Michigan is Leading the Way with the Next Phase of Crowdfunding: Community Capital Investment

You may already know about the Public Spaces, Community Places program, and can probably recognize a project in your city or nearby. From historic building rehab and splash pads to public art and recreation fields, this program has dramatically improved public spaces across Michigan. To date, more than 230 projects have been successfully funded through the program run by Patronicity, with nearly $8 million in public investment and $42 million in private donation match. These projects even have an impressive 96% success rate! This format takes many small pots of money and combines them to make a big impact in community projects. It’s succeeded far beyond our expectations.

The cover for the new crowdfunding report.

Now we’re diving even further into what this kind of direct capital infusion can do for making private investments in local Michigan businesses, too.

The counterpoint to Donation-Based Crowdfunding is called Community Capital Investment. This model takes small amounts of private investments from everyday people or larger chunks of cash investment from individual investors or equity groups and leverages them to get small businesses off the ground. It comes with the expectation of return on that investment. Individuals interested in supporting their local businesses can invest anywhere from $100 to $10,000 per company, per year. Investment crowdfunding is structured to provide a return on investment, either through an ownership stake or through a debt position. Investors with a debt position are provided a pre-determined rate of return that can be structured in a variety of ways within the investment offering.

Michigan-based Revalue Investments has a great fact sheet on local community capital investing. They offer one-of-a-kind resources, services, and training workshops for Michigan residents interested in becoming local investors. Learn more at www.revalueinvesting.com

To document Michigan’s work on both donation-based Crowdfunding and Community Capital Investments, the League released a new report this summer, co-written with several partners. We unveiled it in June 2019 at a national conference of investors and community leaders in Detroit, ComCap19, hosted by the National Community Capital Coalition (NC3). The conference drew hundreds of community leaders, ecosystem builders, entrepreneurs, investors, citizens, and practitioners from across the country.

Milton-Pung, Barbash, and Czarnecki presenting at NC3 in Detroit

Milton-Pung, Barbash, and Czarnecki representing Michigan on the national stage

Three key women in this effort – Angela Barbash of Revalue Investing, Melissa Milton-Pung of the Michigan Municipal League, and Katharine Czarnecki of the MEDC – participated in a panel discussion at ComCap entitled “The Evolution of Community Capital in Michigan.” They explored the reasons why Michigan is at the forefront of the community crowdfunding movement.

The biggest takeaway from this national dialogue? When you’ve got the position to champion a good idea, take the calculated risk to boost the message and build confidence by transforming nebulous ideas into pilot programs.

The report, Community Investment, Community Growth: A Retrospective in Michigan Crowdfunding, tells this story of risk and championing. It chronicles the evolution of crowdfunding, including the false starts, the hard work, and the triumphs. This publication, available at www.crowdfundingmi.com, is now being used at the national level as a learning tool that every state can emulate to activate a previously dormant network of community investors. By sharing case studies, it lays out the origins of the movement in Adrian, Michigan, the passage of the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) Act in 2013, and specific projects in Detroit, Traverse City, Lansing, Tecumseh, Calumet Township, and Portland.

“This report does an exceptional job of telling the story of one of our state’s best-kept secrets: how Michigan and our supporters are leaders in the nation when it comes to crowdfunding projects making a real impact in our communities,” said Dan Gilmartin, CEO and Executive Director of the Michigan Municipal League. “With community capital, we all can play a part in making our communities better – whether it’s with our ideas, our time, our money or our networks. It all contributes to the inclusivity and opportunity we ultimately seek, and it gives us a voice and a stake in the process.”

“With community buy-in, both figurative and literal, donation-based and investment-based crowdfunding can fill critical gaps in access to capital for businesses and projects in all our communities,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Katharine Czarnecki. And Michigan is at the forefront of this community capital strategy. The return on the state’s investment has been incredible. “It’s an amazing return on the state’s investment,” Czarnecki said. “Now, we’re very excited to see other states following in Michigan’s innovative footsteps.”

As for the emergence of direct investment in local startups and business expansions, it’s becoming more normalized every day.
Learn more about community capital investment at http://whatisgrubstake.com

“We’re just now starting to see the market ripen for local community capital investment,” said Angela Barbash, CEO of Revalue. “Building upon what we’ve seen occur with donation-based crowdfunding, we’re now establishing legitimacy in this alternative to traditional market investments.”

Barbash’s firm is dedicated to not only raising the profile of this kind of next-level local economy as well as educating would-be investors to make wise decisions. “Investing in your own backyard seems like a no-brainer to most [of us] but knowing if it’s right for you is another story,” said Barbash. “We are holding workshops all across Michigan to help people dive in to the nuances of community investments. People are excited about these options, and we’re teaching people how to evaluate investments in a new way.”