Community and Crowdsourcing: A Conversation with Dawn Arrington

With the rise of a variety of different platforms online, giving to charities and community causes is a whole lot easier. Simply sign a petition, a pledge or provide a donation, and not only can you contribute, but you can spread information about a campaign that you support on your social media. But after donating and sharing with friends and family, we tend to move on until the next call to action. Internet activism tends to inhibit further involvement, limiting our participation to taking only those preliminary steps.  

ioby, a nonprofit organization, seeks to change this approach by not only focusing on community driven project funding, but also community led project generation and implementation. We sat down with Dawn Arrington, ioby Cleveland Action Strategist to discuss the ioby platform, community engagement and opportunities that Clevelanders can get involved in.

Erin: I’m going to be honest, I’ve never heard of ioby, until I ran into you recently, but I love the idea of community driven programming and funding. I’m really excited to be sitting down with you today and learning more. Dawn, for folks who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself - give us your name, your title and what you do with ioby.
Sure, my name is Dawn Arrington and I am the Cleveland Action Strategist. I’m the person on the ground here in Cleveland; we have people on the ground in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Memphis. As Action Strategists, our focus is to be on the ground and work with ioby leaders to help get their campaigns up and running. We provide coaching, a little cheerleading and sometimes a lot of hand-holding to get them ready to go out and do the good in their communities.  

Sometimes people have really great ideas but don’t always have the confidence or know how to start, so that’s where we come in. We’re the experts in our hometown and experts in crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

Erin: Since you mentioned crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, I know there are numerous sites out there like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that people can use to initiate a project and get funding. What differentiates ioby and makes ioby unique from what’s already out there?

Dawn:  One, ioby provides intentional one-on-one coaching. Even if you don’t live in a C.A.S.T. (City Action Strategist Team) city, we still have coaches and leader success strategists in Brooklyn who act as our national team.  The coaching may not be face-to-face, but one-on-one coaching is still available so there is someone there that can help you get started.

Two, unlike Kickstarter, we provide greater flexibility in campaigning. Let’s say you don’t raise all of your money or meet your goal, you still get all of the money that you were able to raise. In getting started, we have some of the lowest fees among the crowdfunding platforms. There’s a 3% donation processing and there’s a $35 flat fee to fundraise on our platform. We can also act as a fiscal sponsor on ioby projects for a small 5% fee.

ioby also offers match funding opportunities throughout the year. When you participate in an ioby match program, we’ll double donations in real-time as you fundraise! So when someone donates $20 to your campaign, it will instantly be turned into $40. Match funding can be a great way to accelerate your crowdfunding campaign and make your fundraising work go twice as far. For example, when I was raising money for my project, Comics at the Corner, I raised about $1,500 but I received about $3,000 with matching funds.

Currently we’re rolling out the Racial Justice Match in partnership with Neighborhood Connections. The Racial Justice Match is all about projects that address racial justice and racial equity and that can be just about anything - Dr. Leah Lewis’s The X’s and O’s of Race/ism Docu-series, to the Bridge that Bridges mural project over on (East) 22nd and Cedar.

On top of that we are all about relationship building - sitting down and getting to know people saying, “Hey, c’mon, you can do this!”
Erin: So, if I may, I want to go back and talk about you on personal level, what’s driving your passion for community? Have you always been in positions where you were involved in community engagement?

Dawn: Not quite. I started out my career in customer service. I was a bell hop at Marriott, I was lifting bags and accordions and working for tips. It just felt natural to be of service to people. I worked my way up through Marriott where I met my husband, got married and graduated from college. Then in 2004, I worked for Flight Options, I was there for four years and I got laid off. I continued forward and I got a position with The Urban League. I was there for about two years and after that I became a VISTA. I moved on and worked at Ideastream for a year and a half did some consulting here and there and then I ended up here (at ioby).

It’s been journey but I want to say, from the beginning, it’s always been about how I can I be of service to people and to my community. I don’t believe in the term “giving back,” I believe in “giving in” and giving now. You don’t have to wait until you hit it big in order to feed into where you are right now. This job for me absolutely allows for people to embrace that concept.

Erin: You’ve certainly have had a textured journey! Hearing your personal story and the work you’re doing now, how does your personal mission of “giving in” and serving others align with the overall mission of ioby?

Dawn: Yeah it does! I believe that we all have gifts and talents and desires. A lot of times people in marginalized, often abused communities, don’t see their own power and, they absolutely have power. There’re some amazing people who want to do something. To me again, they know what they want in their community, what makes them feel good, what makes them whole. People need a means to contribute to their own community in real time and that’s what this work is all about.

Erin: Dawn, earlier on, you mentioned the racial justice projects, what other things that are happening in Cleveland and what are some specific types projects that you’ve seen coming out of Cleveland?

Dawn: I’ve seen projects like comic book giveaways. I’ve also seen projects involving helping students be able to do summer camp. There was a mural by Kelley Jackson over in the Kinsman area. Members of my church also did a project, the Noble Road community garden, where people did permaculture gardening at people’s homes. There’s been all sorts of projects – all of which have been ioby campaigns. 

Erin: There’s a lot of diverse, unique projects and opportunities, all over the spectrum. How would someone who has an idea and wants to initiate a project get started?

Dawn: You would submit an idea at - it literally takes 2 minutes to submit an idea form. Your idea can be something as simple as creating an afterschool space for the kids on your street.  

We do encourage you to have a team of volunteers fundraising with you though. If you have a big budget project, which is anything over $10,000, you really want to have a dedicated team that is there fundraising with you, talking through prospects, making phone calls and helping you increase your outreach by engaging with people in one-on-one conversations.

Erin: Dawn, how can folks who are interested in getting more information, get in touch with you?

Dawn: Folks can reach out by sending an idea form; they can send me an email at, or they can call me or text me at (216) 930-4030. But if you do have an idea, please submit it. I’ll reach out to you, I can buy you a cup of coffee if need be and get you going!

Erin: Dawn, thank you for the insight that you provided on ioby and the endless opportunities that are out there waiting to be tapped into. Thank you for your time today! I’m excited to see what change is implemented through projects by Clevelanders this year and will be thinking through some potential project ideas I could get started on.


If you or someone you know has a great idea for your community, but you don’t know where to start, please reach out to Dawn through the ioby website and get going. The possibilities are endless!