Lately, Detroit’s been on a crowdsourcing kick. It was Kickstarter that funded, among other projects, the soon-to-be-constructed Robocop statue in Tech Town; another online donation site, thepoint.com, raised money for an art installation in Woodbridge’s Scripps Park. Even nonprofit businesses, like Hostel Detroit, have turned to sites like crowdrise.com to generate cash to open the doors.
So far, Motown doers with a dream have relied on national crowdsourcing sites (which often take a cut) to spearhead fundraising efforts. But all these online ventures impose a financial goal in order to collect ANY money.
That’s where Tunde Wey comes in. A native of Lagos, Nigeria, he’s the brains behind detroitbigfdeal.com, a combination couponing and crowdsourcing site. Think Groupon, mixed with Kickstarter, stamped with Motor City ingenuity. Because of Kickstarter and other websites, it’s more convenient to support people in your community,” he says. “You don’t have to drive there or do something — it can all be housed in one place. You can make an instant connection.”
Here’s how it works: Wey chooses one Detroit-based project to throw his energy and mojo behind — they use video, photography and online marketing to get out the good word. “The biggest thing is, it has to be a community based project,” Wey says. “It has to somehow have to have a mission beyond making money or producing a service. There’s lots of people doing wonderful things in the city, and usually most of them are community-based — so we have a lot of projects to pick from , I think.”
So a project like Midtown’s 4th Street Farm, which is currently soliciting volunteers, supplies and cash donations to build a sustainable agricultural farm for neighbors to grow food, makes the cut. And here’s where Wey’s vision ventures away from sites like Kickstarter — there’s no minimum fundraising goal to achieve. ALL donations are passed on to the 4th Street Farm. If you donate, you’re sent exclusive coupons for independent Detroit businesses like The Majestic, Motor City Brewing Works and Canine to Five. Goodness, rewarded.
“I’m not an expert on Detroit — but I think people are cool,” Wey says, ruminating on why the city’s become Ground Zero for charitable projects like urban gardens, public art installations and nonprofit businesses. He says the city attracts a particular breed of do-gooders with a dream — call ’em social entrepreneurs, maybe.
“One of the reasons is that people are very kind,” Wey remarks. “But the second thing is that everyone wants to be part of something interesting and part of something good.” He continues, “I think there’s a balance here — a balance of altruisum and self concern really fuels this energy of community in Detroit. If peoplea are too altruistic, you have people taking advantage; and if people are just self-centered nothing gets done. It’s this balance between two things that makes projects happen here.”
And while Detroiters can’t always give money, Wey notes that the people he’s met in his ten years in Michigan give him hope that detroitbigfdeal.com can grow and expand.”They’re giving in some ways,” he says. “They give advice, connections and contacts freely. They give you food. I know that people are always willing,” he adds. They’re kind enough and willing enough to help in whatever you’re doing.”
But Wey is intelligent enough to find creative ways to inspire Detroiters to give what they have — be it time, supplies or their hard-earned cash — and feel rewarded for doing it. That’s the spirit of detroitbigfdeal’s upcoming event, the Detroit Big F Bike Ride. It’s a booze-and-bicycle bar crawl, inspired by Wey’s friendship with Bikes and Murder co-founder Jason Hall. Wey’s soliciting donations to join the crawl. In return, bikers will be treated to drink and food specials from The Bronx Bar, Supino Pizza and Northern Lights (which will show the short doc “Detroit Bike City”). “Instead of asking people to give money, this is the spirit of what we are trying to do with the events,” Wey says. “We find ways that people already spend money and then, lack for a better word, we infiltrate these positions so some of that money goes to a worthy project. It’s a bar bicycle tour — you won’t necessary feel like you’re giving your money away.”
And thanks to social entrepreneurs like Tunde Wey, giving in the city has never been this fun.
Check out Detroit Internet Club’s “Welcoming Kickstarter to Detroit Meetup” happening July 30th. A great opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about this project and after the meetup, there will be a bike crawl fundraiser to benefit the 4th Street Community Farm.