Crowdfunding: Social Media Muscle Gives Your Community Project a Lift

Merchant Park Community Garden used crowdfunding Is your neighborhood in need of a community garden but short on funds? Look into setting up a crowdfunding website. Image: \Photo by Emily Barney, member of Merchant Park Community Garden in Chicago

If you’re big on ideas for your community but short on funding, consider setting up a crowdfunding website.

Next year at Thanksgiving, you could be eating vegetables harvested from a community garden you built with a little help from your social network and a crowdfunding website.

Crowdfunding websites help you plan and organize fundraisers for community projects by inspiring your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others in your social network to support your cause. They’re a great way to start projects like community gardens, neighborhood watches, or school fundraisers.

How crowdfunding works

At a crowdfunding website, you set up a webpage, post a story or video about your project, then ask your social network via your blog, Facebook, and Twitter to donate money.

Depending on the site you use, you’ll have various options. Some sites require you to post updates or offer rewards to donors. Others turn fundraising into a beat-the-clock game by giving you a deadline to hit your fundraising goal. Miss the goal and you don’t get any of the pledged funds.

That’s the case with, the crowdfunding site Nora Painten chose when she wanted to raise money to transform an 8,000-sq.-ft. trash- and weed-filled vacant lot into a school garden. Painten has given herself until Thanksgiving Sunday to raise $23,000.

Other sites, such as, only allow you to post if you’re a non-profit. Those sites work well for organizing school fundraisers or to provide a way to make tax-deductible contributions for a project such as a neighborhood watch.

Don’t have time for a project? Use crowdfunding to inspire neighbors and friends to support causes you endorse, such as a Thanksgiving dinner for those living with HIV/AIDS.

The value add for crowdfunding sites is that they help you get organized, explain what’s meaningful about your project, and reach out to contacts you already have. But they all come with considerations — they may take a cut of the money you raise, or they might limit how much time you have to raise the money.

They also require a lot of effort on your part to be successful. For example, The Merchant Park Community Garden in Chicago raised $2,633 with after volunteers put in about 25 hours posting information at the site, another 30 hours sending donor rewards and posting updates, and about 25 hours doing other miscellaneous tasks.

Crowdfunding is only as good as your network. A social networking butterfly who isn’t afraid to ask for help is going to do great. If you’ve only got 19 Facebook friends, including your cousins, you can still get in on this cool trend and celebrate Thanksgiving by funding someone else’s project.

Have you contributed to a crowdfunding project? Does it sound like a good idea?