Civic crowdfunding bill filed in Hawaii House of Representatives

With more than 150 government entities signed up to crowdfund projects on Citizinvestor, we believe we are on the forefront of the next evolution of civic engagement. Every day, we find new reasons to be optimistic about the market for civic crowdfunding.

Today, it is the State of Hawaii that gives us hope. A bill is making its way through the Hawaii House of Representatives that would establish “a civic crowdfunding pilot program.” This is the first such bill we are aware of to be filed by a state government, showing the nearly endless possibilities for civic crowdfunding in the U.S. Congratulations to the State of Hawaii for leading the charge!

We have included the first draft of HB2631 below for you to read in its entirety:

"The Web boosts civitas in Central Falls"

In 2011, the City of Central Falls became the only city in Rhode Island history to file for bankruptcy. Now, the City and its 19,000 citizens are a model for what civic engagement should look like in the 21st Century, as 28 year-old Mayor James Diossa articulates in this must-read op-ed in the Providence Journal. In the piece, Mayor Diossa explains how Citizinvestor helped raise funds for a project to clean-up the city’s trash while engaging citizens in a deeper way than ever before:

Like most municipalities across the United States, we did not have extra money lying around to pay for the project. That’s when we discovered Citizinvestor — an innovative crowdfunding platform for local government projects, founded by Rhode Island native Tony DeSisto. Our public-private partnership with Citizinvestor would let us raise money for the trash bin project from citizens all across the country. Our team decided to try out this new form of civic engagement; we referred to it as “Government 2.0.”

In just 73 days, 68 citizens donated the $10,044 we needed to bring this project to life, posting the first fully-funded government crowdfunding project in Rhode Island history. The 68 citizens who contributed to our first Citizinvestor project demonstrated the deepest level of civic engagement.

You can read this great op-ed in its entirety at http://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/commentary/20140318-james-diossa-the-web-boosts-civitas-in-central-falls.ece

Citizinvestor powering City of Boston’s participatory budgeting project

At Citizinvestor, our mission is simple: to empower citizens to invest in their community. Today, we are excited to share a new way we are fulfilling that mission by powering the City of Boston’s participatory budgeting project that will allow youth to allocate $1,000,000 of the City’s budget.

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Youth can now visit boston.citizinvestor.com to submit ideas of what they want to build, repair, or renovate in the City of Boston. Volunteers will then meet in committees to review the ideas and select the ones that will be eligible to receive funding. In June, Boston residents between the ages of 12 and 25 will have an opportunity to vote for the ideas they think should receive funding from the City.

We couldn’t be more proud of partnering with the City of Boston and the Participatory Budgeting Project on this initiative. This project will give Boston’s young people real power over real money to make real improvements to their city. It’s just another way we are empowering citizens to invest in their community!

Is there a correlation between political affiliation and a project’s chance of success?

Citizinvestor fan Clay Brown recently posed the following question on our Facebook page: In the cities where you see the highest percentage of funded projects, what is the dominant political party?

Great question, Clay! We looked-up the results of the 2012 presidential election for each locality represented by a Citizinvestor project that has reached its funding deadline. We then matched the vote totals for those localities against whether or not a project was successful. If the project had a physical address associated with it, we looked up the results for that specific precinct. If the project was city or county-wide, we reported the results of the entire county.

In localities with successfully funded Citizinvestor projects, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by an average of 62.8% to 32.9%. In localities with unsuccessful projects, the margin was much tighter with Obama beating Romney 53.8% to 44.13%. President Obama won the vote in 13 of the 15 localities with successfully funded Citizinvestor projects.

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Got a question you want our team to answer? Post it to our Facebook page or on Twitter.

Introducing “Phased” and “Matching” Projects

Since we launched Citizinvestor, we have introduced the concept of crowdfunding public projects to thousands of government entities across the United States. One of the reasons more government entities choose Citizinvestor over any other crowdfunding platform is that we are constantly changing the product to meet their unique needs. Today, we are thrilled to unveil one of our most significant innovations yet - “Phased” and “Matching” projects! With these new products, we have re-imagined the crowdfunding project page, with the needs of our government partners in mind.

