The cover for the new crowdfunding report.

The cover for the new crowdfunding report.

The joke could start out like, “Some Boy Scouts, an artist, a curler, beer connoisseurs, and a soccer enthusiast walk into a bar with a dream to raise nearly $1.3 million.” As ridiculous as it’s sounds, it’s no joke. And two types of crowdfunding initiatives available to Michigan businesses and communities actually made it happen.

A new report being unveiled today in Detroit during a national conference of nearly 300 community capital supporters details the power of community capital strategies and tells the success stories of six specific crowdfunding examples in Michigan. The retrospective focuses on the Red Mill Pavilion in Portland, Reach Studio Art Center in Lansing, Tecumseh Brewing Co. in Tecumseh, Earthen Ales in Traverse City, The Drill Shop in Calumet Township, and Detroit City Football Club in Detroit.

The report, Community Investment, Community Growth: A retrospective in Michigan crowdfunding, tells the story of the evolution of crowdfunding, including the high fives, the hard work, and the hits and the misses. The hope is that this report becomes a learning tool that every state can use to activate a previously dormant network of community investors. It’s being released today in Detroit at the ComCap19 – the annual conference of the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3). The conference draws upward of 400 community leaders, ecosystem builders, entrepreneurs, investors, citizens, and practitioners from across the country. View a press release about the conference here and follow the conference on social media using the hashtags #COMCAP19 and #communitycapital.

The League's Melissa Milton-Pung (left) speaks during a panel discussion today at ComCap in Detroit.

The League’s Melissa Milton-Pung (left) speaks during a panel discussion today at ComCap in Detroit.

Published by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan Municipal League, the report is a retrospective in Michigan crowdfunding that shares case studies of community capital in action. It lays out the origins of the movement in Adrian, Michigan, the passage of the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) Act in 2013, and then details specific crowdfunding projects in Detroit, Traverse City, Lansing, Tecumseh, Calumet Township and Portland.

“This report does an exceptional job of telling the story of one our state’s best-kept secrets – how Michigan and our supporters are leaders in the nation in 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.”

Crowdfunding success in Michigan - by the numbers.

Crowdfunding success in Michigan – by the numbers.

The report details the success of two Michigan-specific crowdfunding tools – the donation-based crowdfunding program – Public Spaces Community Places (PSCP) – and investment-based crowdfunding program for business, known as community capital investing. Donation-based crowdfunding raises money through individual donations for a specific project or initiative. Investment-based crowdfunding allows people – not just big-money accredited investors – to invest in local businesses, and these backers get a financial return on their investment.

To date, more than $14 million has been invested in 212 projects in communities through the PSCP program. With the financial backing by MEDC and support by the League, the PSCP initiative provides matching grants for crowdfunded public spaces through Detroit-based Patronicity, an online crowdfunding platform. Through the program, community members donate to support a project for a public space, such as a plaza or community garden, and the transformational idea is backed dollar-for-dollar by a grant from the state of Michigan, up to $50,000. MEDC has contributed almost $6.5 million in PSCP grants to match $7.6 million of crowdfunded donations.

The in-depth report was unveiled today during the conference at a general session at ComCap19 in Detroit  “The Evolution of Community Capital in Michigan” session speakers were Melissa Milton-Pung, program manager for the Michigan Municipal League; Chris Miller, lead economic and downtown developer for the City of Adrian; Katharine Czarnecki, senior vice president of community development for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; and Angela Barbash, principal of Revalue, a registered investment advisory firm.

“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,” Czarnecki said. “And Michigan is at the forefront of this community capital strategy.”

Crowdfunding panelists from left - Melissa Milton-Pung, Angela Barbash and Katharine Czarnecki.

Crowdfunding panelists from left – Melissa Milton-Pung, Angela Barbash and Katharine Czarnecki. Not pictured is panelist Chris Miller.

Michigan’s PSCP program has an astounding 98 percent success rate. The program has provided $5,000 in match funding for projects as small as a bike rack program in downtown Wayne, while spurring over $105,000 in crowdfunding for projects as large as the Ultimate Trailhead in northern Michigan – both thanks to annual state funding, ease of application and leveraging Patronicity support.

