As part of National Volunteer Week, which runs from April 21-27, 2013, I am thrilled to pay tribute to a hometown team who is setting a new standard for supporting local causes with their hyper-local platform Causeway.
This is not your typical crowdfunding site.
Compared to industry leader Kickstarter, Causeway offers something exclusive for a community. Forbes contributor Ryan Caldbeck said in his 2013 crowdfunding predictions: “While Kickstarter can be successful as the Amazon.com of crowdfunding, other donation sites will need to differentiate and own a particular niche to stay relevant.”
Calbeck would be pleased to know we have a differentiated crowdfunding startup in Gig City that is all about a simple niche called local, local, local. But there’s more.
Currently 100% run by volunteers, all who work fulltime at the same Chattanooga, Tennessee company, Causeway helps local causes not only raise money but also secure volunteers, expertise or materials. For civic-minded people interested in helping their community, Causeway provides the ideal place for them to get engaged with ease.
Still in beta, Causeway has already delivered early results including more than 7,000 volunteer hours, 1,300 hours of expertise and raised more than $80,000 for Chattanooga causes. Did I mention Causeway is only local, all of the time?
I caught up with Stephen Culp, a cofounder of Causeway:
Nancy Patterson (NP): It’s not everyday one thinks about launching a nonprofit to support nonprofits. I understand this idea was ten years in the making. What was the tipping point?
Stephen Culp (SC): A few years ago, more than 26,000 Chattanoogans expressed their visions and concerns through Chattanooga STAND, which became the largest visioning effort in history. While going door-to-door, we heard two things repeatedly that stood out– “I’ve never been asked about my community before,” and “I want to help, I just don’t know where to start.” To a group of us, what that showed us was #1 the importance of civic engagement, and #2 an opportunity to help Chattanoogans take more ownership in their community, to realize their visions and address their concerns. Causeway was born.
NP: How much has your original vision changed from what your platform is today?
SC: The vision remains the same. I think what we’ve learned is that the vision has to be rolled out in stages. A lot of folks may think Causeway is all about technology and the web– in reality, that’s just the most cost-effective way to start, and it’s where we started. Causeway is a civic engagement hub, where people and communities come together to help themselves, and the overall vision is not limited to the web.
NP: What is your biggest near-term challenge?
SC: Two challenges: First, it is a new model, and like with any startup, it takes a while for the market to understand how the model works, as simple as it is.
The second challenge is related to the first. Some early causes expected that if they posted a cause, support would flood in, without effort. In reality, even though Causeway makes it easier, a cause still has to work to rally support. Part of Causeway’s mission is to help “teach people to fish”, versus, well, hand out fish.
NP: Where do you see Causeway in ten years?
SC: Hopefully, in communities everywhere. We’re making Causeway’s platform available to any community, for an annual fee to cover the costs of the platform and its ongoing improvements. We’ve already had one community, Huntsville, Alabama, approach us about starting Causeway in their city, and we have plans to launch their full Causeway Huntsville site later this year. Ultimately, we’d love to see more engaged citizens and local communities using Causeway to turn ideas into action, and results.
NP: What is one thing we might be surprised to know about Causeway?
SC: We find that many people don’t realize we pass 100% of what is raised on to the causes on our site (meaning Causeway covers all of the credit card processing fees). In addition, (for a limited time) if a cause can get at least 10 people to give $10 or more, Causeway will provide a 10% match on top of what is raised. We plan to stick to local local local, 100% pass-through, offering a level playing field where time, expertise, and tools count as well.
NP: Congratulations on a successful launch! It is exciting to see Causeway pushing the local civic engagement movement forward, one city at a time. I’m just glad Causeway is headquartered in my hometown, and we got to be first!
Want Causeway helping your community? That can be arranged.
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