San Mateo County Parks tries CrowdFunding to help its budget

With budgets cutting back many things people take as granted like parks are in need of funding. One county in the SF Bay Area is looking to Crowd-funding as a source of revenue to help with costs and budget set-backs.

To provide some perspective this reporter while on assignment for the Peninsula Progress contacted Margaret Walls a research analyst with Resources for the Future, a non-profit, non-partisan organization in Washington DC. RFF is dedicated to providing data and information for policy makers and demographic experts and city planners to help them look towards the future.

Walls noted there are 14 million acres of park lands throughout all 50 states. While our public parks are a great source of recreation, relaxation and a connection to nature, state park systems nationwide are hurting. Walls pointed out that General fund revenues for state parks have declined since the 1990s, and the recent recession exacerbated an already difficult funding situation in many states. The sunny golden state of California is no exception.

Charging fees is one way to help with costs. Yet Walls also noted that park systems need to be wary of an over-reliance on user fees. But to the extent that fees are used, she recommends that the revenues collected should remain within the state park system rather than returned to the state’s general fund. Whether it is money coming from tax dollars or fee revenue, parks are in need of financial assistance. This is why the San Mateo County Parks Foundation has teamed up with Citizinvestor to use Crowd-funding as one way to raise money.

This reporter then asked the question, has anything like this been done before to help raise money for parks or county/municipal projects? “This the first time we’ve used this approach for the San Mateo County Parks Foundation, “said Julia Bott, director of the foundation. It’s too early to tell how it will work for us but we anticipate it will be successful. Assuming we reach 100 percent of our funding goals,” she said.

In recent years with the cutting back of State and County budgets civic and community leaders are se...

Courtesy of San Mateo County Parks Foundation
In recent years with the cutting back of State and County budgets civic and community leaders are seeking new ways of raising funds to keep parks and playgrounds open. Crowd-funding is one way the San Mateo County Parks Foundation is going to try to meet the rising costs of park care and maintenance.

Bott said there are three projects that the foundation hopes Crowd-funding will help. The overall goal for the three projects is at about $40,000.00. “$25,000.00 for restoration of campfire rings at Memorial Park in Loma Mar, $10,000.00 for Bicycle Sundays in Belmont and $5,000.00 for restoration of the thornmint habitat at Half Moon Bay,” she said. Bott is confident they will reach their goal with Citizinvestor. “The funds will come to the Foundation, said Bott, and we pass them on the parks Department for the specific projects.”

Speaking on behalf of Citizinvestor, Co-founder Jordan Raynor said that “14 municipalities have crowd-funded public projects on Citizinvestor,” He also said that “the response has been incredible – 70 percent of projects have been successfully funded to date.” Overall, he added, “12 percent of Citizinvestors have given to multiple projects.”

Jordan Raynor is one of the Co-founders of Citizinvestor  a crowd-funding vehicle that has helped ci...

Courtesy of Jordan Raynor and Citizinvestor
Jordan Raynor is one of the Co-founders of Citizinvestor, a crowd-funding vehicle that has helped civic and public projects like county parks in major cities and suburban areas across the nation.

Citizinvestor is a crowdfunding and civic engagement platform for government projects that is completely free for government to use. Citizinvestor is based here in the United States and has the San Mateo County Parks Foundation Projects listed on its website as among its most popular.

“We are encouraged by the response thus far,” said Raynor. For the Campfire ring restoration $1,400.00 has been raised with 67 days to go. “Projects typically start very slow and ramp up as we start reaching the deadline,” Raynor said. “The Memorial Park project in particular has started better than most projects on the site,” he added.

It seems the only set-back is the two to three-month deadline for fundraising on the Citizinvestor site. Regardless, Bott remains confident. And, what if the amounts are not reached in time? “Our goal as a foundation is to raise money, that is what we do. There are a variety of ways in which we help to raise funds, from grant-writing to coordinating fund-raising events and activities,” she said. “Our foundation does its utmost to expand the breadth of projects; always seeking new ways to raise funds,” she said.

In her research and reports on state parks, Walls noted that, “many states already have dedicated funds for state parks.” “Although, as she writes, in some cases, they raise only a limited amount of revenue.” “These funds are financed by lottery proceeds; general sales taxes; motor vehicle registration fees; hunting and fishing licenses; fees on RV, ATV, boat, and snowmobile registrations; motor fuel taxes from off-road uses; real estate transfer fees; and oil, gas, and other mineral revenues from lease payments and severance taxes. Some states have multiple funds,” said Walls.

Even with the recession on many people’s minds, Raynor, Bott and others are optimistic that Crowd-funding is a good way to raise money for parks and other civic projects. Some believe like the National Crowdfunding Association that crowd-funding is the wave of the future. “If we don’t meet our goal then we find another way to fund these projects,” Bott said. The San Mateo County Parks Foundation reaches out to its donors and is always eager to seek the help of new donors. The donations contributed through Citizinvestor are tax-deductible.

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