The first-of-its-kind “Phased” project type will allow project creators to break larger crowdfunding campaigns into multiple phases, increasing each phase’s chances of reaching 100% of its funding goal before the deadline. The City of Chickasha, Oklahoma is the first government entity to leverage this new form of crowdfunding with a project to raise the money they need to renovate a park. The first phase of the project will raise $293,000 for a new state-of-the art play system, fall zone material, and other amenities around the playground area. Once this phase reaches 100% of its funding goal, donors’ credit cards will be charged, the $293,000 will be deposited to a bank account set up by the City, and the second phase of the project will automatically activate on the same project URL (http://www.citizinvestor.com/project/renovate-centennial-park-playground). If the first phase of this project reaches its funding goal, phase two will seek to raise additional funds for park shelters, a parking lot, park amenities, and landscaping. 

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We are also launching a “Matching” project type to support the many projects government entities have that include matching funds. We have had a number of projects on Citizinvestor that have included matching funds. The new “Matching” project type will simply make it easier to visualize these matching dollars.

We are excited to see how our government partners leverage these two new ways to crowdfund public projects on Citizinvestor!

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Central Falls continues to engage citizens after successfully funded project

Last fall, the City of Central Falls, Rhode Island successfully crowdfunded their first project on Citizinvestor, just two years after the City filed for bankruptcy. Since receiving the funds for their first project, the City has done a terrific job of continuing to keep Citizinvestors engaged with the project.

The $10,044 the city raised is going towards the installation of one-of-a-kind steel trash cans and recycling bins in the city’s centerpiece public park. Together with local non-profit The Steel Yard, the City has turned to citizens to help design the bins so that they are as much public art as they are functional infrastructure.

The City has already hosted two meetings to seek input from citizens on the design of these bins, and the turnout has been impressive! Kudos to the super-engaged citizens of Central Falls and the amazing leadership in City Hall. We can’t wait to see the bins installed this spring!

Do projects in rich neighborhoods perform better than those in poorer neighborhoods?

We’re kicking off a new series of blog posts in which our Co-founders answer some of your questions about Citizinvestor and civic crowdfunding in general. We can’t think of a better question to start with than this common one posed to us on Twitter by @dannybr0wn:

This is a big question we had before we launched Citizinvestor. We have been encouraged to learn that, so far, the wealth of a neighborhood has little to no bearing on a project’s chance of success on Citizinvestor. Using data from the 2010 United States Census, we pulled the median household incomes for the area represented by each Citizinvestor project. If the project had a physical address, we used data from the ZIP code where that project was located. If it was a city-wide project, we used income data from the community at-large. We then matched these median household income numbers against whether the Citizinvestor project reached 100% of its funding goal. The below chart demonstrates our findings:

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The two projects located in areas with a median household income of less than $30,000 provide some interesting insight into this topic. The first we will highlight is the recently successful project in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Central Falls has consistently had the highest poverty and unemployment rates of any community in the State of Rhode Island, along with the lowest incomes. According to the 2010 Census, the median household income was $29,268, well below that of the State ($56,102). But citizens from across the State of Rhode Island and around the country rallied together to fund a project to place new trash cans in the City of Central Falls’ centerpiece public park. The below map visualizes where the donations for this project came from across the U.S.

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Within the State of Rhode Island, the map below shows the majority of donations to this project coming from the neighboring City of Providence, a significantly more wealthy community with a median household income of $38,243.

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The second project located in an area with a median income of less than $30,000 was a community garden project in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia (ZIP code 19140) with a median household income of $21,759. This project reached 100% of its $2,163 goal in just 39 days - a relatively short amount of time for a Citizinvestor project to cross the finish line. This project is a good contrast to a city-wide project posted by the City of Philadelphia where the median household income is $37,016. The city-wide tree planting project failed to reach its $12,875 goal, raising only $1,694 before the project deadline.

Obviously, the sample size of the data used here is small, and nothing conclusive can be drawn from these findings. But based on the information we have, we are encouraged that Citizinvestors are investing in communities rich and poor.

Do you have a question you would like the team at Citizinvestor to answer? Post it on Facebook or Twitter!

