Website helps raise money for proposed community project

Many hands make for light work.

That’s the thinking behind Civicside.com, a local crowdfunding website that’s applying Kickstarter.com’s community funding formula to start public projects around Lafayette. Crowdfunding — and Kickstarter — raise money for projects by seeking small donations from many people via the Internet.

“The purpose is to create the community that we want,” Civicside website founder Butch Roussel said. “Not a community that small groups of people want, but what the community as a whole wants.”

Users submit proposed fundraising campaigns to the website that are reviewed by the site’s approval committee and, if the proposed project is approved, the campaign is given a window of time to raise funds from interested community members.

Once approved, the website creates a webpage for the project and suggests organizers “take advantage of social media outlets, throw a party, donate your birthday, form a support group, etc.” to get the word out about the fundraising project.

If the project reaches the set monetary goal, the project receives the funding, and Civic side.com will then charge a 4.5 percent fee. If the goal is not met, there is no charge, according to the website.

“We want to make sure that we’re vetting the projects so that they are successful,” Roussel said.

Civicside.com has helped fund three local projects so far: a community garden in the Freetown neighborhood, the new sound system at The Market at The Horse Farm, and the Jefferson Street Parklet, a “pop-up” park built in a downtown parking spot.

“Civicside is only as good as the community it serves,” Roussel said. “It’s not up to Civicside; it’s up to the communities that want to use the tool.”

Arguably the most famous of the three projects was the Jefferson Street Parklet across from Carpe Diem.

Chairs, umbrellas and tables now take up a couple of parking spaces outside Le Centre International de Lafayette.

“It was challenging to explain to people what a parklet was, but I think most people got it. Obviously they did, because it got funded,” said Downtown Lafayette Director of Marketing and Events Kate Durio, who met Roussel through Leadership Lafayette, a group of area business and nonprofit leaders.

The Civicside.com parklet campaign created by Durio raised $2,055 in 10 days.

“My proudest moment would have to be when I see two people sitting at the parklet drinking their coffee from Carpe Diem having a discussion,” Roussel said. “I like to think that Civicside indirectly had a part in making that conversation happen.”

Durio said, as a person who works on projects, the parklet campaign was “very easy.”

“The park was the first project to go public, so we worked very closely with Butch,” she said.

The Market at The Horse Farm sound system, which will help the market put on workshops as well as make announcements, launched April 15 with a goal of $300 and hit $335 in about two weeks.

The Freetown community garden, which will transform over time into a linear park along Garfield Street, received $1,550 in community funding in 15 days. The garden was headed up by the local coterie, or community planning committee.

“Every one of those coteries can have something (on Civic side.com) that’s been on their agenda,” Roussel said. “Any neighborhood group that wants to draw attention to some of their projects in their neighborhood could use the site.”

Civicside.com will consider any public project as long as a user can provide city approval for the plans.

For anyone looking to start a project on Civicside.com, Durio said one of the most important qualities to have is dedication.

“I think what’s really helpful is to have it as fleshed out as possible,” she said. “If you have a clear vision of this idea of what you want and also how you can get there.

“You also have to think, ‘How does this benefit the public?’ It has to have some kind of stake in the public realm.”