Part of a NYC Stewardship group? Get on the STEW-MAP!

Guest post by our friends at the United States Forest Service’s NYC Urban Field Station

Hey New Yorkers! If you are a gardener, a park champion, a food justice activist, a kayak club member, an educator, a researcher, or a community organizer—we need your help in putting your group on the map!  The 2017 STEW-MAP survey is now open!  Check your inbox and respond to the survey to  make sure your hard work is recognized. (If you have not received a survey but are a part of a stewardship group you would like to see on the map, email

Continue reading Part of a NYC Stewardship group? Get on the STEW-MAP!

AWESOME PROJECT: Spreading love and healing on Governor’s Island

Christine Dimmick, who founded natural products company Good Home out of her Chelsea kitchen in 1995, has been in the natural products arena for a long time. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago, she realized it was time for an even deeper clean, and an even closer look at her life and her world.

Continue reading AWESOME PROJECT: Spreading love and healing on Governor’s Island

AWESOME PROJECT: Billboard art to fight blight in Detroit!

Did you know that there are currently about 50,000 vacant residential properties in Detroit? If you add commercial spaces and storefronts to the list, that number skyrockets to 80,000. That’s about 25 square miles of vacant and blighted property, out of the 139 square miles that make up the city. Which tells us something about how dire the situation has been, and for how long.

But what do you hear, when you hear these numbers? We hear possibility.

Continue reading AWESOME PROJECT: Billboard art to fight blight in Detroit!

The Rainmakers: Frampton Tolbert of Center for Urban Pedagogy

While the average budget for ioby projects is around $4,000, many are larger scale. If you have your sights set high, your budget—and fundraising skills—will have to rise to the challenge.

Crowdfunding large amounts of money on ioby is totally doable, but it takes some extra planning. In our Rainmakers series, we’re sharing stories and tips from Leaders who have successfully raised $10,000 or more for their ioby campaign. Learn how they did it, and how you can do it, too!

Continue reading The Rainmakers: Frampton Tolbert of Center for Urban Pedagogy

Campaigns that RESIST!

At ioby, we believe that neighbors are best positioned to identify and lead positive change within their own communities.

While we are mission-driven to support leaders in neighborhoods that have been historically disinvested, we don’t come up with ideas for projects. We just do all we can to support leaders in planning, funding, and carrying out their visions for a better community.

That said, we do pay attention to trends and patterns in what people are funding. And over the past few months, we’ve noticed a new category emerge: projects that directly respond to the policy proposals of the Trump administration.

Whether it’s a public demonstration in solidarity with the Women’s March, or an interactive art project drawing attention to the divisive rhetoric around immigration, or a series of public meetings around design for resistance, it’s clear that our communities are feeling a new sense of urgency, and are working to mobilize.  


Yancy Villa-Calvo & Mauricio Calvo


[Barrier Free: A social-engaged art installation in Memphis]


This kind of organizing, on a local level, by a community that feels vulnerable, or around a certain topic that feels urgent, is a crucial form of civic participation. We believe it strengthens our democracy. We want to do all we can to support projects that are about resisting, organizing, and mobilizing community talent and assets to speak out, build power, and protect the vulnerable in this political climate.

Here are some of our favorites:

One more note: while many of these campaigns are explicitly in response to threats posed by the Trump administration, many more ioby leaders are doing similar work to undo the legacy of decades of discriminatory policy, and to build community resilience in the face of all sorts of threats, new and old. This ongoing work, led and funded by communities, is just as important a measure of civic strength.

We hope you’ll join us in supporting this work, or even better, start a project in your own community!


Why we’re so excited about June 21: Meet our honorees!

ioby’s  Summer Party is almost upon  us! (In the New York area? It’s not too late to snag a ticket to this June 21 shindig!)

We’re excited to party with  ioby leaders, partners, neighbors and friends, and to celebrate all the amazing work being done in neighborhoods across the US.

We’re ESPECIALLY excited to  toast the  achievements of our  Summer Party honorees, truly some of the most incredible people we know.

So why are we so star-struck? Keep reading!


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Joyce Moore

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Joyce Moore is a many-time ioby Leader who has brought art, fresh food, affordable housing, and more to her Indianapolis neighborhood through her innovative social enterprise. Joyce and her family’s passionate commitment to staying in and improving their neighborhood through decades of changes is a true inspiration to all of us at ioby.  Together with her son, Justin, she co-founded Urban Patch, LLC whose goal is “To Make the American Inner City Better” by bringing the Greatest Generation ideals into the future of the American inner city community—through urban gardening, housing preservation, food justice work, education, strides forward in green infrastructure, and more.


Micah L. Sifry 

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Micah is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Civic Hall, as well as Co-Founder of Personal Democracy Media, which produces the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference on the ways technology is changing politics. In addition, he consults on how political organizations, campaigns, non-profits and media entities can adapt to and thrive in a networked world.  Micah’s work has been foundational in the way we at ioby think about the power of technology to spark civic engagement and strengthen social movements – he’s lived, breathed, and made waves at the forefront of civic tech for decades.


