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When we think of business, we often think of a simple exchange: a product, service, or experience in exchange for cash. We swipe our debit cards as a means to fulfill our needs and often move about our day unfazed by the impact that this simple exchange has made, without pondering why we chose to walk into the store we did. 

Beneath the daily buzz of checking our to-dos and filling our shopping carts are dozens of silent, often subconscious, exchanges made between us, as customers, and the companies we support. We reach for sustainable eggs or cruelty-free cosmetics because our values align. We buy coffee from the roaster who sponsored our child’s soccer team or toss bills into the tip jar for the musician whose performance makes us feel fired up in just the same way. We are exchanging capital in cash, as well as equity in social value, supporting business endeavors because something said blatantly or subconsciously assures us that our visions for our community’s future align. We are on the same team

In times of crisis, this social wealth we’ve exchanged holds immense value, rallying us together to face times of great challenge knowing, despite the circumstances at hand, we are not alone. 

Resilience, of people and their places, is a survival muscle built stronger through the wealth of social capital–shared values made more robust by support, showing up and lending a hand to a neighbor to lift the entire neighborhood up. 

Now, as we face the world-wide economic, health, and psychological impacts of the COVID-19 virus, we are invited to get curious and creative, knowing that despite the state of our wallets, we are rich with social capital; we are not alone. 

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Historically, three sectors of our economies have been most prevalent: the public sector, or government, the private sector, or business, and the nonprofit sector. Today we see a forceful emergence and growing power of a fourth sector made up of for-benefit organizations with mission-driven companies and eyes set on creating impactful change.

These businesses, often called social enterprises, still focus on creating a profit, while also looking beyond their capital gains and identifying the assets they’re providing socially, culturally, or environmentally. The shared values of these companies and their supporters are defined as social capital–a currency that allows consumers and producers to rally around a mission and efficiently create change.

A local theater company providing thought-provoking art, a sustainable farm offering nutrition to their community while monitoring their impact on the environment, a coffee shop serving as a gathering space for marginalized populations to share stories and connect–these are all social enterprises, exchanging capital via sales as well as beliefs.

Many businesses within your community serve as representatives of this fourth-sector whether they’re aware of it or not. Regardless of industry, size, or notoriety, what each of these businesses share is care–care for community, whether that’s defined by a downtown district or a wider net cast over those with similar lifestyles, hobbies, or passions.

At its core, the caring economy holds profound power, because that core is fabricated from a simple yet efficacious desire to be of service to people, their places, and this planet. 

The Local Crowd’s origins are rooted in supporting these enterprises, fueled by passion and care, harnessing the power of their neighborhoods and lifting our communities one purchase, pledge, or act of kindness at a time.

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As we find a semblance of normalcy in our new-for-now lifestyles self-distanced from the comforts of home, it can feel as if our power to connect and support our community has been diminished entirely. However, we can find inspiration in looking to the symbology of rural history’s barn-raisings–the gathering of many hands, shared materials, and strength built by numbers to create a structure to feed the community collaboratively. 

Today’s circumstances insist that we reach for our digital tools instead of hammers, and we gather with our peers from a distance instead of around a wooden frame, but the formula for success is no different.

Here are a few ways you can provide impactful support for the structures in need of bolstering in your community amid the economic effects of COVID-19

  • Browse your local economic development agencies press to find where they’re specifically directing the community to rally support. Many agencies are coordinating contests and campaigns to drive traffic to businesses most affected by the mandated closures and stay-at-home orders.
  • Consider how you can support the organizations you’re missing most. Is your life in quarantine leaving you desperate for live music, your local library’s book club, or a favorite yoga class? Check-in with the hosting organizations and see how they’re asking the community for support.
  • What many of the businesses need now is cash flow, however as jobs are eliminated and hours cut, budgets are tightening for individuals across the globe regardless of industry. Remember that impact does not always have to be made with our wallets, and great influence can be made by sharing promotions, leaving kind reviews, or simply sending a message of support to the businesses you love.

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We’re often forced in times of despair to inventory our blessings, taking careful note of what elements of our life nurture our wellbeing in business and health. 

The term “crisis” originates from roots meaning to separate, to sieve, a process that author Glennon Doyle compares to sifting sand. In times of turmoil, our priorities slip through our fingers, leaving behind only the substantial pieces of rock and rubble that are of great importance, allowing all the rest to float back to the earth, leaving room in our palms for what matters most. 

Now, as the world shares the heartaches of a social climate profoundly marred by the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus, our collective attention is turned to the people and places that we call home. 

