Rodrigo Davies


Civic crowdfunding + communities + technology + media

Kansas City Hosts The Biggest Civic Crowdfunding Campaign Ever

13 Jan 2014

Update: there’s a great piece in Next City by Nancy Scola citing this post.

Today the Kansas City-based non-profit BikeWalkKC launched the biggest civic crowdfunding campaign ever, to extend the bikeshare scheme the group partially crowdfunded in 2012.

They’re running ten $100,000 campaigns for the next 46 days on on Neighbor.ly (also based in KC), one for each of the ten zones of the city in which they’re planning to build new stations. The total ask of $1M is, as far as I’m aware, the largest civic project on a crowdfunding platform to date.

It’s a huge task, but the campaign has already raised $300,000 in matching funds: $200,000 from the Federal Highway Administration and $50,000 each from two Kansas City-based organizations, the Kaufman Foundation and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. BikeWalkKC will continue to try and raise more big-dollar donations as the campaign progresses. If BikeWalkKC are successful they’ll be able to install an additional 15 bike stations, taking the total in the city to 27.

I’m currently in Kansas City studying the first BikeWalkKC campaign and working on a guide to best practices for non-profits in civic crowdfunding, and it’s exciting to get a front-row seat on this one. BikeWalkKC were already on my radar thanks to their 2012 campaign, which raised a total of $419,298. On that occasion most of the funding came from a single large donor, while $123,940 was raised via Neighbor.ly.

Given the even bigger ask this time, it’s a smart move to modularize the campaign by zone since residents and businesses in those areas have a direct link to the service they’re being asked to support. There’s also the possibility of friendly competition between neighborhoods - and perhaps even their local representatives, if council members back the campaign.

The organization has been advocating for a more walkable city since 2011 and in 2012, after finalizing the plans for the bikeshare scheme were announced and securing the first round of funding secured, the group won a proclamation from the city council to provide bike lanes for the first time and to support the fledgling bikeshare infrastructure. Without BikeWalkKC’s campaign – and especially the installation of the bikeshare scheme – it seems unlikely these biking improvements would have gained sufficient political traction.

With the second round of the campaign aiming even higher - for the magic million figure - it’s a major test case for whether civic crowdfunding can scale.

(Cross-posted at civic.mit.edu.)

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