Columbus SOUPredefines philanthropy by creating dynamic and democratic spaces for community engagement

(Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of blogs from Andrea Archibald, owner of Simply Vague, on the local movement and small independent retailers in the area. Archibald profiles a new startup or small business in each of her guest blogs. Read her third bloghere.)

by Andrea Archibald

In 2013 a group of young professionals passionate about living in and growing with Columbus decided to take an active role in supporting theircommunity. The locally based organization Columbus SOUP redefines philanthropy by creating dynamic and democratic spaces for community engagement, participation and investment through crowdfunding events and projects.

At eachof theirquarterly community events,attendees pay a $7 minimum donation for dinner and to hearpresentationsdetailing projects that make Columbus a better place.Once votes are tallied, the winning project is awarded a SOUP grant, which is made up ofall the entrance donations collected for the evening. While the concept is simple, the impact is huge.

Because 100 percent of the entrance fees at each event go toward funding a project, Columbus SOUP relies on donations from more than 30 local business that support its mission and donate space, food, and funds for other operating costs.

Columbus SOUP has become a place where people and projects can connect, create awareness, spark creativity, pool resources and change how the Capital City thinks about philanthropy. When Executive Director Liz Martin found out about Detroit SOUP, she immediately knew it was something she wanted to bring to Columbus. Martin called on her friends who would eventually make up the rest of the Columbus SOUP team: Christina Christian,event director;Jorie Emory, grants director;Bryant Miller, communications director;and Keith Miles, volunteers coordinator.

"Columbus is a supportive, community-minded city that embraces good ideas and nourishes them, but there are many great ideas that may not be suitable for traditional funding that would get them off the ground, keep them going or help them grow," Martin said.

The next Columbus SOUP event will take place at the CCAD MindMarket on July 20. Each event a different theme,all of which have a positive local impact. Themes are often determined by feedback from past attendees.

Past project winners have included 4L For Latinas, an organization for teen girls and women that encourages literacy, personal development, health and wellness and more, Neighborhood Services, Inc., which collects school supplies and distributes them to children in low income areas, Linden Documentary Project, founded by the Greater Linden Development Corporationtocreate a video that documents the history of Linden, and most recently, Franklinton Gardens, which received a $2,119 grant fortheir community garden project.

For more information on upcoming and past Columbus SOUP events, visit www.columbussoup.org.

Photo courtesy of Columbus SOUP

Andrea Archibald is the owner of Simply Vague, a pair of locally focused stores atPolaris Fashion Place and The Mall at Tuttle Crossing. You can reach her at simplyvaguestore@gmail.com.

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