It’s time to experiment with crowdfunding civic projects in Northfield

crowdfundingIt’s cool to see crowdfunding happening in Northfield (eg, Red Barn Farm pizza oven via Kickstarter; Loonshine via Indiegogo).

It’s time to consider how to best use crowdfunding for civic projects.

Among the new crowdfunding platforms for civic projects are two which focus on raising money for projects submitted by citizens and municipalities: and Citizinvestor. See these two recent articles in Government Technology magazine on the two platforms:

Being in Kansas City: Kickstarter for Local Government? (Aug 15, 2012)

… invites visitors to “Invest in places and civic projects you care about.” features public projects… and asks not only individual investors, but also private businesses to pledge financial support.

Citizinvestor: The New Frontier of Government Funding?  (Oct 25, 2012)

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.

My idea of putting game tables in downtown Northfield would be a perfect small project for crowdfunding.  I might think it’s a terrific idea but it might not be high on the priority list for the City.  Getting one table funded might convince the City to back it in a bigger way.  And if it can’t generate enough public financial support, then maybe it’s an idea whose time has not come and therefore I should shut up about it.

Might the next installment of the downtown sidewalk poetry project be better done via crowdfunding?

How about crowdfunding a bigger and better skatepark, now that its location is about to be decided?

Moving up the ladder in size of civic projects, what about the Save the Northfield Depot? Are hundreds of Northfielders kicking in small amounts? Are there ‘perks’ for donors, big and small?

Bigger yet: the Northfield Library expansion. Lest you think that a crowdfunding a multi-million dollar project like a library expansion is ridiculous, consider that the idea is not to get the project funded by crowdsourcing, but rather to demonstrate actual support (not just verbal support) for it by citizens, organizations, businesses, foundations, etc.

Crowdfunding a civic project has policy implications, of course.  A city council needs to carefully weigh to what extent a project proposed and funded by a well-connected private group is best for the community as a whole.  See this GovLoop article and podcast: Crowdfunding Civic Projects — Interest Groups Playground or a Cost Cutting Solution?


  1. Griff,

    I love the ideas you have proposed here for Northfield! Who within the City of Northfield should we talk to about these projects? While we work those channels, I would encourage you to start a petition for the projects you have mentioned above here: This will help us show City Hall how much support there is for these projects.

    Looking forward to helping you fund these great projects!

    Jordan Raynor
    Co-founder, Citizinvestor

    November 27, 2012
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for chiming in, Jordan. I think it would be premature to approach anyone at the City at this point just based on my initial ruminating about this. You’re likely to get a ‘crowdfunding huh?’ reaction.

    That said, since funding of both the skatepark and the train depot will be front and center over the next few months, I could imagine discussions about what role crowdfunding could play being of interest to the groups involved.

    November 27, 2012
  3. Very cool. Keep us in the loop on those talks as we would love to help get these projects funded.

    November 29, 2012
  4. Lynn Vincent said:

    It is of interest. Can you come to a Depot Board meeting in January and explain how it worked? Lynn

    December 12, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Lynn, I’ve never used the process. I’ve blogged as much as I know, so it would be best to point the Depot Board members to this blog post and discussion here and invite questions and comments. Then, others can help with the answers and everyone can benefit.

    December 12, 2012
  6. ArtOrg has helped to fund a few regional art projects through Kickstarter, and it has been a great experience. Here is our page at Kickstarter.

    We are however right now part of a “crowdchoosing” process. Over one-dozen teams are competing for a summer-long installation at the Minneapolis Convention Center. So far, we are in the lead, but voting does continue to January 7. Please go to our link to vote for our project, and to experience some “crowdchoosing”! You have to be on Facebook, and you have to “like” the Convention Center before eventually reaching the “VOTE” button. Thanks in advance.

    December 16, 2012

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