In the summer of 1997 I sat in a circle of woman who had come together to explore the intersection between leadership and womanhood. We spent time in silence on a Wyoming mountainside, and it was there that I saw a vision unfold of a world transformed through business. I saw entrepreneurs working together to care for people, for Earth, and for healing. I wrote the vision into a book, and took it on as my assignment to make it come true.

Over the next 22 years I tried—and I had some success in bringing sustainable business ideas to Wyoming SBDC, Wyoming Women’s Business Center, ASBDC, and the University of Wyoming. Yet, I was always a bit disappointed that the ideas weren’t catching on fast enough to be considered mainstream. I now recognize that the idea of business-as-a-force-for-good needed time to ripen—and all of the early activists like me were contributors to the ripening process. Today, signs of ripening are beginning to show; for example, last month 181 influential CEOs signed on to a new “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” that includes creating value, not just for shareholders, but for ALL stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. Game on!

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If you are a business or organization founded on the principle of doing something good for people or the planet—and you’d like to raise some money to help you do it better—now is the time for a crowdfunding campaign on TLC.

Why now? Because TLC wants to help people like you, and our current NSF project includes a study of how to do just that. By becoming part of the study, you’ll receive lots of benefits like coaching and networking with like-minded folks. Plus (and this is a BIG plus!), you can make the standard 5% platform fee disappear by meeting your goals. Interested?

We are recruiting our summer cohort now. Hop on to one of our weekly “Learn More” sessions, held every Friday. We can’t wait to meet you and help you create a successful and productive fundraising campaign!

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Your crowdfunding success is just around the corner! Sign up here for our Learn More session.

In last week’s blog I mentioned our new research project with the National Science Foundation. We are excited about this and are trying to figure out ways to talk about it simply, concisely, yet compellingly.

We tossed around ideas for an elevator speech during our Jekyll Island trip, and serendipitously, we had an opportunity to test it on our way back to the airport. Lynda, our EDWARD Shuttle driver, asked us what we do. After noticing Kim’s quick glance that said, “Okay, girlfriend, you’re on!,” I gathered my thoughts and replied. “We have created a locally-based crowdfunding company with the intention of using it to fund social enterprises and help communities build ecosystems where these types of businesses can thrive.”

Linda was effusive — saying it “made her day” to learn about businesses dedicated to being a force for good. She even called us “her heroes.” That felt great, but it was also a bit embarrassing, because we know the real heroes are all the social entrepreneurs who are working hard to make our world a better, kinder and more beautiful place. If this describes you, we invite you to connect by introducing yourself in the comment section below.


sidney lanier bridge with blue sky

Crossing the Sydney Lanier Bridge on our way to Jekyll island with Robert, one of our awesome EDWARD Shuttle drivers.

Kim and I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Electric Cities of Georgia Forum. We met great folks from Georgia’s communities (including our own Sadie Krawczyk from Monroe!), and squeezed in some walking/talking time along Jekyll Island’s awesome beaches. We talked about our new NSF research project and how excited we are to work with social enterprises. These innovative companies are transforming business into a force for good and activating a culture of caring—caring for one another, for community, for the planet, for our future.

Diane Sontum on stage giving a presentation

One of the speakers at the ECG Forum helped us to crystalize our thoughts. Mayor Tommy Allegood of Acworth, GA challenged everyone to identify the one word that describes their organizational culture. Instantly I knew the answer for TLC—a word that our initials have been hinting at since we began—Care. We have always been TLC; but our new NSF work, and my own personal journey, have made us acutely aware that Tender Loving Care is an intention we want to deeply explore, live and amplify. If our culture really is the “stories we tell ourselves about ourselves,” then this story, the story of human beings caring for one other, may be the most important story we’ll ever tell.

selfie of Kim Vincent and Diane Sontum on a beach with ocean behind
blue box with quote from anthropologist Clifford Geertz

The Local Crowd won a Crowdfundie Award at the Global Crowdfunding Convention last month and we are delighted that TLC’s work has been recognized as significant to the crowdfunding industry.

Thank you to our host communities—for having the courage, foresight and willingness to work hard to bring your citizens a new and unknown local crowdfunding tool. We hope you will post The Crowdfundie 2017 badge on your website with pride!

Thank you to all the campaign creators who told their stories and dared to ask others to support them. Your courage, persistence and hard work made it happen—raising  $172,000 from 1709 supporters—and proving that local crowdfunding really does work.

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Thank you to our friends at Community Funded Enterprises for pioneering the vision of local crowdfunding and developing the technology specifically for that purpose.

Thank you to crowdfunding Diva and founder of the Global Crowdfunding Convention, Ruth Hedges, who recognized the power of the TLC model and watched us through the years, cheering us on and showing up time after time to share her vast knowledge at our webinars and classes.

Thank you to our business support system that provided resources and technical support—USDA, Wyoming SBDC, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Workforce Development, Wyoming SBIR/STIR Initiative, Megan Goetz at Pence and MacMillan, Cheryl Anderson, Keith Harrington, Amanda Jeffers, Mike Vanata, Jessica Brauer and Larta Institute.

