Greyston taps into crowdfunding trend

By Crystal Kang

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Greyston Foundation, the Yonkers-based organization known for its pioneering community development and services programs, has turned to crowdfunding to raise money for its bakery business on the city waterfront.

Greyston recently launched its first crowdfunding campaign to raise $25,000 for its bakery, the state’s first registered benefit corporation, where sales of brownies and other baked goods support its parent foundation’s social programs for low-income and underserved residents. The Alexander Street bakery turns out 30,000 pounds of brownie mix daily that is used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors.

greyston bakery Mike Brady, Greyston Bakery Inc. president and CEO.

Greyston CEO Steven Brown said the $25,000 that is the goal of the novel campaign will be used to buy new equipment that will allow the for-profit bakery to increase brownie production and add 15 jobs at the factory for low-income and underemployed Yonkers residents by 2014.

Greyston launched its campaign through Indiegogo, an international online fundraising platform based in San Francisco, Calif. Crowdfunding is a means of raising money through small donations from large numbers of people on the Internet.

“We’re looking for ways to diversify our funding base,” Brown said. “Indiegogo is a way to advertise and market Greyston and buy packaging equipment used to package Greyston baked goods in order to efficiently expand our production capacity and sell more brownies online.”

The crowdfunding effort, which began in September, had raised $9,311 with 45 days left in the campaign.

Jonathan Greengrass, Greyston’s vice president of development, said the online crowdfunding tool does not limit fundraising to a specific geographic region and allows anyone around the world to support a cause.

“Good ideas transcend geographic boundaries,” Greengrass said. “I’m excited about Greyston doing this campaign because it’s spreading the word about our philanthropic aspect.”

Greyston’s move to crowdfunding could start a trend in the county, said Joanna Straub, executive director of Nonprofit Westchester, an umbrella advocacy group and resource provider in Tarrytown for the county’s nonprofits. Straub said she did not know of any other organizations in the county using crowdfunding.

“It holds a great deal of promise for the sector and allows nonprofits to capitalize on their strengths – a faithful following of supporters who are willing to lend their support to the cause,” she said. “It is an innovative tool in that it easily allows current supporters to invite others to get involved in something about which they are passionate.”

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular approach for business ventures and most recently nonprofits, said Deborah Nelson, executive director of the Social Venture Network, a California-based nonprofit focused on helping businesses network.

“We’re seeing a growing trend in the nonprofit and for-profit businesses in crowdfunding, not just to generate revenue but to build brand awareness,” Nelson said.

Indiegogo users can easily tell their stories with a two-minute video that they can upload onto the crowdfunding page, she said.

Greyston Bakery also helps nonprofits through its business partnerships. The bakery’s customers include Whole Foods , which co-brands with Whole Planet Foundation, a nonprofit that donates its funds to organizations that provide international microenterprise loan programs and financial services to self-employed persons living in poverty.

Operating on a $17 million annual budget, Greyston Foundation uses more than half of its revenue for its community services and workforce development programs at nine locations in Yonkers, Irvington and Pleasantville.

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About the author

Crystal Kang
Crystal Kang, a Chicago native, is former a reporter for the Fairfield and Westchester business journals. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and her work has appeared in news outlets including CNBC.com, Allstate Corporation’s investor relations website, and an NPR-based radio station in Urbana, Ill.

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