Ronald Stebenne

Founder, FundOurCommunity
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

This educator turned social entrepreneur built an online platform to crowdfund community improvement.

In 2010, I was 62 years old and homeless, living in a windowless storage closet of my company warehouse. The company I had founded to sell eco-friendly skateboards was not yet turning a profit, and when the economy crashed in 2008, I was downsized from my second job as a youth pastor in San Diego.

That’s when I left San Diego for Kennesaw, Georgia, where my sister lived. It was one of the most difficult decisions in my life, but it proved to be the right move. I had 30 years of experience working with sports – especially action sports – and in youth ministry, nonprofits and business. After six months, I was able to find work as a consultant helping to build a $1.8 million public skate park.

On a trip to California seeking corporate sponsors for the skate park project, I was introduced to the idea of crowdfunding. Since I was always hunting for funds to help a cause, I knew so many other community projects never saw the light of day because of lack of money. That’s when FundOurCommunity – and my encore career – was born.

  • 30 projects funded for $30,000
  • 70 more projects in the pipeline is an online platform that launched in 2013 to support community-oriented campaigns. We hope to fill an enormous gap in funding for civic projects.

In less than a year we’ve been able to partially or fully fund 30 good causes for over $30,000 collectively. We have more than 70 additional projects in the pipeline.

An ambitious math student in Georgia will now benefit from a $2,500 scholarship named after a young math whiz and athlete named Lizzy who was killed in a car accident. An Episcopal reverend in San Francisco can now spend a few more weeks helping the homeless at night. And one more underprivileged kid in East Providence, Rhode Island, will be able to attend summer sports camp.

I hope to continue to mentor young entrepreneurs through FundOurCommunity. I love their energy and their willingness to be part of something that helps others. That’s the legacy I hope to leave behind.