The award belongs to ALL OF US—let us celebrate The Crowdfundie together!

Diane Wolverton, Ruth Hedges and Kim Vincent at the 2017 Global Crowdfunding Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What if we could put an end to the gender gap women entrepreneurs face when raising capital? The answer to this question is hard to imagine because we have lived in a world filled with bias for so long. According to a 2014 report issued by the US Small Business Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, only 4% of the total dollar value of all small business loans goes to women entrepreneurs and women receive just 7% of venture fund dollars—in spite of the fact that the growth of women-owned firms outpaces that all other firm types.

But a breakthrough is coming that demolishes the gender gap—and that breakthrough is crowdfunding. Data from the Crowdfunding Center’s Women Unbound project show that campaigns led by women outperform those led by men—proving that when a woman’s access to capital is determined by the market rather than systems dominated by male bias, she is successful in raising the capital she needs.

The Women Unbound’s massive new data set includes analysis of hundreds of thousands of crowdfunding campaigns over a two year period and demonstrates that this bias against women evaporates in the crowdfunding space. Women thrive in the crowdfunding space—not just because of the capital they raise, but also because they discover further funding opportunities, create more engagement with their market, develop new collaborations, and create networks of supporters around them.

Through the education and networking features inherent in The Local Crowd platform, we are proud to accelerate the effective use of crowdfunding by women, particularly by women in the rural United States.

The sky is the limit for Women Unbound!

Did you know that asking for and returning favors is good for your community? Indeed, research shows that favor exchange is one of the surest ways to build social capital. People enjoy helping each other, and when helping and reciprocating become part of a culture—magic happens. Communities bursting with social capital cooperate better, have more fun, and build capacity to complete projects that improve the lives of the folks who live there.

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That’s what makes community-based crowdfunding platforms like The Local Crowd so powerful. The platform becomes  a venue for digital barn raising, where members of the community can show up for each other over and over again—sometimes asking and sometimes reciprocating. Serendipity Books & Antiques in Evanston, Wyoming gives us one example of how Paying it forward can become a way of life. After their successful crowdfunding campaign, they decided to donate the proceeds of their tip jar each month to a local nonprofit. Doing good does feel good—and like the Chinese proverb tells us, it’s the kind of pleasure that does not wear out.

Before I made this huge turnip into a yummy soup, I admired it—noticing the size of the bulb relative to that of the roots.

purple and white turnip on white background

Call me weird, but it made me think about crowdfunding marketing strategies and the synergy created by linking to different affinity groups. The big tap root is like the core network of the Campaign Creator—friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. The smaller roots are like all the groups connected to the core that might have an interest in the project. One friend is a member of a civic group; another heads up a chamber task force; a cousin has a retail shop in town. They are all connected to the tap root in some way, yet they branch out on their own, spreading the reach far and wide beyond the capacity of the tap root alone.

I serve on a committee that is planning to raise funds for a community labyrinth and our fundraising campaign can be strengthened by connecting with affinity groups such as local churches, metaphysical and religious supply shops, downtown organizations, parks and recreation departments and school groups. We will start with the core and see who among that core is connected to each one of these affinities. Then, by reaching out to those connections, we can create a huge and yummy success—just like my turnip!

Humans have been talking and writing about love for a very long time. In fact, for some, love ranks right up there with gravity as a force that holds the universe together. With all that power and acclaim, I wonder why we don’t talk about it much in the context of business.
blue box with two quotes, one from John Lennon and one from Dr. Martin Luther King

Business seems to relegate love to the realm of the soft, the naive, and the sentimental. You don’t see strategic plans with sections documenting all the ways that love will be woven into the fabric of a business or a community. But should we?

What would happen if community leaders recognized love as a core ingredient of civic planning and economic development?

Coach Dabo Swinney says it was the power of love that brought Clemson the national college championship a few weeks ago—a statement that takes love out of the realm of the sentimental and makes it very practical. At The Local Crowd, we’ve been thinking that way since the beginning—and that’s why we built the TLC model as a catalyst to actionalize love within communities and as a gathering place for people to share their stories, their resources, their love for each other and their shared sense of place.

green box with quote from Coach Dabo Swinney

 

Building a crowdfunding team is like building a fire. Lighting it starts with a big whoosh of energy and a fast burning flame. Then you watch it, worry it, and nurture it to make sure it doesn’t go out. Maybe you need to add more kindling, or move a few of the logs around so they can make better connections with one another and more easily distribute the flame. Careful observation and appropriate adjustments will result in a warm and satisfying fire that keeps on burning on as long as you add a new log now and then. When your fire is a team of humans, it helps to know what kind of kindling creates a big whoosh of flame at the beginning—what ideas, intentions, and information get people really excited? Watch for how the flame moves among team members—who is bright and who is dim? Keep stirring it and adding kindling until you see it really catch! Then you will have the pleasure of being part of an effective team that’s hot, vibrant, and full of the momentum it needs to accomplish its goals.

There’s nothing more satisfying than a glowing fire on a cold winter’s night!