News / Ottawa

One soup, one vote: Ottawa charity crowd-sources funding to energize communities

Over a bowl of soup and a small donation of $10-per-person a new Ottawa-based micro-grant initiative looks to kickstart people's plans to brighten their community - be it with a bakery or additions to a public park.

“I heard about it six or seven months ago and it just stayed with me,” said Soup Ottawa founder Dan Monafu of how he stumbled on the idea started in Chicago in 2007 that has since spread to 200 cities worldwide. "I enjoyed the fact that you get to be inspired by local people."

The idea is that those who show up and pay the $10 fee get to vote on which project deserves the pool of money, said Monafu. “Grants like Kiva and Indiegogo do something similar, but here you get to meet the people you are funding and have soup together.”

At $10 a head, Soup Ottawa gathers the money of those who attend and has them vote on which community project they like best after listening to a series of five minute pitches for six projects. Monafu whittled down the spread from 15 ideas.

“Everybody gets a plastic spoon and they put it in the bowl for their favourite project,” he said of how to votes will be cast at the end of the evening hosted at HUB Ottawa downtown with food donated by caterers Grounded.

The projects on tap for the group's first meeting May 30 range from a vegan and gluten-free bakery that wants to be paid in kind, a program to teach kids how to make video games at birthday parties and another to beautify the park in a low-income community. Looking at how many tickets have been given away so far, the prize could be anywhere from $500 to $ 1,000, Monafu said.

The stakes are winner-takes-all, but Monafu said that the pitch for each project is archived on the Soup Ottawa website and may get outside interest from those who see potential in the ideas.

"It’s inspiring. People will see that they can do their bit," he said, and ask "'If these people are doing cool projects, why can’t I?'"

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