like Samaria Rice, Amanda King, and Leah Lewis.

Many of the resident leaders we work with live in neighborhoods that have endured decades of structural racism and other forms of oppression, from redlining to police violence. And when you’re faced with such tremendous structural racism, coming together to build something positive using your community’s collective resources can help reclaim power and be an act of healing. Continue reading How to fundraise for racial justice projects

Why asking for donations is community organizing in disguise

The work of community organizing is complex, difficult, and vitally important. It is also something that anyone—even those of us without degrees, special training, or loads of experience—can take part in, wherever we live.

The twenty-first century’s most famous community organizer so far might be former president Barack Obama, whose experience in the field helped make it cool for a new generation of changemakers. Saul Alinsky, known to many as the founder of modern community organizing, helped low-income communities across the U.S. band together to improve living conditions in their neighborhoods, offers another example.

But while the luminaries of community organizing deserve their due and have helped move the needle on critical issues, equally important is the community organizing happening in your neighborhood. It may not make front page news, but it’s just as important. It’s local, it’s grassroots, it can bring meaningful change to people on their own terms, and you–yes you–can do it! And ioby is here to help.  Continue reading Why asking for donations is community organizing in disguise

Amazing neighborhood projects by, for and all about kids

It’s a well-known fact that kids rule. They’re curious, energetic, and won’t bore you with small talk. Kids come up with great ideas. They’re often refreshingly (and embarrassingly) honest. They tend to prioritize the best things about living: family, friends, food, fun, and fuzzy little creatures.

With all this zest for life, it makes sense that kids have played a starring role in many great ioby projects: as leaders, co-designers, and participants. Who better to be at the forefront of positive change than the people who stand to benefit from it the longest?
Continue reading Amazing neighborhood projects by, for and all about kids

Awesome Project: Valuing community, beyond money

When you make a deposit in a TimeBank, you won’t have to worry about whether it’ll lose value over time. You won’t have to worry about bank robbers, or sky-high interest rates. That’s because the only things a TimeBank holds is time, and the tremendous promise of an alternative way of valuing work, community, and each other.

“Time banking is about thinking about our communities and our economy a little differently,” says Alice Bagley, Unity in Our Community (UOC) TimeBank’s coordinator. “Our money economy only tends to highly value certain kinds of work, and places very little value on things like checking in on our senior neighbors, or the wisdom that people with different experiences might have, or the important work of community building through things like game nights. But we also know that if those things all went away tomorrow then we would no longer have functioning communities.” Continue reading Awesome Project: Valuing community, beyond money

Why do crowdfunding campaigns fail?

All the buzz surrounding crowdfunding can make it seem like some kind of magical cash machine: put your idea online, tweet a few times, and watch the money roll in. What could be so hard about that? Everyone’s doing it!

It’s true that there are many thousands of active crowdfunding campaigns online at any given time, but plenty of them will fail to reach their goal. The last time we checked, Kickstarter’s full-funding success rate was about 40 percent; Indiegogo’s was about 12 percent. ioby’s? We’re sitting pretty at 80 percent!

We think our project leaders are so successful because with ioby, you won’t be tempted to just set up a page and let the money roll in (because trust us, it won’t). We provide the coaching and support for you to plan, build, and market your own campaign both on and offline to build donor interest and trust. Then (and only then) you’ll see the Benjamins.

Of course, any crowdfunding campaign can fall short of its target. In the past decade, we’ve supported over 1,600 local leaders in raising over $5 million to improve their neighborhoods. But between those many awesome successes, we’ve noticed some common missteps made by campaigns that don’t hit their mark. Fortunately, these gaffes are all avoidable. Continue reading Why do crowdfunding campaigns fail?

Small budget projects, BIG impact

What can you do for $500 or less?

$500 may not seem like a huge amount of money, but in the 10 years we’ve been helping local leaders fundraise for community projects we’ve seen just how much of an impact even small budget projects can make. There’s a reason the phrase “throwing money at the problem” has developed a negative connotation, after all. At the end of the day, it’s simply a matter of how your project gets done. Here are a few of the top low-budget best practices we’ve learned from our local leaders in the past decade.

Continue reading Small budget projects, BIG impact

5 ideas to crowdfund money (and more!) for your school

Utter the phrase “school funding” and—whether you’re among friends, strangers, or just querying the internet—you’re likely to incite a storm of opinions.

Public or private, from pre-K through 12th grade, in rural communities and urban, the subject of paying for education in America has always been a complex one. In the past year alone, declining government support, teacher strikes, and systemic funding inequalities have made headlines across the country.

What to do about it all?

ioby doesn’t have all the answers, of course. But one thing we do know is that teachers, students, parents, administrators, and local nonprofits all have the power to rally their communities and raise the support they need to bring real, tangible, positive change to their schools. And we can help.

Continue reading 5 ideas to crowdfund money (and more!) for your school