Government Crowdsourced Funding? Check Out What’s Going On In NYC
I’m gonna venture a guess that no one wakes up on tax day and is like, “Yes! My favorite day of the year!” Everyone is familiar with that sinking feeling of looking at their paycheck, calculating how much they made before Uncle Sam took his cut and sighing before pushing it back in their wallet.
In the abstract parts of our brains we know that the government tithe goes to pay for things like schools and roads and (sometimes) public transportation, but it can be hard to directly connect that cut to your paycheck with actual benefits.
And, of course, there’s always the fact that you’re probably not down with at least some of what the government is doing with your cash.
What if there was a way you could contribute directly to cool projects in your area, projects that may have asked the government for some of those tax dollars back before they were, you know, broke? What if there was a way to see exactly where your money was going and how it impacted your community?
Are parts of this hypothetical starting to sound familiar? They should be, because what I’m talking about is something those of us here in the startup world are super familiar with: crowdfunding. We’ve written previously about a crowdfunding platform in London called Spacehive, which is a privately run site aiming to fund cool community projects, but it seems that governments are starting to get hip to this new way to raise money with government crowdsourced funding.
In New York City, City Council Speaker Caroline Quinn and the NYC City Council launched a Kickstarter page of their own. The idea is to highlight projects in low-income communities with a goal toward improving civic life across the city. They want to pull in both big philanthropic donors and every day NYC residents.
Reason why this is cool, number 1:
You get to see where your money goes and, if you’re a New Yorker, you get to see the results right in your own city. This isn’t like paying taxes, where your money may go to a new community center but it also may go to buying flak jackets in Afghanistan. You never know, do you?
Reason why this is cool, number 2:
I don’t know if you heard, but the government is broke. Not like, eating Ramen noodles every night broke but definitely cutting out shopping trips and exotic vacations broke. Despite all the talk of “American Innovation,” the government can’t really afford to take risks on things that haven’t been proven yet.
The beauty of crowdfunding is that most individuals can afford to take a risk with five or ten dollars. While the city government may not be willing to drop more than $7,500 on a beat boxing program for blind kids in the Bronx or over $25,000 for an urban farm in Brownsville, both of those projects have already met their funding goals on Kickstarter.
Reason why this is cool, number 3:
Almost anyone can donate on Kickstarter because the donations are in small amounts. That means that the communities that are targeted by this campaign can contribute to the projects themselves, if they’re into it. “Neighborhood improvement” projects are often divorced from the reality of the neighborhoods they exist in, brought in by governments and NGOs, but this allows neighborhoods to vote with their dollars about what they do and don’t want around the corner.
This initiative does what crowdfunding does best: supports projects that may never see a dime otherwise and engages people who don’t normally get to decide where their money goes. If it’s successful in New York, who knows? Maybe we’ll see government crowdsourced funding gain traction and spread to communities around the world.