The power of local community and divesting

By Sarah Goff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Repurpose Project

The most wonderful and amazing thing happened during The Repurpose Project Building Expansion Fundraiser: the bank loan that we were relying on fell through. 

Sure, those first few days were not wonderful. I sat in the office after that bank phone call, completely overwhelmed with emotion and unable to hold back tears as my mind visited each and every disappointed face. 

We were 36 days into our 60-day fundraiser and had raised an astounding $115,000 of our $200,000 goal. Our community was supporting us in a major way, plus they were shopping in our store.We experienced record sales, and we were gaining confidence that we would be able to bridge a fundraising gap with this extra revenue.

We were gonna do it! Our dream of taking the next step towards building a revolutionary reuse system to combat climate change and help our community access lower cost materials was within our reach.

And then it came crashing down. I thought about the little girl selling her artwork online to raise money for us. I thought of the local businesses, hard hit by Covid, who had dug deep to sponsor us. I thought about one of my local heroes who said she had never donated as much money to anything but felt moved to keep increasing her donation. 

Local non-profits generously shared our fundraiser on social media and in their newsletters even though they were doing their own fundraisers for their missions.

Local bands recorded songs for our fundraiser, and dozens of artists donated art for our online auctions. Over 500 people had donated. The power of our community was absolute and powerful, and it felt like a big warm hug. 

That weekend after the bank call was rough. I was mad at the bank. I was mad at myself for being surprised by the disappointment. Of course the banking system is letting us down. I just kept telling myself that things happen for a reason and a better building would come along. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the building was perfect for our needs. It couldn’t end like this.

As I gained back some composure, I began reaching out to individuals who were helping us fundraise. We started remembering offers to loan us money. We had brushed them quickly to the side at the time because the bank would not allow a second loan in addition to theirs. 

And then we thought about it. 

Could we possibly cobble together enough private loans to bypass the bank completely? 

The answer was yes. We did it. 

We found seven lenders, and they are wonderful. Unlike the bank, whose questioning was along the lines of “prove to us that you won’t fail,” these lenders were instead saying, “how can we structure this to make sure you succeed?” 

We have not closed on the building yet, and we are still fundraising. We aren’t celebrating yet because, as we’ve just learned, something unexpected could happen, but our building purchase is looking likely.

There is a lot to gain from this experience, and that’s why I’m writing this. It’s tempting to pin all our hopes on a big foundation grant or some miracle donor like Oprah or Elon Musk … but in the end it’s turning out that our heroes are just normal caring individuals who are donating, sharing, and divesting from corporate interests, and instead investing in us. Divesting isn’t just a nice sounding idea; it is possible and could change the world for the better. 

Our local businesses and non-profits are the true gems in this town. They make us unique and interesting. 

I hope this out-pouring of support we were so fortunate to receive isn’t a one-time occurrence and can benefit other groups in town. 

I hope we learn from this as a community and recognize the power and potential of rallying around each other to build up our local groups. Let’s realize our strength and divest from corporate America and invest locally. Let’s rally behind each other for big capital campaigns, stop renting this town from developers and instead own it.

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