Indiana 'Crowdgranting' Platform Helps Fund Housing, Community Development Projects

The program matches resident donations for parks and other community improvements with grant money.

by / March 29, 2017

A concept called “crowdgranting” has launched in Indiana, and it's helping to develop projects in communities across the state. 

Using a system similar to that found on the crowdsourcing sites Kickstarter and GoFundMe (but with a few wrinkles), resident donations to initiatives are matched by grants from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Say, for example, that a city council or a nonprofit community group wants to build a new park. The group posts details and plans for its project online, along with a funding goal, and donors then have between 30 and 60 days to match that amount. If they make it, the goal amount is matched by a grant from a sponsor.

The initiative is called CreatINg Places and so far has funded six projects, eliciting gifts from 495 residents, $160,000 of which was matched by sponsors. Throughout Indiana so far, CreatINg Places has helped fund a preservation tour in Gary, a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr., in South Bend, and a series of three street murals in Greensburg.

Carmen Lethig, the placemaking manager for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, helped establish CreatINg Places, which is the third crowdgranting initiative of its kind, after similar versions preceded it in Michigan and Massachusetts. Lethig said that in addition to helping communities serve residents, crowdgranting also helps residents feel more vested in their communities, especially the projects they choose to gift with their own money.

There are, of course, limits on what CreatINg Places can and will pay for, as well as a careful vetting process. The state has also created a list of items and projects the initiative is ideal for. Think farmer’s markets, river walks, bike paths, etc. Lethig, however, encourages groups to be innovative with project proposals.

“Generally speaking, we’re really looking to take a public space that is underutilized and activate it, so that there are more people visiting that area and hopefully more people coming to start businesses or reside there as a result of the project and other things that are happening,” said Lethig.

A key partner for Indiana in this initiative is Patronicity, a company that created the crowdgranting platform CreatINg Places technical aspects use, as it also did for Michigan and Massachusetts.

While Indiana’s program is young, about a year old, Michigan’s has functioned for some time now. In its first year, the state’s crowdgranting initiative, called Public Space, Community Places, helped with the completion of 42 projects, receiving donations from more than 4,100 residents, $1.26 million of which came from grants.

The program in Indiana is currently powered by $1 million it was given from the state for project implementation. Although if this model continues to thrive, Lethig said, the state is likely to renew CreatINg Places.

“A project can come from any number of sources, whether that’s the local government or a nonprofit or citizens in the area,” she said, “but this program really gives the community a chance to say, ‘I helped bring that project here.’”