The return on the state’s investment is incredible. Over $7 million of private donations have directly matched the state investment for crowdfunded projects, and these dollars have also helped leverage more than $40 million in additional resources in those communities. That is a ratio of $7.47 leveraged for every $1 of MEDC funding through PSCP.

“That’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. They’re determined and ready to get to work after seeing how our communities and organizations have answered the million-dollar question: ‘How did you do it?’”

But success is not guaranteed, the report concludes. Simply implementing these programs in other states won’t make them successful. Not all communities have the capacity and wherewithal to put these types of projects together no matter how much they believe in empowered spaces and connected places. Ideas, plans and project details often rest on the shoulders of volunteers working after-hours in community rooms. Enthusiasm and energy can wane quickly, according to the report.

“This isn’t a magic formula,” Czarnecki said. “It takes a great deal of time, effort and commitment to bring these projects to fruition. But as we’ve seen, and as this report illustrates, the efforts are well worth it.”

The report is available at the newly updated website. Download a pdf of the report here:

ComCap19 is happening this week in Detroit!

ComCap19 is happening this week in Detroit!

There’s a national conference happening in Detroit this week that will shine a brightlight on Michigan’s highly successful crowding movement.

About 300 investors, community leaders, entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders from across the country will descend on Detroit this week for the annual conference of the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3). Follow the event on social media using the hashtag #ComCap19.

The conference is taking place June 11-13 at the College for Creative Studies and the HopCat in Midtown Detroit and it will explore how community capital has been an instrumental part of the Motor City’s positive economic development. ComCap moves to a different state each year so it’s an honor to have it in Michigan this year. Last year it took place in Vermont, said Melissa Milton-Pung, program manager for the Michigan Municipal League, which is one of the main sponsors of this year’s conference.

A ComCap education session taking place today in Detroit.

A ComCap education session taking place today in Detroit.

“People may be surprised to hear this conference is coming to Michigan. But it’s no surprise to those of us in the community capital field because Michigan is a proven leader in the nation in the crowdfunding movement,” Milton-Pung said. “This conference is our chance to show the amazing crowdfunding work happening in our state to the rest of the world.”

In fact, an in-depth report on crowdfunding in Michigan will be unveiled during the conference at a general session on Thursday. We will be sharing a press release, with links to the report, tomorrow (June 13, 2019). The general session, titled “The Evolution of Community Capital in Michigan,” features speakers Milton-Pung; Chris Miller, lead economic and downtown developer for the City of Adrian; Katharine Czarnecki, senior vice president of community development for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; and Angela Barbash, principal of Revalue, a registered investment advisory firm.

The cover of the new crowdfunding report being released June 13 at the ComCap conference.

The cover of the new crowdfunding report being released June 13 at the ComCap conference.

This interactive conference will include two full days of sessions, keynotes, panels, and working groups centered on contemporary community capital how-to’s. Topics include local investing, crowdfunding, equitable economic development strategies, community ownership structures, loan and investment funds, and how local and state governments can support the creation of community capital. The conference can be followed on social media using the hashtags #COMCAP19 and #communitycapital.

Conference sponsors are the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan; the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; the Michigan Municipal League; Port Covington Impact Investments; Council of Michigan Foundations; Center for Community-Based Enterprise; Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss; Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan; Small Business Association of Michigan; Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation; and Gingras Global; The Local Frequency. Community partners are Revalue; LocalFirst; TechTown Detroit; New Solutions for Nonprofits; City of Adrian, MI; Build Institute; Hatch Detroit; Wayne State University; Propeller; The Hire Effect; Grubstake; Workforce Intelligence Network; Eastern Market; Community Development Advocates of Detroit; Lean & Green Michigan; Detroit Economic Growth Corporation; and Commonplace. Media partners are Crowdfund Insider; Locavesting; Conscious Company Media; Model D; Concentrate; Metromode; and Detour Detroit. And national partners are Hatch Innovation; Balle; Our Crowd Rocks; Investibule; Fair Food Network; Initiative for Local Capital; and Cutting Edge Capital.

