ioby is a standout crowdfunding platform that bankrolls projects benefiting local communities and provides coaching for project managers on how to engage their neighbors.

By Nick Eustis

Photo by Leah Johns of Leah Loves That Photography

In the past 10 years, crowdfunding, or collecting donations from strangers via the internet, has become a nationwide phenomenon. Platforms like Patreon, Kickstarter and GoFundMe have become household names and helped fund thousands of projects. But one crowdfunding platform, ioby, stands out as unique in its field.

ioby, which stands for “in our back yard,” is a nonprofit crowdfunding platform that helps to bankroll projects benefiting local communities. It also provides coaching for project managers on community engagement.
“We believe that neighbors know what’s best for their neighborhood,” said Miriam Parson, ioby Action Strategist for the Western Pennsylvania region. “You get a web page, as well as one-on-one strategy coaching to reach your goal by activating donors for your community project.” This includes helping to identify potential donor groups and creating messaging tailored toward those groups. ioby strategists are also available anytime to answer questions about how to improve a campaign.

ioby launched in 2009 as a way to make it easier for people to invest in their communities. Since then, ioby has helped successfully fund 1,663 projects, with over five million dollars contributed. They presently do work in five cities: Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, New York and Pittsburgh.
ioby also partners with local nonprofits and grant administrators to provide further funding assistance programs. One such program, the ioby-One Northside crowdfunding challenge, is a donation matching program for Northside-based projects, provided by a grant from One Northside and the Buhl Foundation.

“The ioby-One Northside crowdfunding challenge is a matching program where projects that are run by Northsiders or primarily benefit Northsiders can have their donations doubled with ioby,” Parson said.

His Place Contact Center is one beneficiary of the crowdfunding challenge. His Place is a charity in Spring Hill that works to help troubled children and adults cope with adverse situations and difficult emotions.

His Place worked with ioby to help fund a project called the Peace Room, incepted in 2015, which offers a place for children to play and decompress while learning strategies to cope with stressful situations.

“The idea of the Peace Room was to create a place for children where they could learn the strategies that will help them build up resilience and social, emotional skills to navigate a toxic stress environment,” said Stephen Weiss, associate director at His Place.

To fund the Peace Room, His Place applied for the One Northside Mini-Grant program, which connected them to ioby.

“One Northside came into play because they matched up to $1,000 of donations that came through ioby,” said Weiss. “So we were able to raise an additional $2,000 for the Peace Room project through ioby.”

Another Northside project funded by ioby was the Mastering Motherhood Outdoor Workshop to teach motherhood skills to new moms. Muffy Mendoza, a stay-at-home mom of 10 years, wanted to pass on the parenting tools she has, like meal planning, basic budgeting and meditation, to people who didn’t have someone to teach them.

Mendoza connected to ioby through the nonprofit Grounded Strategies, which helps community members revitalize empty spaces in their neighborhoods. Mendoza and Grounded Strategies partnered with ioby in order to help fund the cost of the vacant lot where the workshop took place.
“A lot of the time, many of us are learning as we go, so I thought it would be great to have the opportunity for new moms to get these skills for free,” Mendoza said.

To start an ioby campaign, fill out an “idea form” on ioby’s website. A staffer assigned to your geographic area will then walk you through the process of crowdfunding.
Visit www.ioby.org/idea for more information.