Citizinvestor picks up where taxes and good intentions leave off

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The first thing I thought of when learning about Citizinvestor were my imaginary friends in the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks department. Projects that are important to citizens don’t always get top bill from cash-strapped local governments. Think Leslie Knope’s pit-to-park proposal.

Knope, who didn’t have access to Citizinvestor’s public project crowdfunding platform, nearly succumbed to taking $35,000 from Pawnee’s America-shaming Venezuelan sister city.

Taxes may be the original “crowdfunding” source, but they only go so far. And often, taxes aren’t spent toward what individuals feel the most strongly about. 

Are people willing to pay above taxes for things they care about? This question has been put to the test by Citizinvestor over the past year.  And the answer is a resounding yes.

Jordan Raynor, co-founder of Citizinvestor, has learned a lot about the generosity of publics this year.

In Naperville, Illinois, people pitched in close to $77,000 to raise a Navy memorial statute. They’ve partnered with cities to fund bike racks in Oregon, plant trees outside of Chicago, and create a community garden in a poor area of Philadelphia.

And in their own backyard in Tampa, Raynor and his colleagues are embarking on a project to crowdfund nearly $11,000 to provide a school year’s worth of weekend meals for every student at Oak Park Elementary, among the poorest children in Tampa Bay.

“Ten years ago you had to be a Rockefeller to make these impacts on public projects,” Raynor said in an interview with Saint Petersblog. “But what we have seen is a powerful wave of micro-philanthropists giving to projects that they are passionate about.”

Citizinvestor donors run the gamut of age, political orientation, and geography.  The average contribution is $45, and while most contributions come from within a community, about 35 percent come from elsewhere.

In the first nine months of Citizinvestor, the group worked with nine projects. In the past three months, ten projects have been posted.  

While three founders of Citizinvestor are all conservatives, their company’s focus is anything but partisan. 

To liberals, projects initiated through Citizinvestor represent worthy causes that further the ability of governments to provide for peoples’ needs, and to conservatives, Citizinvestor empowers people at the local level to have greater control about where governments spend their money.

 “Generosity is nonpartisan,” Raynor said. “We partner with people and governments from across the spectrum.”

Governments and individuals are each able to trigger the crowdfunding process through Citizinvestor’s web platform. Municipalities present projects that are desired but need funding, and residents come to the site with ideas to improve their communities.

And here’s the kicker: not a dime changes hands until the project is fully funded. Gone are the days of donating to a cause that will only make it a fifth of the way to completion.

Kinda sounds like something that both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson could get on board with, huh?

Apparently, Raynor had already thought this through. This video the closest I’ve seen to fictional characters acting as accidental spokespersons.

Visit Citizinvestor.com, pitch your ideas, check out some pretty awesome projects, and we’ll all be the better for it.

Karen Cyphers, PhD, is a public policy researcher, political consultant, and mother to three daughters. She can be reached at karen@cyphersgroup.com.