Crowdfunding our way to a better Croydon

By - Friday 14th August, 2015

Jonny Rose’s feature-length submission to our ‘I would make Croydon better by…’ series

Often the difference between an idea articulated and an idea realised is money.

Croydonians are filled with great ideas that can make Croydon a better place, but often are hampered by a lack of means to make the idea a reality. Perhaps crowdfunding is a way forward.

What is crowdfunding?

“Crowdfunding” refers to the practise of using the internet and social media so that individuals and businesses can pledge money online to a good cause. It allows pledgers to chip in with a few pounds to financially support a project of their choice.

There are myriad crowdfunding platforms out there – Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, Razoo, Causes, CrowdRise and Spacehive – all of which allow users to easily create a page for their initiative or idea with the ability for people who visit that web page to donate money to the cause.

Got an idea for Croydon? It’s time to put other people’s money where your mouth is.

Crowdfunding is nothing new: the history of crowdfunding for public projects goes back over a century. In 1884, the Statue of Liberty pedestal was built following a campaign by newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer. Together, 125,000 New Yorkers contributed $100,000 (£65,000) over six months. The majority of donations were $1 or less.

The internet, however, has given this type of fundraising a huge boost. Crowdfunding websites helped companies and individuals worldwide raise $2.7bn (£1.7bn) from members of the public in 2013, an 81% increase on the previous year. Of this total, $1.4bn (£93m) was to fund good causes. This year, the total is expected to top $5bn (£3.3bn).

Crowdfunding online for civic projects

The use of online crowdfunding is one that is becoming increasingly the norm, especially in UK.

Liverpool’s flyover raised £43,724 over 30 Days on Spacehive. Liverpool’s flyover connected two parts of the city as an urban walkway. The Churchill Way flyover had been disused for many years and was due to be demolished at a cost of £3 million to the local taxpayers. Residents in the area thought that this was a waste so they decided to launch a fundraising campaign to transform the flyover into “A promenade in the sky”.

Their agenda was very simple – turn the walkway into a community, arts and cultural haven with a business benefit as well. The project was successful – attracting backing from dozens of local businesses including Experian, St. Johns and the local mayoral office. It also attracted huge grassroots support.

The story of St. Alban’s Odyssey cinema is one of the most interesting in the UK crowdfunding world. James Hannaway decided to buy and renovate a beautiful art deco theatre that had fallen into disrepair. However, he needed to raise investments totalling £1 million. This was no small feat and after exhausting traditional finance avenues James decided to source the funds from the local and national community. Within 3 months he raised the required funds of £1million. James used a hybrid of crowdfunding models. He accepted donations, he offered investors equity shares, he took loans from investors and he offered sponsorship and pre-sale opportunities to the local community.

The story of Glyncoch community centre in South Wales is another heartening case of crowdfunding saving the day. The centre needed to raise almost £800,000 for a new modernised building that could offer thousands of people new opportunities. Sadly they fell £40,000 short of funding from local government sources and grants. So they turned (again) to crowdfunding to find a community willing to back their plans. The result was that they raised £792,021 over thirty days.

Crowdfunding in Croydon – time to put theory into practice

Examples of crowdfunding in Croydon are currently few and far between.

The first significant example was in 2013, when locals rallied together to help the uber-hip cafe Matthews Yard fund a new theatre studio for community arts in the wake of local government cuts. In the end, 181 backers on Kickstarter raised £7, 858 and birthed an incredible two years of independent theatre in the Old Town area of Croydon. However, this year local arts collective Turf Projects was able to fund its Keeley Road premises through crowd funding on SpaceHive.

Both ventures prove that there is an appetite in Croydon to fund worthy ventures that bring delight to many. My challenge to you is that if you have had an idea to make Croydon better, perhaps it’s time to put money where your mouth is. Thanks to crowdfunding – it doesn’t even have to be your own.

Matthews Yard is currently running a campaign to fund a new workspace and garden. To support their efforts and contribute, please go here.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Bernadette Fallon

    What are the 3 most important things Croydon needs right now?

    • Stephen Giles

      Just one – a Conservative Council.