Indiana pioneers crowdfunding community projects

By Christian Sullivan
TheStatehouseFile.com

One of the murals painted in downtown Greensburg. This mural was apart of the “Distinctive Place” project that was supported by crowdfunding. Photo provided by Main Street Greensburg.

INDIANAPOLIS ­— Wendy Blake wanted to make Greensburg a distinct city with its own identity.

She and other residents wanted art and streetscape items like benches to make the community more inspiring.

But they weren’t sure how they would fund it.

“If there are things that we want,” she said, “we might have to make them happen on our own.”

Blake, the executive director of Main Street Greensburg, turned to her own community to find the money.

Indiana cities and towns, like Greensburg, are pioneering the use of crowdfunding community projects. Crowdfunding is the practice of raising money for a project from online donations. Supporters can give as little or as much money as they want.

On popular crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, projects range from the serious — paying for a person’s medical bills or funeral costs — to the creative — publishing a novel or launching a new product.

“It creates a little bit more connection to other people in the community and a little bit of ownership,” Blake said.

Indiana is one of three states to introduce crowdfunding for community projects through Patronicity.com. Michigan and Massachusetts are the other two states to have a crowdfunding program. 

Veronica Watson, director of Indiana operations for Patronicity.com, said that Indiana has been going strong for just under a year. 

“Compared to all of the other states that are out there, we are definitely, I think, ahead of the curve,” said Watson. 

The Indiana plans on Patronicity.com can double their money with matching grants from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

A mural located in downtown Greensburg was made possible by the donations of the community members. The entire project was made possible by Patronicity.com, the IHCDA, and other local organizations. Photo provided by Main Street Greensburg

The state only has so many grant dollars to give, said Carmen Lethig, placemaking manager for IHCDA. This grant helps them allocate that money.

“The reason I am excited about it is because it would help stretch funding dollars,” Lethig said. “We only have ‘x’ amount of dollars to give to ‘x’ amount of communities, so if they have community members that are willing to put in their own dollars, then obviously, it will make the fund go further.” 

Each project must be a minimum of $10,000, half of which will come from money raised by the community and the other half will be matched by the IHCDA. The IHCDA will match up to $50,000. The program is available to communities or neighborhoods that have a traditional downtown or neighborhood commercial area. Local governments as well as nonprofits are able to apply.

The city of Greensburg raised $32,601 from 99 donors on Patronicity.com over 45 days for adding the three murals, benches and directional signs. Then with the matching grant and donations from other local foundations, the city raised a total of more than $75,000.

Greensburg has launched another smaller project on Patronicity.com that will bring a dog park to the city.

“I don’t even have a dog, but I contributed to the dog park project,” Blake said, “because I think it would make the community better as a whole.”

Christian Sullivan is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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