We have begun to watch the gathering spaces in our towns close their doors and lay off the familiar employees who we bought our lunch from, stood across from at the gym, bumped into at the library, or joined for afternoon tea. Our streets, once lined with signs of life, sit empty and quiet, while we all notice the uncomfortable gaps left in our world from these businesses. 

Fortunately, just as the fiery phoenix rises from the ashes, rich with new life, our communities will do the same with the support of our TLC: tender loving care. In this time of economic disparity, we can’t help but look to the roots of The Local Crowd–started with the intention of supporting local innovators with equal parts heart and capital-building support.

The power of community exists in its people, and right now, our people are prompted to show up. It is together that we will move forward, together we will rebuild, together we will stitch and hem the fabric of our towns. 

With many hands, we will rebuild. Here’s how you can start to help.

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Just like the sports of our youth taught us, there is no “I” in “team.”

The most successful crowdfunding campaigns are routinely built, not with one, but rather with many making a strong collaboration behind the scenes. A wide reach and balanced team are crucial in preparing a project to reach its most supportive and giving crowd before, during and after launch day.

Gathering a pool of partners with diverse skill sets and broad connections is a crucial and early step in the campaign building process. As you bring voices around the table, you expand your opportunity potential, dipping into the affinity groups of partners, opening up space for collaboration and building loyalty to your cause.

The temptation to charge forward alone is common among campaign hosts; however, the power of crowdfunding exists almost entirely in the many hands beyond your own that support, share and give within your crowd. Imagine the potency your project could gain with the power of a local book club sharing your news, the videography talents of a good friend or a handful of heartfelt personal asks for support from the businesses on your block.

As you begin to build your dream team in the early stages of your campaign, explore your relationships with customers, colleagues and friends. Jot down names of the folks who’ve supported you in your business, in your personal life and beyond. With a deep knowledge of the powerful work you’re bringing to your community, you can confidently reach far and wide, constructing a forceful team for your work ahead.

 A wide reach and balanced team are crucial in preparing a project to reach its most supportive and giving crowd before, during and after launch day.

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Most of us come to crowdfunding with focused visions of one end goal: funds.

The industry is speckled with what appear to be overnight success stories of accessories for the tech-savvy, quirky card games and gadgets with bells and whistles galore. With every Pebble Watch and Coolest Cooler, mainstream media has cultivated a narrative that, upon posting a project, backers will flood in, cash in hand, as the dollar signs shoot skyward on our screens. It would appear that as the adage goes, if you build it, they will come.

Truth be told, for every show-stopping crowdfunding project, thousands sit idle, unseen and unfunded across the same platforms that host successes in the millions of dollars. Campaigns built with the most stable structures can sit sound in body but empty in soul, without the appropriate time and preparation given to bring the people to the cause.

Overall, we know the most successful campaigns, hosted locally or beyond, start with detailed plans, commitment to daily work and sufficient time. Much like an airplane requires a runway to ensure a safe liftoff, a secure 30-day crowdfunding campaign needs at the very least, a 60-day taxiway.

It is here, in this crucial preparation phase, that you can focus on preparations including team building, creative storytelling, number crunching and crafting a buzz around the incredible project or product you’re about to launch in your community!

Campaigns built with the most stable structures can sit sound in body but empty in soul, without the appropriate time and preparation given to bring the people to the cause.

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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!

blue box with statement about learning more about crowdfunding

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

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

 

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!

 

I attended the Business Alliance of Local Living Economies (BALLE) Leadership Summit last month and was inspired by people who are doing important work for communities, economies, each other and the environment.

During the event’s Idea Lab, I had exactly 60 seconds to share what TLC is doing, and our current call for new communities to join us. We’re looking for up to ten rural communities to become Demonstration Sites for The Local Crowd’s localized crowdfunding platform. These communities will have the opportunity to test drive their own crowdfunding platform for a year. Applicants can be economic or community development groups such as Main Street programs, SBDCs, Economic Development Councils, Chambers of Commerce, or other groups interested in bringing a new capital tool to their communities.

We held a pre-submission webinar a few weeks ago and here’s a link to the recording and powerpoint slides. Check out the Request for Proposals. Help us spread the word by sharing this! Deadline for your application is February 1. Thank you and Happy New Year to you!

woman shaking her hips during a crowdfunding presentation

The Local Crowd offers a new twist on crowdfunding…and I’m having way too much fun with my new Giffer App. See the full 60-Second BALLE presentation below.