Citizinvestor at Esri’s Federal Conference

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One of the things we are most excited about in this new year is our new partnership with Esri - one of the world’s leaders in mapping software. Every map tells a story, and for us, Esri is helping tell the story of citizens across the country investing in their communities. For example, on every project page, you can now see a map visualizing where the finished project will be once funded on Citizinvestor.

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This week, our Co-founders are in DC at Esri’s Federal GIS Conference. If you’re at the event, be sure to stop by to learn how Citizinvestor can help you raise money from citizens for federal government projects. See you there!

96 Citizinvestors fund bicycle safety project in Silicon Valley

A few months ago, the San Mateo County Parks Foundation posted three projects to Citizinvestor. All three have now received the funding they need to move forward!

Today, Citizinvestors in Silicon Valley reached their goal of raising the money they need fund three months of Bicycle Sundays. The popular program closes down busy Cañada Road so that families and cyclists can enjoy a safe place to ride. 96 citizens donated to the project - the most Citizinvestors ever to donate to a single project!

The Citizinvestors in Northern California are showing what it means to invest in your community. Congratulations to these citizens on their successful projects!

Statue of Liberty in 1884: A Preview of “Crowdfunding” Government Projects

This post is cross-posted from GovLoop.com.

Is the crowdfunding of public projects really all that new? We would love to take credit for this “new” form of civic engagement; but the truth is that citizens have been crowdfunding public projects since the Statue of Liberty made its way to New York City in 1884.

As Rodrigo Davies, a researcher at the Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has uncovered, in 1884 with the statue due to be shipped from France, the United States government had only half of the funds they needed to build the pedestal where Lady Liberty would eventually stand. With the statue’s future in jeopardy, Joseph Pulitzer launched a call for public donations through his newspaper, The World. Incredibly, in just five months 160,000 citizens donated $101,091 ($1,091 more than was needed) to complete the pedestal and bring the Statue of Liberty to the U.S.

Today, we have a new word for this type of fundraising: crowdfunding. But in the 129 years since this impressive effort, human nature hasn’t changed much. Now, perhaps more than ever, citizens are eager to invest in their communities.

A recent Citizinvestor project in the City of Naperville, Illinois bears a striking resemblance to that of the Statue of Liberty. On a beautiful Saturday morning in the Chicago suburb, Navy veterans were honored at the unveiling of the Spirit of the American Navy statue. Like the Statue of Liberty, the Spirit of the American Navy started without a home. The statue in hand, the City of Naperville and its partner non-profit, Century Walk, did not have the money they needed to build the pedestal where the statue would eventually stand in the city’s park.

The City and Century Walk had each committed $25,000 to build the pedestal, but this still left them $25,000 shy of the amount they needed to give the statue a place to rest. With nowhere else to turn, these partners turned to the citizens of Naperville, asking them to step up to fund the public good. Within weeks, citizens crowdfunded the remaining $25,000 necessary to honor the city’s Navy veterans with the new statue.

The citizens of Naperville aren’t the only ones donating dollars to public projects. To date, there are more than 145 government entities signed up for Citizinvestor, 20 of which have already crowdfunded projects. To date, 68% of all projects have reached 100% of their funding goal. What the citizens of New York started in 1884 is now gaining steam all across America - average citizens, passionate about their communities, are stepping up to fund public projects and services when government can not.

The Statue of Liberty is known as a symbol of freedom, but we submit that it is also a symbol of the deepest form of civic engagement - citizens so committed to the continued creation of their cities that they are willing to put their money where their hearts are for the public good. As Citizinvestors in the greater Chicago area and across the country are showing, that spirit of civic generosity is alive and thriving across the U.S. today.

Jenn Yeagley Russell joins Citizinvestor as Campaign Consultant

Please join us in welcoming Jenn Yeagley Russell to the Citizinvestor team! Jennifer has just moved to Tampa from Silicon Valley. She is joining Citizinvestor as a Campaign Consultant, working with our municipal partners to help them get their projects funded. Below is what Jenn has to say about joining the Citizinvestor team!

As a long-time fundraiser primarily working in the nonprofit sector, I know that committed individuals can bring about significant changes in their communities by simply giving what they can.

