Oct 3. 2011

Detroit’s soups: fundraising with taste

by Hélène

Americans have fundraising in their genes. That’s good news, ’cause Detroiters need money to finance their projects. Since 2010, “soups” have been multiplying like rabbits in the Detroit area.

The recipe is easy: first, use a hint of social media and gather a crowd ready to share a modest meal for $5. Second, gather enough goodwill (and good cooks) to prepare the food. The money raised on that day (it can reach $700) is awarded to the one who will convince the assembly to support his or her project in less than 5min. A strange cross between a entrepreneurial speed dating and a charity dinner, Detroit soups are excellent places to socialize. Here, everybody is welcome to exchange and debate their ideas on Detroit (and the world). Participants push presenters to phrase their ideas as precisely as possible: where are you at in your business plan? Where will you get the rest of the money from? Last Sunday, it was Detroit soup’s turn, located above Mexicantown bakery, Southwest of Motor City. The “boot” of Detroit, better known as Mexicantown, is the only ethnic district in the city (though it’s quite a diverse neighborhood, Latinos are in majority). Ads are in Spanish and the SUVs stereos are tuned to the vibes of reggaeton.

The soup of the day was part of the Detroit Design Festival and drew a crowd of about 150. Of all the projects on the proposal menu that night, two would eventually almost make it as ex aequo: the first project, “D is for Disc Golf,” offered to build a disc golf course on Belle Isle (a large island southeast of downtown, almost as close to Canada as Detroit, to which it’s connected by a bridge). The second, S.A.Y. Detroit Ophtalmology Clinic, proposed to provide healthcare to homeless children and their mothers in Highland Park. Shortly after the pitching session, the line in front of the soup was almost as long as the one to the voting booths. At my table, my neighbor is outraged at the idea of using micro-grants to solve the injustice of the U.S. health system.

The eye-clinic for “the poors” eventually won the SOUP’s funding that night. To my left, former SOUP winners went on stage to account how they rehabilitated a playground in Highland park. The audience, mainly in their mid twenties, listened quietly and cheered loudly. The SOUP is truly a win-win situation: the Golf Course project didn’t raise any money directly but was offered direct financial support by some friendly patrons of the event. This kind of generosity is certainly not uncommon. Three weeks ago, a similar soup took place at Spaulding court. Angie, legendary Corktown “mama,” received a few hundred dollars to renovate her house, which she has been forced to lease due to financial difficulties (the project still needs funding). Soups help you grow. For those of you never believed it was true, it’s time to go to Detroit! To view more photos from this event, click here.


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