Aside from Canada Day, Waterloo, Ont. has something else to celebrate today – the launching of a new crowdfunding platform specifically designed for citizen engagement purposes that is backed by city hall.
The new Web site, iFundWaterloo.ca, has partnered with the City of Waterloo to be the first site of its kind in Canada. The site will be used to fund and promote the needs of Waterloo residents and encourage civic engagement around different projects. One project looking to raise money at the site launch is the design and building of a new community park, complete with a modern and safe playground and challenge courses.
The company behind iFundWaterloo.ca is iCrowdfund Social Media Inc., co-founded by Cindy Gordon, Heather Campbell, and Nicole Niessner. The firm describes itself as a software-as-a-service platform and professional services company.
“There’s a real need to modernize cities and find other pathways to connect with citizens,” says Gordon. “The U.S. market is about three years ahead and staring to jump in to citizen engagement for crowdfunding where it’s tightly integrated around the city brand. We thought Waterloo would be a good place to start for Canada.”
The iFundWaterloo.ca site isn’t the first to use iCrowdfund’s software platform. AIESEC, the world’s largest student-run organization partnered to launch a student-focused site at a youth forum in Calgary May 3. That site, ifundthefuture.com currently features one crowdfunding project to pay for a band’s travel to Bogata, Columbia in order to participate in a music festival there.
The iFund software integrates with PayPal as a payments processor to accept credit and debit cards for contributions. The site charges a four per cent fee to campaigns that reach their goal, and charges eight per cent to campaigns that fall short of their goal. There is also a fixed funding option that will return all funds to contributors without charge if the campaign target is not met.
Launching a crowdfunding platform focused on citizen engagement makes sense in a city like Waterloo, Gordon says. It has been recognized as an innovative region in the past, as the only Canadian community to with the top spot in the Intelligent Community Forum annual contest. It also comes at a time when governments are looking for novel fundraising techniques aside from taxes.
“Government funding dollars are declining,” Gordon says. “Cities are having to try and find ways to innovate and fill some of the capital gaps.”
Campaigns submitted to the portal will undergo a 24-hour review process before they’re posted, she says. The review will include a security check on the fundraiser and a process to ensure all the site’s terms and conditions have been met.