Small is the new big: 10 project ideas for around $500!

Here’s a concern   we hear all the time: we   need   big money to make big change.  In community work,  it’s easy to get intimidated by the size of  the problems we want to solve—and   attaching   a huge   number to that solution can make us lose momentum and decide not to try after all.

Well, the great news is that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a tremendous positive impact on your community. In fact, some of our very favorite ioby projects have budgets right around $500—or less!

(Bonus: if your ioby project raises less than $1,000, we waive our $35 platform fee. More info on fees is here.)

Here are ten ways to make a big impact on your neighborhood for a low cost. Which ones would work in your community?


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1. Safer street crossing, now in full color

Category: Safer streets, Tactical urbanism

Example: Crosswalk Flags, Memphis, TN

Raised: $543

An ingeniously simple solution for walking across a dangerous street: grab a brightly-colored flag from the bucket, look both ways, hold it high to increase your visibility to drivers, then leave it in the bucket on the other side. Not only did this Memphis street crossing become immediately safer, the project also drew the City’s attention to a place where a permanent crosswalk would be very welcome.


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2. No more wondering, “When’s the next bus?”

Category: Safer streets, Tactical urbanism

Example: TimelyTrip, Atlanta, GA

Raised: $534

This ioby Leader noticed that many bus stops in Atlanta don’t provide basic information for riders: routes, destinations, and timetables! The project set out to identify the city’s most highly foot-trafficked bus stops and affix printed timetables in weatherproof cases to their existing signs. Taking the bus just got a whole lot saner!

(PS –  Transit-related ideas like this one are eligible for matching funds through the Trick Out My Trip  program – but ideas are due May 20!)


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3. Little Free Libraries

Category: Placemaking, Sharing, Tactical urbanism

Example: Summer Meadows Little Free Library, Memphis, TN

Raised: $362

Especially in neighborhoods without easy access to a public library, “little free libraries” offer passersby of all ages the chance to pick up a great read, donate their favorite already-read books, and create a sense of community openness and sharing.


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[Via Carnes Gardens Facebook page]


4. Securing the tools to keep community gardens green

Category: Environment, Neighbors working together

Example: We want to buy James a Lawnmower, Memphis, TN

Raised: $559

James Alsobrook lives next door to Carnes Garden, a new community and teaching garden created in a former vacant lot, and he quickly became one of its most devoted and beloved caretakers. When James lost access to the lawnmower he had been borrowing to cut the garden’s grass, his neighbors raised money on ioby to buy him a new (and better) one. Now James has the tools he needs to keep Carnes Garden a welcoming and safe space for all residents of the community.


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5. A better home for urban birds

Category: Environment, Food

Example: Chicken Yard, Brooklyn, NY

Raised: $273

A 100-member community garden in Brooklyn relies on their flock of five hens to educate visitors about caring for animals and growing food ethically and sustainably. This low-budget project provided the materials to expand the birds’ yard, giving them—and their visitors—a larger, more comfortable, and cleaner space to eat, play, and socialize in.


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6. Pop-up neighborhood lawn games

Category: Placemaking, Tactical urbanism

Example: Barksdale-Auburndale Mobile Bocce Club, Memphis, TN

Raised: $618

Just want to bring the fun? This easy set-up/easy tear-down mobile bocce ball court creates an informal, inviting game and play space for all ages, wherever it goes: parkside events, block parties, even long driveways.


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7. Getting-to-know-you community cookout

Category: Placemaking, Food

Example: Poplar Park Neighborhood Cookout, Memphis, TN

Raised: $528

A simple community cookout can inexpensively set the stage to get your neighbors chatting and relating. Nothing brings people together like the combination of food, drinks, music, games, and space! As these project leaders said, a neighborhood cookout can encourage “strangers to meet and become acquaintances, and acquaintances to take steps towards becoming friends.”


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8. Shed some solar-powered light

Category: Schools, Environment

Example: Solar Lights for MSSA, Memphis, TN

Raised: $515

A first-year school with a STEAM curriculum wanted to brighten up the front of their building—both for increased safety and nicer aesthetics. Solar-powered flood lights were an inexpensive and green option, and parents and students volunteered to install them on an already-scheduled school clean-up day. Bright idea, right?



9. Green energy R&D in school

Category: Schools, Environment, Citizen science

Example: Wind Energy Power!, San Francisco, CA

Raised: $500

Students in this high school’s “Green Academy” program were already learning about wind energy in class; this project took it to the next level by providing them with supplies to make and test their own windmills. Their designs will be studied by future classes, help to prepare them for careers in engineering, and maybe even lead to the development of a wind energy system on campus.

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10. Environmental advocacy for students, by students

Category: Schools, Environment

Example: Banish the Bead!, Muskegon, MI

Raised: $572

A group of junior high schoolers wrote and self-published a children’s book about the negative impacts of microbead pollution in the Great Lakes. It’s called Billy the Bluegill and the Microbead Mishap, and they’re distributing it free to all 81 third grade classrooms in their county. The students believe that if they educate kids about how their consumer choices make a difference for the environment, parents will also get the message.

See? It’s amazing what you can do for around $500—or less! If reading about these high-impact, low-budget projects gave you a great idea for improving your neighborhood—or if you’ve had an idea kicking around for a while—tell us about it at . Whether your project will cost $500, a lot more, or a lot less, ioby is here to help you raise the resources you need to make it happen.

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