Crowdfunding gives a kick start to communities

Sometimes, you just have to do it yourself.

This is the approach taken by a community in Granard, Co Longford, who are on a mission to purchase 15 acres in the town which has been under the control of Nama.

The lands are next to a motte, which is a large man-made hill reputedly built in 1199 by the Anglo-Norman Lord Richard Tuite.

The hill is nearly 600ft tall, and is the highest motte of its type in the country.

Even though the grounds abut a national monument, the land is not owned by the State.

In the boom, the lands were acquired by a builder, and it was intended to undertake large scale development of the site.

However, due to the property market crash, the lands remained largely undeveloped, and subsequently fell under the control of Nama.

The local community in Granard got together with the purpose of acquiring the land, and with the intention of creating a national tourist attraction and other social areas for the benefit of the community.

To finance the purchase, the community are holding multiple fundraising events, including ballroom dancing and raffles.

Such projects show that by pulling together, we can improve our communities.

Of course, the whole concept of a “community” is that we live, work and develop together, or communally, as opposed to being simply a place where we as individuals happen to live.

The concept of communal action is age-old, and examples exist in many of our localities where, historically, churches, national school, and even roads, were constructed by the labour of the community.

Our more modern system, which is designed to collect and re-allocate our tax moneys efficiently, is inefficient at meeting local needs.

The days of joint labour efforts in constructing local schools are almost extinct, due to a barrage of red tape, not to mention health and safety requirements.

However, a relatively new concept called “crowdfunding” has taken up some of that void.

The efforts of the community in Granard fits neatly within the definition of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the collective investment by a large number of people toward a particular project. (As a side note, anyone looking to kick-start a community project should remember that special support is generally available through LEADER and other agencies for the development of community facilities.)

However, crowdfunding isn’t just limited to community projects; private enterprises can successfully raise financial support from people interested in their project.

Thanks to social media such as Twitter and Facebook, many successful entrepreneurs have networks of friends and followers who can be tapped for a few quid each to help get the next phase of their development under way.

For example, online resources such as the free “wiki.com” online encyclopedia have partaken in rounds of funding from their followers.

Even people you don’t know can make investments to get projects up and running through crowdfunding agencies.

For example, in Britain, there are a large number of regulated crowdfunding agencies.

One such agency, Abundance Generation, allows the general public to invest small amounts of money collectively in relatively large-scale energy projects such as windfarms and community solar panel projects.

Crowdfunding has become more developed, and is now a real alternative to mainstream financing for investors and borrowers.

New technologies have really professionalised crowdfunding.

For example, many agencies allow investors bid and borrowers accept interest rates and repayment terms — such that borrowers can be teamed up with appropriate investors.

A number of agencies operate in Ireland who focus on crowdfunding and social funding.

Investment in crowd funding isn’t simply a case of giving your hard-earned money for charitable purposes, crowdfunding agencies can offer returns to investors, with your investment going toward local ethical projects.

However, needless to say, the same age-old caution should be employed when investing your hard-earned money.

Kieran Coughlan

Chartered tax advisor

Kieran Coughlan,

Belgooly, Co Cork

(086-8678296)


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