By now most people have at least heard of Kickstarter, the crowd-sourced funding platform for creative projects. But have you heard about Portland's new organic bagel company or the aquaponic greenhouse filled with tomatoes and tilapia?
Using Kickstarter's "discover" page allows you to find projects by geographic area. Type in Portland, Maine under "cities" and you'll find projects currenlty fundraising, like Fluid Farms' proposal for the expansion of their aquaponic fish farm (which has already met its goal of $5,000 with 24 more days to go), as well as a compendium of successful projects from the past. NB: Kickstarter is sometimes criticized for "hiding" projects that failed to fund.
One recent example of success is Union Bagel Co. The fledgling group of organic bakers raised $8,830 to bring a "better bagel" to the Portland area. Less than a year later, they've delivered on their promise and you can now find their goods at Crema, K. Horton Specialty Foods, Local Sprouts, The Holy Donut and Aurora Provisions.
Earlier this month, local photographer Mark Marchesi raised 159% of his goal for a project to document—with film—the feel of our city by the sea, entitled "Beautiful Ramshackle Portland." As Marchesi explained on his project page, he wouldn't have been able capture Portland's disappearing historic buildings in this way on his own, he needed support: "With the cost of sheet film approaching seven dollars per exposure including processing, I can no longer fit the process into my personal budget." This project gave backers reward options that include framed photos of the work Marchesi will complete over the course of the next year.
Rewards are often object-based, or include recognition or naming rights; other times they're experiential, like the bagel-making workshop that came with a $100 pledge to Union Co. Or there can be a pay-it-forward option: Backers of Fluid Farms can chose to donate a CSA food basket to the Preble Street Soup Kitchen when they pledge $20.
You can also poke around outside of city limits. York-based Grain Surboards is in the final days of their campaign to raise $38,500 to finish their "mobile surfboard-building classroom" and take it on tour. While the company is known for beautiful work, they're also equally praised for sharing their knowledge; teaching others how to handcraft wooden boards on the coast Maine. So far, 370 people have donated $34,536 to help the independent company complete the build-out of their old bread truck and hit the road to share their ethos and hand-hewn work around the country. If you pledge $50 and the project meets its goal, you get a build-your-own hand-plane kit. Bigger donations can yield you a full-sized board.
The beauty of Kickstarter is this level of buy-in. Not only is there the feel-good aspect of supporting something you're excited about or believe in, but you get something in return. The fact that you have to rely on the largesse of other people to receive the reward not only creates an incentive to promote the project, but also creates a sense of camraderie upon completion, and might even introduce you to some new, like-minded folks if you opt-in for a local, experiential reward. You can bet that bagel-making workshop was a good time.