Partnerships for Parks


Partnerships for Parks has  enabled thousands of New Yorkers to become dedicated advocates, stewards, and organizers around parks and open spaces in the city.  This joint program of NYC Parks and City Parks Foundation equips communities to take a leadership role in improving and managing some of our greatest assets: our green spaces. 


Here’s to $113K raised for Healthy Neighborhoods in New York!

The second round of the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge  is complete!

Building on the success of last year’s program, we teamed up once again with the New York State Health Foundation to  help   support resident-led health and wellness projects   in seven neighborhoods   in New York — across   12 zip codes — including East Harlem and the Lower East Side in Manhattan;  Hunts Point, Claremont,  and Mott Haven in the Bronx; Brownsville in Brooklyn,  and Clinton County.

This time around, residents raised a total of $113,273   for projects that make their neighborhoods healthier, more active, and more full of opportunity. This total includes the matching funds that NYS Health Foundation provided to each project, based on its individual fundraising goal. The total of  match funds distributed was $49,396 and the total in citizen philanthropy that ioby leaders raised from their neighbors was $63,877. In other words, for every dollar received from match funds, ioby leaders raised $1.30 from within their communities!

21   ioby projects participated in this round of the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge — these projects all have the goal of creating a culture of health by making their neighborhoods greener or safer; improving local access to affordable healthy food; promoting walking, biking, or other exercise; educating neighbors about lifestyle changes, and more.

Here’s what some of our favorite participating leaders had to say about their work:


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“Community gardens are known for engaging all different types of people: youth, teachers, new Americans… People just walking by, or coming from work, will stop and say, ‘Hey, what’s happening here?’ Then they pick up a shovel! Everyone gets to mingle and trade ideas.”  

– Alicia Williamson, Lydia’s Magic Garden

East Harlem residents led by Alicia  raised more than $2,500 to restore  this beloved 20-year-old community space,  which had lost most of its plantings and amenities after serving as a staging ground for the redevelopment of an adjacent building.

Read their story


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“How can we set up a community-led resource that helps bring fresh and local food directly to the tables of our residents? How can we bring in more sustainably farmed and raised food  and also keep it affordable? How can residents who rely on food subsidies eat better without going to another community for food? Our market helps solve many of these problems.”  

– Lily Kesselman,  the South Bronx Farmers’ Market

The mostly-volunteer team at the South Bronx Farmers’ Market raised more than $10,000 to  extend their hours of operation to include a weekly Wednesday market in addition to the Saturday hours they’re already open.

Read their story


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“I’ve lived here my whole life, but I rarely get to see or talk to a lot of the other people who live here. I want to give us a space where we can work together. There’s something so special about taking part in the growth of something, and all watching it grow together.”

– Veronica  Vasquez, NYCHA Community Garden

17-year-old Veronica and her mom Liz live  on the Lower East Side. They exceeded their fundraising goal of $1,300 to build a new  community garden at the NYCHA complex where they live.

Read their story

You can see all 21   Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge projects at

The Rainmakers: Tim Kovach of The Cleveland Refugee Bike Project

While the average budget for ioby projects is around $4,000, many are larger scale. If you have your sights set high, your budget—and fundraising skills—will have to rise to the challenge.

Crowdfunding large amounts of money on ioby is totally doable, but it takes some extra planning. In our Rainmakers series, we’re sharing stories and tips from Leaders who have successfully raised $10,000 or more for their ioby campaign. Learn how they did it, and how you can do it, too!


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The Cleveland Refugee Bike Project is working to improve mobility—both physical and social—for the city’s refugee community by providing them with bicycles to ride and the training and tools necessary to become safe and self-sufficient riders.

ioby Leader Tim Kovach let us in on how he raised over $13,000 last fall   to launch this ambitious project this spring.




Q: Who was on your fundraising team?

I saw my job as bridging the gap between the bike and refugee services communities, so I chose my partners very deliberately. I bike a lot and do volunteer advocacy work with the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op and Bike Cleveland, so I had personal relationships with them and approached them that way. My wife happens to work at Catholic Charities: they run the largest refugee resettlement program in Northern Ohio, and are a member of the The Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland. So my connections in both worlds gave me access to both donor pools.

Cleveland has been trying to make itself as welcoming a community as possible for refugees and immigrants, so we had a lot of good connections and reception from that side. On the bike side, Cleveland has been going through some growing pains to become a bike-friendlier city—it’s happening in fits and starts—there’s lots of grassroots momentum there.

Through one tragic event, I saw there was a lot of fundraising potential in our bike community. A local bike luminary, Shelli Snyder, was critically injured while biking from Ohio to Seattle last year, and her peers raised tens of thousands of dollars for her recovery. That showed us there was a lot of support here for bike-related concerns.

I approached the directors of both bike organizations in January 2016 to pitch it to them, but the idea didn’t go anywhere until late summer or early fall, when we knew more about how it would be funded: through crowdfunding on ioby and through the Cleveland Climate Action Fund, which gave us $5,000.


