Following a link from one of the blogs I follow regularly brought me to Kickstarter. It’s a pretty awesome site–a “funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers…” Basically, people with cool ideas (check out the vertical vegetable gardens in city windows–I wish I’d thought of that!) write up their ideas and submit a budget, and then people can contribute towards making those things happen (in any amount). The creator can put a deadline on the project, and the site organizes them by genre, popularity, and overall appeal (in the “recommended” section). The site also tracks how much has been contributed so, if you really wanted your donation to go towards making a project actually happen, you could choose one close to its goal. Projects that reach their goals then charge all contributors’ credit cards for the amount pledged; projects that don’t reach their goals cancel all pledges. The payments are processed through Amazon, and creators retain all ownership–it’s not ‘investing’, but donor funding.
So, while there’s a lot to like on the site already, including some awesome-looking film projects that highlight social justice issues, here’s my idea:
We need a Kickstarter.com for community organizing!
Imagine it: a community organizer (maybe you!) could write up a project that your constituency is planning, how much money you need to pull it off, and your deadline. Obviously, there would be times when some secrecy would be required, since sometimes surprise is an essential part of a direct action strategy. But that wouldn’t be too hard to pull off. And then potential donors could search by geographic area, type of campaign (so, if you wanted to fund a rally, or a training, or a press event, or whatever, you could choose something that fit that criteria), or by issue (living wages, immigration reform, sexual violence, reproductive rights).
Often, community organizing efforts need access to relatively small sums of money, quickly, with few strings attached. And while something like Kickstarter wouldn’t address the parallel need for investment in organizational capacity and staff salaries, it could infuse needed dollars into shorter-term campaigns, as well as potentially attract new interest and new allies, and demonstrate to grassroots leaders that their plans have real appeal and support, a powerful lift.
If anyone has ever seen anything like what I’m describing, please let me know; I searched and couldn’t find it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there somewhere. If not, what would it take to get something started? Do you think it’s a good idea? If you’re an organizer, what kinds of projects would you want to submit? What would you be willing to fund?