WeKan! Network / Website launches crowd funding to the public

?It?s important to do a lot of work before you put your project online,? says Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation and WeKan! Network director, speaking about the Kansas crowd-funding site. ?It would be advisable to have at least 100 email addresses of alumni compiled or to have a way to reach alumni through Facebook or other social media means. The site is meant to help get donations from beyond the community, so you?ll need a plan ready about how to inform your supporters across the nation.? Here's she sits on the grounds of the Kansas Sampler Foundation in rural Inman. Wendy Nugent / The Edge

The rhythm of life is everywhere ? in the steady beat of motor pistons, music in the background in your favorite elevator ride, the ticking of a clock, melodic chirping of a bird outside a bedroom window and click-click noises of a small dog walking across a wooden floor.

People usually don?t associate rhythm with parks, but that?s something folks in Assaria want in its park in the form of outdoor musical instruments. They?re hoping to have the project funded through https://wekan.starter.com, a crowd-funding and volunteer-recruitment site of the WeKan!Network.

WeKan!Network is a sister organization of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, based in Inman.

Assaria?s project is called ?We Want Rhythm! Park Project.? The town has a population of about 415.

?Assaria, Kansas, is a thriving rural community that supports agriculture,? the project?s story states on wekan.starter.com. ?We are working hard to renovate our city park with new equipment, including a set of Freenotes Harmony (Park) instruments. Harmony Park instruments appeal to all ages and abilities. We believe these outdoor musical instruments will provide a unique, interactive feature to help bring our park to life.?

Instruments will include a set of five tuned drums; the Swirl; and the Yantzee, described as a xylophone-like instrument.

?We hope the addition of these instruments will inspire not only joyful play but a love of music while enhancing the park experience,? the project?s story stated.

The park has equipment that?s more than 30 years old, which includes ?hand-me-down slides,? swings, jungle gym and bouncers.

The project has a video at https://wekan.kanstarter.com/projects/122/.

As of April 27, the project had $334 pledged of its needed $12,637.36 by 11 contributors. Project contributions will be taken for the Assaria project through July 1.

As of April 27, another project, ?Cancer Wish: Save the Cupola!,? also was on the site with $520 in pledges. The Cupola is on top of the 1887 Windsor Hotel in Garden City. Repair on this historic structure is estimated at $36,000. It is the ?cancer wish? of Don Harness, Finney County Preservation Alliance co-founder and past president, who wants to see results before his Stage 4 lung cancer takes him.

Like Assaria and Garden City, other Kansas communities can post their projects on this site and use social media to broadcast the news about projects to potential supporters.

?Donations can be made online, and when the funding campaign is over, one check is sent to the project,? said Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation and WeKan!Network director. ?Non-profit projects that strengthen community are eligible from towns of every size. The definition of community includes rural towns, neighborhoods in urban areas or niche communities like musicians across the state.?

Those not eligible are one-time programs, events, salaries and ?projects that promote a religious or political view.?

To kick it off, the project coordinator should go to wekan.kanstarter.com. Click on ?How Do I Get Started,? which will have information about the people needed to have a successful project, basic project elements, submission process and eligibility.

?We?re looking for projects that push the envelope with creativity and purpose, projects that help a community be the best it can be,? Penner said.

People ages 21-39 especially are encouraged in project development as part of the submission process, a KSF news release stated, although all ages are encouraged to participate.

For the crowd-funding project online, an itemization of funds, high-resolution photo, project description and a video are required. If a project wants volunteers, a variety of the skills needed are listed under a Help Needed tab.

?It?s important to do a lot of work before you put your project online,? Penner said. ?It would be advisable to have at least 100 email addresses of alumni compiled, or to have a way to reach alumni through Facebook or other social media means. The site is meant to help get donations from beyond the community, so you?ll need a plan ready about how to inform your supporters across the nation.?

Four pilot projects were tested in October 2014.

One of those projects was in the town of Burdett, population of about 250. Kanstarter helped them raise more than half of the money, as well as finding a donor match of up to $1,500.

?Our project is called Rediscover Pluto,? said Katie Hammeke, Burdett Pride president. ?We have a nine-hole free miniature golf course at our park, and it was needing some rejuvenation, so we are making the miniature golf course into a solar-system theme, mainly focusing on Pluto, since Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto and was from Burdett.?

Wooden borders were torn out and will be replaced with concrete, which will be painted with bright colors. In addition, they?re getting new turf, a new shed, blue rubber mulch and new signs about the solar system.

?The town is super excited about this project,? Hammeke said. ?We hope that everyone driving by Burdett will stop by and enjoy the miniature golf course at our wonderful park.? The project would not have been able to happen so quickly without all of their effort and willingness to help us with this project from Kanstarter. We owe Kanstarter a big thank you.?

Hammeke said she?d recommend this fundraising venue to other communities. However, things did change a little after the pilot projects ended.

?After the pilot projects were over, we reassessed with the website developers, Reflective Group, and instituted a number of changes to make the project stronger,? Penner said. ?Reflective Group will eventually add other clients, as we were one, to use the crowd-funding platform. The platform is called Kanstarter. The community project portion of the crowd-funding site is called WeKan!Support.?

Changes were made to make the site stronger for donors and project-users alike.

?Eventually, if someone with a Kansas connection wants to support a Kansas project, they can just go to this site and find one they?d like to support,? Penner said. ?There are many excellent crowd-funding sites, but this one will be all Kansas.?

Tax credits from the Kansas Department of Commerce Community Service Tax Credit program supported the project infrastructure; the project is powered by Kanstarter.

Those wishing to donate can do so at wekan.kanstar?ter.com and pick a project; $5 is the minimum donation. Several other projects were ready to launch by the first part of May.

?WeKan!Support is all about the spirit of community and how we can help each other create quality of life wherever we live in Kansas,? said Andrea Springs, WeKan!Network president.

by Wendy Nugent

The Edge

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