For more information go to the event website here.


mag cover combinedThe Michigan Municipal League received a statewide honor recently for The Review magazine, which focuses on placemaking activites and programs of League member communities as well as other topics.

The League received a Gold Certificate for its magazine in the 17th annual Diamond Award program in the magazine publishing category for organizations with an annual budget of $1 million and greater. The League’s magazine has been honored multiple times in previous years in the Diamond Award program by the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE).

As part of the contest, entrants submitted two consecutive copies of the magazine. The League submitted the November/December 2017 issue that focused on affordable housing, with additional stories on housing initiatives in other communities and a cover-story profile of 2017-18 League President Catherine Bostick-Tullius, Lapeer city commissioner. View that issue here:

The entry also included the January/February 2018 edition centered around essential building blocks for local government operation, such as improving your budgeting process, gun regulation, and avoiding charter conflicts. On the cover of that issue was Hudsonville officials celebrating the opening of the community’s Terra Square project. The city won our 2017 Community Excellence Awards competition for the creative conversion of an old auto dealership into a multi-use community venue. View that issue here:

The Review magazine is a nationally recognized example of an outstanding publication to be replicated for its thought-provoking content, overall appearance, and quality. Our members frequently submit ideas for stories on projects, programs, and initiatives in their community that their colleagues can implement in their own cities. It is published six times a year. Find current and past issues here:

kaboom graphic1Does your southeast Michigan community have an idea for a creative public space that encourages active play of people of all ages? Do you think you could come up with such an idea? If you can yes to either of those questions, then the Play Everywhere Challenge could be for your community.

Supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and presented by KaBOOM!, the Play Everywhere Challenge is a community-focused design competition to develop new ideas for bringing play to unexpected but everyday spaces, making play easy and available for kids and families. As part of the Challenge, grantees will be selected in Southeast Michigan and Western New York to receive a combined total of $1 million in prize funds. The application period opened Monday, Jan. 14. Go here for details and here for the official challenge rules.

kaboom graphic2You may have read or heard about a recent grant the Michigan Municipal League Foundation received from Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation at the end of last year to help out in Hamtramck (read more about that here). This Play Everywhere Challenge is another amazing project being supported by the Wilson Foundation. The Michigan Municipal League is helping spread the word to our League members.

This is the second year of the challenge. Previous challenge winners were in the League member communities of Allen Park, Port Huron, and Romulus as well as in other areas in Macomb County, St. Clair County, Washtenaw County, and Wayne County.  View all the past projects here.

Here is the Play Everywhere Challenge timeline:

  • The Play Everywhere Challenge Idea form opened Monday, Jan. 14
  • Early Bird idea form Deadline: February 15
  • Final idea form Deadline: March 22
  • June – winners announced
  • July 15, 2019 – June 30, 2020: implementation

Here are additional details:

kaboom 4The Play Everywhere Challenge, supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation through its Built to Play initiative, will create more opportunities for free, unstructured, unplanned play. Together, we are ensuring all kids, no matter where they come from or where they live, get the active play they need to thrive.


All kids need play to grow up happy, healthy and resilient. But many families struggle to find the time to incorporate play into their daily routines, and adequate, convenient playspaces can be hard to come by. According to a 2017 Aspen Institute report, only 13 percent of youth in Southeast Michigan and 16 percent in Western New York are getting the one hour of daily physical activity, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kids know that play can happen anywhere: at the grocery store, in a waiting room or on the way to school. The Play Everywhere Challenge asks grantees to engage kids and families in designing unique playspaces that excite curiosity and make kids say “I want to play there!” The Challenge will help families integrate play into everyday life and reach the kids who have limitless potential but are often overlooked with few options for active play.


  • Share your great idea for getting kids and families playing everywhere by submitting an Idea Form at
  • Check-out past Play Everywhere projects by visiting org/builttoplay.