Meet ioby, a non-profit that wants to kickstart DC community projects

Neighborhood change comes from active neighbors — clean ups, community gardens, block parties and socials. Some of these events are easy to do and don’t cost much, if anything. However, other projects do have a cost, and often the question is how best to organize and fund them?

Enter iobyioby is a non-profit organization that helps communities crowd-source money to fund local-based projects. The organization takes its name as a response to “NIMBY” (not in my backyard), turning it around into “ioby” (in our back yards), with the goal of helping those who can’t, won’t or don’t know how to effect positive change in their neighborhoods. 

“Often, decisions about communities are being made by people who don’t live there,” said Erin Barnes, executive director and co-founder of ioby. “We want residents designing and being involved in their community. People have ideas, ioby helps make it happen.”

ioby’s goal is to identify people with great ideas, then support and help fund those ideas while partnering with DC government agency to make it happen.

Erin Barnes, co-founder and executive director of ioby. (Courtesy of ioby)

Started in New York City in 2010, ioby was created to empower communities to make neighborhood changes that improve life for residents. ioby is kicking off its DC efforts by having a community fundraiser Thursday, October 8th at the Murrell Building. You can find event and registration information on their Facebook event page. Tickets can be purchased on EventBrite. All the money raised at this launch fundraiser will go to setting up ioby’s DC team.

According to their website, they measure success as “urban neighborhoods with more sunlight, open space, public art, greenery, and fresh veggies; with safer street crossings, better after-school programs, and easier compost collection… The list goes on!”

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ioby is kind of like Kickstarter for community projects, but with a few key differences. A 501(c)3 non-profit, ioby has staff dedicated to the community projects, providing hands-on resources and one-on-one coaching. Their goal is to support successful projects by working with local experts. All donations to a community project funded through ioby can be tax-exempt.

ioby was modeled after Donorschoose.org, which provides classroom supplies for teachers. Donors give to a project and can opt-in to give a “gratuity.” In ioby's case, 15% of their operational budget is from these gratuities, 10% from individual gifts to the organization, and the rest is from foundations. ioby also receives $35 for projects over $1,000.

ioby has worked in several cities across the United States, and has conducted local training in DC since last year with the Office of Planning an the Department of Energy and Environment. The non-profit is now fully moving into DC to help launch crowd-funded projects. 

“There’s been a groundswell of innovative work happening in DC,” said Erin. “We want to help share those lessons learned from one community with others in DC.” 

“DC has a strong civic structure and a moderate culture of giving,” she said. “There are many people ready for their first time contributing to a cause as resident donors; many are Millennials.”
 
ioby is looking to hire a local activist as a community organizer and fundraiser (what they call an “action strategist” or a “digital organizer”) to help communities across DC build the relationships and leverage community contacts. ioby is hoping to start their programs in Wards 7 and 8. They scheduled the kickoff fundraiser in Petworth for a few reasons. Erin Barnes, the exec director, said "Petworth has a reputation as a vibrant neighborhood. We were looking for an affordable venue and came across the Murrell Building as an option; it was fortuitous on how it came together." .

If you want to help launch ioby in DC, have great ideas to help improve our community in Petworth and across DC, consider attending the fundraiser on Thursday, October 8th. Event information can be found on Eventbrite

Top image courtesy of ioby.