At My New Red Shoes, a Silicon Valley-based organization where I recently served as Executive Director, a contribution of just $50 ensured a homeless child could start the school year with pride, wearing a brand new pair of shoes and new clothing provided for by our generous donors. While we received some large and generous gifts from local philanthropists, 75% of our donors gave gifts in increments of $100 or less. These small donations added up, allowing us to give new shoes and clothing to over 6,000 underprivileged children throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in one year alone.   

My experience at My New Red Shoes drove home the power of aggregate small gifts - or micro-philanthropy - which, when fueled by technology, can be a powerful force for good across the globe. Having seen firsthand how this type of giving connects people and transforms communities, the opportunity to play a role in democratizing philanthropy by working at the intersection of giving and government is what drew me to Citizinvestor. By offering an innovative platform for civic engagement, I believe that Citizinvestor can cut through bureaucracy and help people improve their cities in tangible ways that directly impact them, their families and their neighbors. As Campaign Consultant, I look forward to supporting our partners with customized strategies and practical tools, helping their projects reach their funding goals and their cities benefit from the investments of its citizens.

I hope to connect with each of you in the Citizinvestor community! You can reach me at jenn@citizinvestor.com.

Our Core Values

As we embark on this New Year, we wanted to take a moment to share something very personal with you.

We’ve recently taken the time to define what values we deem core to us as founders and as a company. We put these ideals through rigorous testing to ensure that they are indeed “core” to who we are as people and what we stand for as a company. You have likely seen many of these core values in the work Citizinvestor has done to date, and you will see them more deeply integrated into the Citizinvestor community in the future.

Without further adieu, here are our eight core values:

Live generously 
We believe that generosity makes us better citizens. One who lives generously seeks to put others above themselves, freely giving their time, energy, and resources. 

Love where you live 
No one likes the guy who hates his hometown. Every city is broken, we know that. But we believe we are called to love where we live. 

Be audacious 
Dream bigger. Have a healthy disrespect for the status quo. Never fear failure. 

Be disciplined 
Vision without discipline is false hope. We love lists and focus, because we know that’s what makes us most free to do the best work. 

Be self-aware 
We know what we’re good at and what we suck at and we love that quality in others. 

Transparency 
Not lying is not enough. True transparency is in the best interest of everyone from customers, to employees, to partners. 

Always be learning 
Our love of learning spills into everything we do, from running constant experiments on our products, to A/B testing messaging, to always having a book in our hands. 

For good, for profit 
Profit and social impact are not mutually exclusive. We believe the best way to create real change is by creating new value in the marketplace.

Look at what Santa brought the City of Pagosa Springs!

Santa sure was good to the citizens of Pagosa Springs, Colorado this Christmas! On Christmas Eve he delivered the city a new observation deck on top of a downtown wilderness park thanks to 44 generous Citizinvestors.

The $5,400 raised on Citizinvestor is being matched in full, allowing the city to purchase picnic tables, timber framing roofing and decking materials, and cement piers to bring this observation deck to life. You can read more about this successful project - the first in the great State of Colorado - at citizinvestor.com/project/reservoir-hill-observation-deck.

Can crowdfunding save an endangered species?

Citizinvestors in Silicon Valley have answered that question with a resounding, “Yes!”

Recently, 37 Citizinvestors reached their goal of raising the $5,400 San Mateo County needs to restore the thornmint - a federal and state endangered annual mint only found in Silicon Valley. This Citizinvestor project ensured that the December 2013 seeding window was not lost for this endangered species.

The types of projects the Citizinvestor community chooses to fund continues to amaze us. This is just another great example of the creative ways citizens are choosing to improve their communities!

Citizinvestor on the world stage

A couple of weeks ago, we had the honor of presenting at the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France. The event took place at the impressive Council of Europe (see below) and hosted more than 2,000 people from more than 100 nations to discuss how digital tools can enhance democracy around the globe.

We were one of only a few U.S. companies invited to present our work to the Forum. In a two hour discussion, experts from Spain, Malaysia, France and Bahrain critiqued Citizinvestor and discussed its implications for the European Union. You can watch our presentation to the Forum here:

There was a lot of excitement for the work we are doing in the U.S. and others are doing abroad to empower citizens to invest in their communities. We were thrilled to see how well the idea of civic crowdfunding translated to people from all across the world. It is obvious that the problems we are solving are global problems, making us even more excited for the future of the Citizinvestor community!



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