Neighbor.ly co-founder and civic advocate Sarah Shipley, founder and CEO Jase Wilson and co-founder and director of engagement Sean Connolly.
Fresh off its inclusion in the Points of Light Civic Accelerator, Kansas City-based crowdfunding startup Neighbor.ly has received a $175,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to scale its operations.
"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," said Damian Thorman, Knight Foundation director of national programs. The Foundation supports "ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts," according to the announcement.
Speaking to Silicon Prairie News today from one of Points of Light's four-day sessions—this time in Washington, D.C.—CEO and co-founder Jase Wilson said the funding will go toward hiring two developers and adding features that will move the crowdfunding focus from engaging individuals to working with corporations and foundations.
"We've spent the last year studying where money sits," Wilson said. "Trillions of dollars in liquid cash sits in corporations. At the same time, people are making purchasing decisions based on social decisions of companies."
Organizations that turn to Neighbor.ly for social responsibility ideas will have access to thousands of pre-vetted projects, many designed by local governments in collaboration with citizens, according to the announcement.
Wilson said he and co-founder and director of engagement Sean Connolly have been blessed to be in KC, where there is a wealth of generous corporations that have shared their knowledge and resources. It's gone a long way in charting a new course for Neighbor.ly.
"These big companies prove giving back to the community is good for the bottom line," Wilson said, noting Hallmark, DST, Cerner and Sprint. "We were able to call and ask them what types of opportunities they wanted."
The investment is part of Knight Foundation’s Tech for Engagement initiative, which supports projects that use technology to connect people for action and no equity is involved in the deal. Neighbor.ly received $10,000 for its spot in Points of Light—which ends August 2—and otherwise has been funded by friends and family.
Launched in July 2012, Neighbor.ly has helped support several civic projects in the KC area, along with a handful of other cities. The enhanced website will eventually be piloted in two additional communities where Knight invests, according to the release. To date, the service has helped raise more than $100,000 for projects with an average individual contribution of $50. The grant will go toward picking up the backlog of more than 100 project submissions for funding requests from across the United States.
For more on the importance of the grant, read Jase Wilson's column on the Knight Foundation Blog.
How Wilson connected with the Knight Foundation:
"Eight months ago, I grabbed a coffee with Damian Thorman, Knight's national program director, at YJ's Snackbar, the Kansas City coffee shop where Neighbor.ly was conceived in early 2012. Something he said has stuck with me ever since: He views part of Knight Foundation's role as addressing market failures. For example, Knight has supported civic technology innovations that are too new for traditional investors to take a risk on. Today, we are thankful that Knight took a chance on us, so that we can help address another kind of market failure—when taxes and borrowing are no longer able to sustain community enriching civic projects."
Credits: Photo courtesy Neighbor.ly.