Neighbor.ly expands crowdfunding service for civic projects with Knight Foundation funding

Press Release

June 18, 2013

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"Knight helps communities be Neighbor.ly" by Jase Wilson on Knight Blog

KANSAS CITY – (June 18, 2013) — Neighbor.ly, a crowdfunding platform that helps citizens and organizations come together to invest in civic and community causes, will scale up its operations with $175,000 in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Launched in July 2013 by Kansas, City, Mo. based startup, Luminopolis, Neighbor.ly aims to apply the power of crowdsourcing to large community endeavors, rather than individual projects. Companies, foundations and individuals can use the platform to directly support civic projects such as neighborhood wifi, bike paths, even initiatives as ambitious as light rail – the type of projects that return a high quality of life and address wider social issues, but are often the first to be slashed during budget cuts. Funding for the projects can include development of a strategic plan or bringing the community together to get consensus around a particular topic.

Building on these goals, the Neighbor.ly team will use Knight funding to develop ways to help corporate social responsibility programs and foundations fulfill their community missions. Through an enhanced website, organizations will get access to thousands of pre-vetted, sorted, filterable projects, many of them designed by local governments in collaboration with citizens. The expanded system will help raise larger amounts of money than individualized crowdfunding can achieve and help funders coordinate on high-impact projects.

“Neighbor.ly provides a welcome twist on traditional crowdfunding platforms, applying the technology directly to larger civic causes that have far-reaching impact,” said Damian Thorman, Knight Foundation director of national programs. “With its expansion more people will be able to get involved in decision-making in their communities, while governments and change makers can connect with ready-made projects that resonate with the communities they serve.”

The investment is part of Knight Foundation’s Tech for Engagement initiative, which supports projects that use technology to connect people for action.

Currently, local governments, public/private partnerships and civic-minded organizations can submit projects to the site. Visitors can contribute to projects at different levels while selecting from various rewards in return. Contributions act as supplemental revenue for particular initiatives, rather than a substitute for taxes or other funding sources.

“With less money from Washington, less money in the local tax base, and less ability to borrow, communities are left with a tough choice— either defund civic amenities or explore new funding sources,” said Neighbor.ly founder and MIT graduate Jase Wilson. “We want to help those who choose the latter.”

“We hope to make it easier for local governments to focus on core services without sacrificing quality of life,” said Wilson. “If a plan to expand a park is shelved for lack of funding, no one wins. But if that community gets creative about funding, they can create jobs while enhancing quality of life and boosting property values.”

Launched less than a year ago, Neighbor.ly has already helped support several civic projects in the Kansas City area along with a handful of other cities. The enhanced website will eventually be piloted in two additional communities where Knight invests.

To date, the service has helped raise over $100,000 for projects ranging from bike share programs to free neighborhood wifi. The average individual contribution has been $50, with higher corporate contributions. Currently, the site has garnered a backlog of over 100 project submissions for funding requests from across the United States. Knight funding will also go to increase the team’s capabilities to handle this growing demand.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.KnightFoundation.org.

Contact: Anusha Alikhan, 305-908-2677; [email protected]