October 25, 2012 By Sarah Rich
Aspiring movie directors may turn to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to harness capital to complete a film. But when government projects lack the dollars they require to be completed, municipalities are starting to turn to Citizinvestor for a financial boost from their communities.
“Budgets in municipalities across the country are tighter than ever before,” said Jordan Rayner, co-founder of Citizinvestor. “And simultaneously we’re seeing citizens start to rise up, being willing to pay for the government.”
Similar to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding websites, Citizinvestor invites citizens to donate money online to local civic projects that city governments may not have the budget to complete themselves. Projects launched on the platform are given a time frame on when they are to be completed.
As citizens donate to the projects, users can track how much of the project’s funding has been completed and how many days are left in the goal time frame. However, donors’ credit cards aren’t charged until a project reaches its target amount.
On each project, Citizinvestor charges an 8 percent service fee. But for projects that don’t meet their financial target in the allotted time frame, citizens who tried to fund the project don’t get charged, the government the project belongs to doesn’t receive any money and Citizinvestor does not collect a service fee.
The site has already been utilized by cities including Philadelphia and Boston, with more expected to use the platform in the future, Rayner said.
Philadelphia kicked off Tree Philly, a project to raise money to have 15,000 trees planted in the city before the end of the year. As of Oct. 24, nearly $1,700 of the $12,875 required funding had been raised for the project.
Boston recently launched a project through Citizinvestor to help put iPads in the hands of 10 blind students in the city. The listing includes a breakdown of all expenses that will be involved with the project once fully funded including the iPads and training for the parents of the blind students. The project was developed by Tech Goes Home, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income residents in the city gain better access to technology. The organization works in partnership with the city of Boston and other organizations.
Rayner said Citizinvestor differs from other crowdfunding platforms because the projects listed on the site come directly from municipalities, which he feels makes those governments more accountable for their spending.
Although Citizinvestor caters specifically to municipal projects, other websites like Neighbor.ly serve as a platform for crowdfunding public projects. But unlike Citizinvestor, the website targets professional investors and private businesses to help fund projects.
Rayner said one other major difference between Kickstarter and Citizinvestor is that Kickstarter is often used as a platform for people to shop for “the next greatest gadget.”
“We’re trying to reach a very different person,” Rayner said. “We’re not trying to reach the person who wants the latest gadget or toy. We’re looking for micro-philanthropists.”
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