May 04, 2012

Environmental Groups Get New Outlet to Raise Money Online

Environmental organizations from around the country last week got a chance to seek support for local projects by creating fundraising pages on Ioby, which stands for "in our backyards."

The nonprofit hopes to become the environmental equivalent of, which raises money for teachers in classrooms across the country.

The organization has already achieved great success in New York, where it has operated for the past three years. Since Ioby got started, it has raised $250,000 for New York grass-roots environmental efforts, with gifts averaging $35. Among the results of those donations: About 250 tons of food waste were composted, 36 farms and gardens were started, and nine bike and recreation days were held.

The organization hopes opening its online platform nationwide will enable groups and individuals to raise a total of $300,000 in a year.

“We wanted to connect people to environmental projects that were local, where they could see the problem and really do something that would actually fix and address the problem,” says Erin Barnes, co-founder of Ioby.

The nonprofit especially hopes to reach young and minority donors, who might not regularly contribute to environmental causes because the problems "seem insurmountable," says Ms. Barnes. She says that she hopes the ease of giving online and the local nature of the projects will appeal to people who don't typically give to conservation groups.

Unlike some online fund-raising sites, Ioby doesn't make charities forfeit the money they raised if they don’t reach their goal. Fees start at $35 for campaigns to raise $1,000 or more; drives to raise less than $1,000 can be conducted free.

Charities face one requirement if they raise all the money they sought: They must supply photos and videos to donors that show their contributions made a difference. “People who are your best activists can be your best donors,” Ms. Barnes says.

Here's how Ioby works: