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Fast Lane to Funding

For almost four decades, the “Giant Hamburg” sign in Springfield, Mo., beckoned Route  66 motorists as well as locals to pause for a bite at Red’s diner, believed to be the nation’s first drive-through. Red’s and much of the iconic highway are long gone. But thanks to crowdfunding, the sign is making a comeback as part of a city project celebrating the historic “Mother Road.”

The project apparently represents the first use of crowdfunding to finance a public venture at the municipal level, says Jason Graf, CEO of Springfield-based Crowdit. On the first day, the city raised more than $10,000 of the $15,000 needed for the sign.

Springfield officials plan a roadside park featuring a replica filling station, relocated motor court cottage, Birthplace of Route 66 sculpture and a replica of the “Giant Hamburg” sign from Red’s, which closed in 1984. The eatery’s owner had to shorten the sign after he realized it wouldn’t fit under low-hanging city utility lines, which resulted in the variant spelling.

Because of its history as one of our first national highways (and the 1960s TV show and 1940s song of the same name), Route 66 holds special memories for many people, which gave Springfield an advantage in raising money.

Graf says crafting an appeal that hits home with would-be contributors is important in any crowdfunding campaign. “You must engage your network personally; reach out, let them know how they can help, how they can get involved, and how they can make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.

“Not only does [crowdfunding] provide new avenues for people to fundraise,” Graf says, “but it also gives more people an equal opportunity to create wealth and actively engage their dreams and passions.”

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