Author: Ricki Watkins
What does it feel like to have the entire community supporting your great idea? Or, how does it feel to donate to a great cause and get some cool swag in return? Well, it feels like Community Funded.
Community Funded, a Fort Collins-based company, helps individuals, for-profit and nonprofit organizations and groups connect to the people within their community to raise money for worthwhile causes.
How does it work exactly? Well,say the owner of a small business wants to expand but does not have the money to do so. After submitting an idea to CF and having it approved, the owner has a certain number of days to raise a set amount of money. Individuals and organizations can then go to CFâ€™s website and learn more about the proposed project. If they like the project, they can choose to either donate money to the cause or purchase what CF terms as â€œgiftbacks.â€ Giftbacks are either products or services donated by the project creator â€” â€œproject giftbacksâ€ â€” or by other organizations â€” â€œin-kind giftbacks.â€ For example, you can buy a case of Odell beer or a Mugs Coffee Lounge gift card and donate to the project at the same time.
If the project creator is for-profit and makes their fundraising goal within the timeframe, they get to keep the money they raise. If not, the donations are returned back to the donors. If the project creator is a nonprofit, regardless of whether they meet their fundraising goal or not, they receive the money raised.
â€œWe really set out to build this tool that helps people create awareness of good ideas while uniting a community,â€ said McCabe Callahan, CF co-founder and owner of Mugs Coffee Lounge.
Callahan, along with co-founders Blue Hovatter and Ryan Stover, built CF off of existing crowdfunding websites. What sets them apart is that instead of fundraising to a faceless crowd, the founders wanted to focus on community.
â€œWhat defines you is really the relationships you have in your life,â€ Callahan said. â€œIf you have heard the saying â€˜It takes a village to raise a child,â€™ I think it really takes a community to make a great idea happen.â€
Individuals and organizations have raised almost $290,000 for their projects through CF since the companyâ€™s launch a little less than a year ago.
Whatâ€™s your â€˜itâ€™?
And remember that small business owner that wanted to expand? Well, meet Charly Clifford. Owner of Charly Bar, an energy bar company, Clifford utilized Community Funded and raised over $15,000 within his timeframe.
Charly Bar is Cliffordâ€™s â€œitâ€ as CF says. What is an â€œitâ€? According to CF, your â€œitâ€ is what you’re passionate about.
â€œWe like to ask people, â€˜Whatâ€™s your it?â€™ because no matter what â€˜itâ€™ is, it can be Community Funded,â€ said Stover, who is also CFâ€™s Creative Director.
â€œTimes are crazy right now with money, and loans are not necessarily the best way to go about things, especially if you are not tried and true and you just want to try something and you donâ€™t want to necessarily jump off the deep end and get a big loan and have to pay that back forever,â€ Clifford said.
Clifford, who donates one percent of his profits to youth health and wellness programs, has already moved to a new kitchen and purchased new equipment with some of the money he raised.
â€œI am looking forward to growing the business and having a lot more community impact,â€ Clifford said.
What is Stacy Sebeczekâ€™s â€˜itâ€™? The Fort Collins Bike Library, where anyone can checkout a bike for free. As director of the Bike Library, Sebeczek was looking for some way to find funding for 2013, as the Bike Libraryâ€™s five-year federal grant would be expiring in December 2012.
Through CF, the Bike Library raised $10,000. Coupled with contributions from New Belgium, the City of Fort Collins and the Downtown Development Authority, the Bike Library raised enough money to keep its doors open for 2013.
â€œIt raised a ton of awareness for our cause,â€ Sebeczek said. â€œPart of our transition after funding ran out in 2012 was not just a simple â€˜we need some money to operate next year,â€™ it was a very comprehensive â€˜we are transitioning from a grant-dependent model to something that is more sustainable with community collaboration.â€™ So, it was important for us to use that community piece for the awareness and exposure of our cause â€¦ Community Funded really helped us with that, especially having their strong team behind it; it is a very passionate group of individuals and they are so well connected and so willing to push projects and help them get the exposure they need.â€
How do I get involved?
So, you are a college student, how can you get involved with CF? In three ways, according to Callahan.
One, you can support ideas and projects in your community by donating or buying giftbacks â€” you get some sweet swag that you were already going to buy, but now that money goes to a great cause.
â€œIt is a great way for students to support great ideas and community while getting something back in exchange because a lot of students donâ€™t have disposable income and a lot are tight with money and have student loans,â€ Callahan said. â€œSo, instead of feeling like you have to come up with this extra money, what Community Funded allows for is this ability to shop for things you are going to use and do anyways, but also having impact in your community, which is a cool feeling to know that you are actually causing things to happen.â€
Two, if you have a great idea, shout it out and use Community Funded to make that idea reality.
â€œWhether it is a class project or a big goal that they have in life, it is an opportunity to share what they are passionate about and get the support of the people that already support them,â€ Stover said.
Speaking from experience, Clifford said he believes having the support of your community is extremely motivational.
â€œItâ€™s a lot of encouragement just to know that people believe in what you are doing â€¦ it makes you want to go out and try harder, it gives you definitely something to strive for,â€ Clifford said.
Three, spread the word.
â€œJust because you canâ€™t fund a project actually and you donâ€™t want to start one, doesnâ€™t mean you donâ€™t see a good idea like the Bike Library and be willing to talk about it,â€ Callahan said. â€œBy talking about it, you are also supporting that project, so you become this hero, this cheerleader for the different ideas on the website.â€
Bottom line: â€œEven you can have impact on your community through tools like this,â€ Callahan said.
The future of CF
What is the future for CF? Growth and greater impact.
â€œFort Collins is definitely community-centric and it is full of big ideas and people that are passionate about creating change in the world, so it definitely makes sense that it started in Fort Collins â€” it was fertile soil for this kind of idea, but really, the next step to this is to grow this outside of Fort Collins and really become a national movement,â€ Stover said.
With more than 2,000 registered individuals and almost 400 registered organizations from all over the U.S., and growing, it looks like CF is well on its way to success.
â€œMy hope is that as many people that need to use it, use it to cause greater impacts in their communities and if that is worldwide, I am okay with that,â€ Callahan said.