Q: Were you already comfortable with asking for money?

No, I’m not really the fundraising type. I’m a very quiet, reserved person, so this was not comfortable to me, and it was all fairly new. I did solicit family and friends through social media, phone calls, and face to face. My sister-in-law is a refugee herself, so my brother was very generous. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but I got a good response—though my asks didn’t comprise the lion’s share of what we made.

Fortunately, I was able to partner with people who had more skills in this area. The Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op and Bike Cleveland are both very small—less than 10 people each. But the directors of both organizations put asks in their newsletters and made personal requests of their contacts. Catholic Charities is obviously bigger, and they put the word out on their social media. It’s definitely easier to work with a small local organization than a national one. The potential for donations is larger with the latter, but there are more layers of bureaucracy to communicate through.

I found that personal relationships were important to this campaign across the board. Cleveland is a small city; you run into the same people over and over. That can be a problem when it comes donor fatigue, but unexpectedly catching someone can also be a great way to have that conversation you wanted to have. This familiarity definitely came into play when it came to hosting a fundraiser. My wife and I live near a brew pub called Platform that we knew had hosted such events in the past. I approached the manager in person, he agreed to have us, and we raised a few hundred dollars in a few hours via cash donations and a percentage of beer sales.


Q: How did you plan your fundraising?

We developed the budget and program plan systematically. I costed out a few things, then asked my partners for feedback. The bike co-op is hosting a lot of the project’s trainings, so they knew how much that part would cost; the same went for Catholic Charities, who provided the translators. With these numbers, I initially drew up a budget for 50-plus participants as a pilot. That wound up growing to 100 participants as we raised more money.

The fundraising effort was a little more by the seat of our pants. I relied a lot on the organizations to contact their donor lists, I made my own list of who I should ask, and I cobbled together targeted social media efforts as I went along. On social, I made an effort to go for people I knew had a lot of connections. For instance, I noticed that a reporter for a local blog was putting together a list of local organizations who were accepting different kinds of donations. I asked her if she’d include us, and she did. There was a lot of happenstance like that.


Q: How did storytelling factor in?

It was challenging on one hand because there are privacy concerns with sharing info about refugees, for their safety. You don’t want to get into too much detail, so just we said there’s a need and there’s an interest: that it’s been difficult for refugees to get bikes, and there have been incidents where people have been injured.

But I did try to share my own story of how we got to where we were, why this issue was important, and more about this mobility gap we wanted to bridge. Interestingly, the campaign deadline was November 18 of last year, and we found that we kind of plateaued about two weeks before the presidential election on November 8. After the election, it was evident that people really wanted to do something, and we were there with some issues that were really at the heart of the election: immigration, refugees, climate change, transportation equity, human dignity… So that timing wound up really working to our advantage. Donations surged and got us to our original goal, then to our stretch goal.

Another aspect of storytelling that really helped was earned media recognition. There’s a local blog that does feel-good stories, and they wrote about us. While I thought they focused too much on me—that’s not my cup of tea!—it did help spread the word. We also appeared on the WCPN radio program The Sound of Ideas around the time we hit our goal. They wanted to do a show about refugee issues a week or so after the election, and reached out to us.


Q: What methods did you use to ask people?

I was pleasantly surprised by how effective creating a Twitter account for the project was: for raising money as well as for thanking and appreciating donors. But the larger donations we got—above $100—all came from direct asks to people, made either by me or our partner organizations. In those cases, personal emails were probably the most effective method.


Q: Did fundraising help with community buy-in?

Sure. In addition to donating, or in lieu of it, some people said they would like to volunteer, donate bike paraphernalia, or help us get the word out. Those were beneficial outcomes for sure.

As you would expect, given the political climate and the nature of the program, there were a few less than kind comments made and messages shared. But then we saw a lot of vocal supporters step up to “drown out the haters,” so to speak.


Q: Any other advice?

  • It’s important to set a realistic fundraising target and justify how you got to that number; people will want to know. ioby training taught me to break it down this way: If you give us $75, that will buy a bike; $25 will buy an hour of interpretation; etc. Giving concrete examples of where the money’s going encourages donors to feel ownership.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends; they’re the ones most likely to support you if they can.
  • Partner with good organizations that have experience in your topic area and good donor lists. Harness their skills and connect with their constituencies.
  • While ioby cautions not to rely too heavily on social media, I found it to work pretty well, though I understand that might not be the case for everyone.
  • Have a story to tell. People want to hear it. I had to figure out how to do that without divulging too much private information, but in any case, work to tell an engaging story of some kind. People will feel like they have a stake in what you’re doing if they know where you’re coming from and are sharing something personal with them.

VIDEO: Barrier Free, a socially engaged art installation

Barrier Free is a socially engaged art installation designed by artist Yancy Villa-Calvo for Latino Memphis about the impact of barriers. A direct response to the Border Wall proposal and other policies that threaten to divide Latino families and vulnerable families, this piece asks residents to participate by imagining that a loved one has gone missing, and by sharing their dreams for a barrier-free world.


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