The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 15, 2014

Website links donors, nonprofits

EBENSBURG — A few years ago when a group of northern Cambria County residents approached the commissioners seeking $5,000 toward a proposed soccer field, they were sent away empty-handed.

They were told the county doesn’t have a fund available for such a request.

But a newly implemented idea will open the door for nonprofit organizations in the county to reach out to a far broader audience.

A twist on crowdfunding, a phenomenom turning up with greater frequency on the Internet, is now on the county’s website.

A link to Citizinvestor offers residents an easy way to make donations to any number of nonprofit organizations for specific projects.

“If everybody gives a little bit, all of a sudden you’ve reached your goal,” Chief Clerk Steve Ettien said.

The online donations can be made with a credit or debit card,  and any deductions are held until the goal is reached.

The money then is forwarded to the organization and the project taken off the website, Ettien said.

President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said the idea is to inform county residents about the nonprofits that are looking for funding for a specific project, and the Internet makes it a breeze to donate.

“It’s nothing more than placing it in front of the public and providing an opportunity to donate to good causes,” he said. “People go online and they offer up donations at no cost to the county.”

The crowdfunding concept was introduced several years ago in some of the poorer African countries, where funds were raised and grants awarded primarily to low-income women for start-up businesses, often operated out of the home, Ettien said.

Residents can learn more by logging onto the Cambria County home page and looking to the right under the heading: “Citizinvestor Fundraising.”

Ettien said that as of Wednesday there are no local projects on the site.

“We’re hoping this is something people will start using,” he said.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at kathymellotttd.

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