Parks are known to draw a crowd and the county’s Park’s Foundation is hoping to draw one — one with open pockets.
The San Mateo County Parks Foundation is partnering with Citizinvestor, a crowdfunding and civic engagement platform for local government projects, to encourage the community to invest in their green spaces. So far, the foundation has offered up three projects: an investment to replace the fire rings at Memorial Park, three months worth of funding for the Bicycle Sunday program and an effort to preserve the endangered thornmint plant.
The concept of crowdfunding is nothing new, said foundation Executive Director Julia Bott.
The foundation in its 15 years has always turned to the community. This time, the twist is that turn is online.
“This is just another vehicle to reach out. There are a lot of things vying for people’s attention and people use different methods to pay attention. We’re trying to use one more method,” Bott said.
Jim Nantell, interim Parks Department director, said the partnerships will hopefully go beyond money.
“We hope to create some relationships with millennium age folks that will transcend the years so they continue to be involved and remember us,” Nantell said.
The initial three projects were chosen to address a one-time project, an ongoing project and core priorities.
The donations are tax deductible but Bott thinks a desire to give back will prove a bigger draw. She said a plus of the Citizinvestor crowd is that it generally understands the concept of giving from the get-go and don’t need to question why a government agency is asking.
The donors are asked to give a credit card number but will not be charged unless the given project reaches 100 percent of its funding goal before the deadline ends. Bott said that plays in the all-or-nothing mode of fundraising which is common because donors are concerned about what happens with their money if projects don’t get enough money to make them a reality.
In the case of the fire rings, investors have a little less than three months to raise $27,540. As of Friday, six investors have contributed $1,270 to outfit the park’s 60 campsites with replacements of the current old brick and heavy metal grill construction.
“All of us have a memory of camping,” Bott said.
The thornmint population needs a little more help. As of Friday, two people had contributed $90 out of a needed $5,400. Funding for future years is in the works but a gap in funding means the December 2013 seeding window at Edgewood Park may be lost, according to the project description on Citizinvestor.
The seeding hasn’t actually been done for a couple of years which hampers scientific monitoring and study.
Bicycle Sundays needs $10,800 and one person as of Friday has pledged $50.
Bott joked that she wished she could have asked to fund a “month of Sundays” but instead settled for a portion of the overall financial goal.
With government budgets pulling tighter and tighter, Bott and Citizinvestor co-founder Jordan Raynor say the crowdfunding option is a way to drum up alternative funding for projects that might not otherwise make the cut while giving donors a way to be more personally involved in their passion.
The county’s parks have no dedicated source of funding and are often first on the budgetary chopping block. Advocates twice tried unsuccessfully to pass a sales tax increase dedicated to parks and the Board of Supervisors has tentatively allocated some of its Measure A general sales tax revenue to catch up on long overdue maintenance and staffing shortages.
At Monday ‘s county budget hearing, the board is expected to allocate $3.5 million in capital money for next year, Nantell said — not quite the $100 million-plus in deferred infrastructure needs but a start.
For more information on the local parks projects, see www.citizinvestor.com/projects
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102