- Why is Oregon’s Kitchen Table doing crowdfunding?
In addition to policy-based input, Oregon’s Kitchen Table is bringing Oregonians a new way to nurture more democracy in Oregon: crowdfunding. We think crowdfunding is one more way to bring more of the public to public projects. Crowdfunding is a relatively new opportunity to collectively invest in projects through an online platform, even in amounts as small as $1 or $5 or as large as $1 million. Think of crowdfunding like a public radio fundraising drive: anyone can give whatever amount they want and projects provide “perks” at different levels of donations to engage donors. Crowdfunding doesn’t replace other funding sources for public projects nor is it a “shadow government,” but it can be a way for all of us to participate in projects we care about. This is another way to say “yes” to public projects – not just through the actual money but also with the public stepping forward and saying, “We want to see this happen and we’re taking ownership of this project. It belongs to us and we’re willing to see it through.” Online funding platforms make it very easy to give (and claim perks associated with the project that make the process fun!) and to share the projects you support around your kitchen table. So what better place than Oregon’s Kitchen Table to bring Oregonians the chance to share public projects around the state’s kitchen table?
- How is Oregon’s Kitchen Table crowdfunding platform different from other crowdfunding sites?
Oregon’s Kitchen Table is focused entirely on crowdfunding for public projects in Oregon. The portal serves Oregon communities! Anyone can donate to an Oregon’s Kitchen Table crowdfund from anywhere around the world, but all projects are based in Oregon. (But if you’re from another state, let’s talk! We’re all about getting Arizona’s or Minnesota’s Kitchen Table off the ground.)
Our staff is also directly available to assist crowdfund teams. Our commitment is to Oregon’s communities, so we’re here to help the project teams and their supporters.
- How can I start a crowdfunding campaign for a public project I care about on Oregon’s Kitchen Table?
- Contact us! We’d love to hear what ideas you have for an Oregon civic crowdfund. We have a variety of ways we can help - from simply hosting the project on our platform to helping you run the whole crowdfunding campaign - if it looks like a good fit. We have a tiered system of support we can offer.
- Do you have any criteria for what kinds of projects you post?
Oregon’s Kitchen Table is most interested in crowdfunding projects that have a public purpose. We are also most interested in public projects that have no other obvious mechanisms for funding or that will benefit an Oregon community that doesn’t have easy access to other methods of funding. Projects on Oregon’s Kitchen Table are most often under a non-profit or public agency.
If you’re a small business owner in Oregon looking for microlending, check out our current microlending partner, Community Sourced Capitol.
- How do people find out about the projects on Oregon’s Kitchen Table?
Currently, Oregon’s Kitchen Table has over 16,000 members from across the state who have taken their seat at the table. And the number grows. We share opportunities for engagement - whether it’s a consultation on an important decision in the state or your community, a civic crowdfunding campaign, or new crowdfunded microlending campaigns - with the folks who have joined Oregon’s Kitchen Table. We also work closely with project teams and partner organizations to conduct outreach and get the word out.
- How is it funded?
Oregon’s Kitchen Table is a non-partisan partnership of higher education, non-profit organizations and civic leaders, funded by local and national foundations, state government, and individual donations.
- How is the money collected?
- Our taxes go to funding public projects. Why would we need crowdfunding?
When we first started talking about crowdfunding, we had the same question. But as we thought about it more, there are a couple of reasons why we think crowdfunding is appropriate for funding public projects. First, our decision-makers are faced with huge lists of projects that the public wants to see happen and there just isn’t the funding for all of them. As we’ve seen the past few years, our tax dollars aren’t limitless! Second, crowdfunding can be used to show decision-makers which projects are high priorities for the public. Third, it can also be used to fill in gaps when public funds aren’t able to cover the entire cost of a project, and it can be used to leverage larger sources of funds – from both the public and private sectors. And finally, often times new and innovative projects – especially projects that cut across our traditional institutions – don’t have obvious funding streams to draw from. With crowdfunding, we have the flexibility and freedom to direct our money to specific projects that might not fit within the traditional funding models.
- Doesn’t this give government an “out” to not fund projects? Can’t they just say, “Oh, these people will just raise the money themselves, so we can direct public money elsewhere?”
We think crowdfunding provides just the opposite opportunity! When the public steps forward to contribute money for a project, we send the message that we care about a project, which makes government agencies pay attention. We think crowdfunding can be used to shine a light on projects that are having a tough time getting started. Here’s where the idea of leveraging funding from different sources comes in: if we can come together to support and invest in a project we care about, then that encourages others in both the public and private sectors to also invest. Crowdfunding can be a powerful tool for co-investment and co-ownership. But, don’t worry. We’re not building a shadow government! We think the most successful crowdfunded civic projects happen when decision makers and public agencies are included from the very beginning as part of the crowdfunding campaign. This is why we think it’s important to view crowdfunding as an act of collaborative governance, as an easy way for the public to invest in public projects alongside government and the non-profit and business sectors.
- How can crowdfunding be seen as a form of civic engagement if it’s just people giving money?
Crowdfunding is a social activity, and a fun one at that! Its success relies on building and maintaining relationships over time. Important conversations about public spaces and efforts arise from crowdfunds: both online through blog posts and comments and through other platforms of social media like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook and in the conversations that families and friends have across their kitchen tables. Crowdfunding for civic projects can help build community by growing the public’s sense of ownership of a project. When you give to a crowdfund project, you’re becoming part of that project’s team because you’ve got a resource to provide (even if that resource is just $1 or simply sharing the crowdfunding link on Facebook). You’ve taken an action to invest in a public project and now you’re part of it. Because crowdfunding is built on an online, social platform, it’s so much easier for the public to stay updated and to learn about in-person events (like a garbage clean-up day at a park or a design workshop for a building) and to participate even more.
- Aren’t we already doing this kind of thing for public projects? We hold bake sales for schools; we sell off naming rights for public parks and buildings. What’s different about crowdfunding?
Asking the public to dig into our pockets and give for projects in the public or civic sphere is nothing new. PTAs have been doing it for decades; private individuals and foundations have been giving money to create parks for centuries. What is new is that we now have a whole host of online tools that streamline the activity of investing. With crowdfunding, you simply have another opportunity to be civically active. On top of that, online crowdfunding platforms provide a really easy way to spread the word about a project so anyone can participate by allowing you to share videos, pictures, and updates. Crowdfunding tools allow the campaign team to directly show the results and to stay in touch with you and the rest of the team. Oregon’s Kitchen Table’s mission is to create a space for Oregonians to have ongoing exchanges about what’s going on in the public arena, and crowdfunding is another way to do that.
- Lots of public projects are really expensive and most crowdfunds I’ve seen have been small – under $20,000. How can we raise enough money for the projects that we really need?
Across all the different platforms and types of projects, successful crowdfunds have raised as little as $1,000 and as much as $10 million. Of course, most projects (99%) are trying to raise less than $100,000. Crowdfunding is still a relatively new approach, so every day new projects emerge and more people learn about how it works. We’re not really sure how effective crowdfunding can be for really expensive public projects, but we know it’s a powerful tool for smaller projects or for pieces of larger projects. That’s why we see crowdfunding as just another piece in the puzzle for bringing public projects to successful completion; we don’t think it’s the only answer for solving our public problems! It’s our goal to continue to experiment and test out crowdfunding in a variety of different public projects and with different goals. Along the way, we’ll all learn together how to best co-invest our money. We hope you’ll join us in this grand public effort!