Toledo SOUP fundraiser plannedWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo will soon become the newest city in a network of more than 50 cities around the world to harness the power of microfinancing when organizers host the inaugural Toledo SOUP fundraiser next month.
Toledo SOUP is a community effort that aims to “activate local initiatives with microgrants,” according to its website.
The local initiative is part of an international microfinancing movement that has been building for years and gaining momentum in recent months, said Paula Ross, one of Toledo SOUP’s organizers. The idea behind the model is that public buy-ins as low as $5 can fund small projects that can have a large impact on the community.
“We don’t have a microgrant program in Toledo and we know there are lots of ideas out there that can make it a more vibrant community,” said Ross, a research associate at the University of Toledo’s Urban Affairs Center and board member of local nonprofit Toledo Choose Local. “There are many purposes, including encouraging people who have good ideas and just need a small boost to make it real. We’re also interested in community-building. Perhaps other connections can come out of that gathering.”
The deadline to submit a proposal for Toledo’s inaugural event is Feb. 17. Proposals typically request between $250 and $500. To submit a proposal, visit www.toledosoup.com.
The call for proposals is targeted toward anyone with an idea, including activists, artists, crafters, community members, doers, entrepreneurs, event planners, makers, players, problem solvers, small business owners and more, according to the group’s Facebook page.
The winning project will be chosen by public vote at a soup dinner March 4. Organizers will review the submissions and up to four will be presented to attendees at the dinner, set for 5-9 p.m. at the Davis Building, 151 N. Michigan St., in Downtown Toledo. Admission is $5. Attendees will listen to project presentations while dining on soup made by Timothy Wright and Pam Weirauch of Pam’s Corner. After dinner, attendees will vote on the proposals and the top vote-getter will leave with all the admission money.
“The more people who decide to show up at the dinner, the more funding is raised,” said Anneliese Gryta, another member of the organizing group.
Gryta is an attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow with local nonprofit Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE). She is also developing a microfinancing initiative through ABLE called the Microenterprise Legal Assistance Project.
The idea for Toledo’s movement came last fall after Ross organized a webinar viewing about the initiative, which Gryta attended along with a diverse group of area residents. The group decided Toledo should do something similar.
“There were singer-songwriters, lawyers, technology experts, community developers, and all of us had an interest in creating opportunities to gain access to funding,” Gryta said. “We said, ‘This looks like a great opportunity to pull some people together and see how we can do this in Toledo.’”
In preparation, organizers visited a SOUP event in Detroit.
“There was a local community radio station applying for nonprofit status, someone who wanted to make a documentary about Detroit, an afterschool drumming program. It was just really exciting,” Gryta said. “The whole room, it was just a diverse crowd. It seems like it really brought together the community.”
Detroit SOUP started two years ago and has so far hosted 17 dinners and awarded more than $8,300, according to Detroit SOUP coordinator Amy Kaherl in a recent column published at web-based Detroit magazine Model D.
Projects presented in Detroit have ranged from urban agriculture, social justice, art, entrepreneurship and more. Funded projects have included photography projects, musical performances, a community radio station and an outreach project giving soup and backpacks to the homeless.
Even projects that don’t “win” get something out of the process, Kaherl said.
“What I love most about each soup dinner is watching people connect and interact,” Kaherl wrote in the column. “We have seen some amazing projects not receive funding, but people have shared that their experience was very important. They received questions they may have never thought about, received goods and services, and made new connections to other people who are passionate about their ideas.”
The group in Toledo hopes to make Toledo SOUP a quarterly event, rotating the dinner to different area venues, Gryta said.
“When you look out in the Toledo community, what I see is so much potential,” Gryta said. “We have low cost of living, ample buildings, a short commute. It’s a community where I think the time is right for people to take control of their own economic destiny, so all we can do to support our artists, our entrepreneurs, our community groups in order to be successful, I think we need to take advantage of.”