No Soup For You! Offline Crowdfunding in Detroit

If you’ve spent anytime browsing Indiegogo, then you’re well aware that people all over the world are looking for funds to bring their ideas to life. Though crowdfunding is helping more and more people do that everyday, there are many other offline ways people are raising money to empower individuals and enrich communities.

One such a way is through “soup” — and not just what you ladle into a bowl, though that’s part of it. Soup is a concept that provides microgrants to creative projects through an evening of eating, pitching, and voting. People pay a small fee for a meal (donated for free by a local restaurant) and then listen to a series of project pitches by local artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. After voting on their favorite ideas, the crowd’s money is divvied up among the top vote-getters — to help propel their projects forward.

Sound a bit like crowdfunding? We think so too! (Hopefully someday, we’ll be able to send bowls of soup through the Internet!)

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One of the pioneers of this grassroots practice is Detroit Soup, who have helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for their fellow Detroiters. One obstacle to successful souping, however, is finding a space to host a large public event. As you probably know, Detroit experiences very cold winters, and the space Detroit Soup was using — the Jam Handy — didn’t have adequate heating to protect visitors from the elements, which greatly limited the number of soups that could be held throughout the year.

Faced with this issue, one form of crowdfunding turned to another, and last fall, Detroit Soup launched an Indiegogo campaign to make improvements to the Jam Handy space. They made great use of our Flexible Funding option by providing accomplishable maintenance goals below their primary goal of $15,000. They were able to tap into their enthusiastic following of soupers to help improve the experience for everyone. Less than a year later, they’ve added much needed heat to their building, and Detroit Soup is now able to be a year-round event!

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We wanted to hear more about this inspiring movement, so we spoke with the Director of Detroit Soup, Amy Kaherl, who was recently awarded by the White House for her work with the organization:

What’s a Soup? Why does Detroit present a unique opportunity for Soups?

A SOUP is a microgranting dinner that funds creative projects in a community or neighborhood. Detroit presents a unique opportunity that we are in a phase of inventing (or re-inventing). We are open to ideas that challenge our communities and look for way to find new solutions to problems we face as a city. Here we challenge people to spend $5 for soup, salad, bread, and a vote. People vote on creative projects and whoever has the most votes at the end of the night wins the money from the door. Over $33,000 have been given from Detroiters to Detroiters to help launch projects and ideas.

Can you tell me about a couple of your favorite projects that have received funding through a Soup?

There are a couple of projects who share a similar story of once they presented they realized that they should take their idea and move it into a business. The Detroit Food Academy helps students educate and encourage food based entrepreneurship in schools. The other is The Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit that makes coats that turn into sleeping bags for homeless and disaster relief victims. She also empowers women from shelters and teaches them the skills to make the coats and change the cycle.

Why did you decide to use online crowdfunding?

Detroit SOUP needed to move locations as the building we were in were not able to offer us heat during the winter months. We partnered with the Jam Handy owners (a building that used to me both churches and a film studio in the North End neighborhood in Detroit) and knew a wonderful partnership was in our future. We decided to see if we could use crowdfunding online and get heat, electrical, and new lighting for the beautiful space that we wanted to use.

What was that experience like?

It was a hard but very rewarding experience for us. We spent 30 days partnering with community business, bands, authors, and organizations that would help us spread our message. We did some events outside of the campaign to help do smaller amounts in person ($5 dance party) as well as email and use social media to rally support form family and friends. Our favorite perk was partnering with the Detroit Party Marching band as they challenged the community to donate $35 and they would get a picture of a DPMB member fighting a fictitious monster!

How have you used the funds raised on Indiegogo?

Our goal was to raise $15,000 and we were able to raise $12,711 online towards our goal! We were able to install electrical and heat just days after the event. We still have a little money to install improved lighting into the space, something we hope to do before the year is over.

What’s next for Detroit Soup?!

We are moving our dinner into neighborhoods and having neighbors help neighbors and change the landscape of the community. We are hoping to have less big dinners and focus on smaller dinners finding solutions to problems in the neighborhood.

Keep up with Detroit Soup by checking out their website and following them on Twitter!

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