City tries crowdfunding to expand summer youth program

In this Aug. 17, 2013 file photo, Team GPD played the Summer Heatwave team during the Back-to-School Party for Operation Respect Yourself at the MLK Center in Gainesville.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.

The city of Gainesville has made its first foray into crowdfunding, looking for community contributions to expand its Summer Heatwave youth program this year.


Making donations

Tax-deductible donations to support the Summer Heatwave program can be made online at the program's page on

On Monday, the city launched its Internet campaign to raise $10,800 via a large number of small contributions.

The city has set a May 24 deadline for meeting that goal.

Summer Heatwave is a joint venture between the Gainesville Police Department, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department and the State Attorney’s Office offering area youth free events and programs such as pool parties, movie nights, teen lounges, life skills classes and a basketball league. The intent is to give area youth and teenagers something positive to do with their free time during the summer.

The programs are offered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Recreation Center, the Porters Community Center, the Clarence R. Kelly Recreation Center, and the Eastside Recreation Center at Fred Cone Park.

In a presentation to the City Commission last November, Gretchen Casey with the State Attorney’s Office said the program played a positive role in combating juvenile crime. At the meeting, commissioners spoke about trying to expand the program, which receives $10,000 annually through the State Law Enforcement Contraband and Forfeiture Trust Fund.

Last year, the program served 500 youth and the goal is to double that to 1,000, said Steve Phillips, the director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.

To double the participation, the city is trying to double the program’s funding.

“We have a basic level of service,” he said. “We’re trying to increase it.”

The city looked at crowdfunding through Citizinvestor, a Florida company that specializes in fundraising for local governments, said Lila Stewart, the city’s senior strategic planner.

The company charges an 8 percent processing fee, which makes up $800 of the city’s $10,800 goal, Stewart said. The company only collects that fee and contributors to the Summer Heatwave program will only have their credit cards charged if the city reaches its fundraising goal.

Stewart said the city will use this as a crowdfunding “pilot project” to see if it may be useful for other community programs in the future.

Citizeninvestor was profiled in a November 2013 article on the website of the National Civic League, a nonprofit that works with local governments. The company assisted local governments in moving ahead with projects that were approved, but not funded, the article stated.

The National Civic League article cited the example of $25,000 raised via crowdfunding in Naperville, Ill., to build a pedestal for a statue honoring Navy veterans that a nonprofit purchased.

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