Host a regular micro-granting dinner to celebrate and support creative projects in your community.

5 Step Guide to



SOUP "I am excited that you want to make the dinner happen in your community! That means we did our job in thinking that SOUP is approachable, intuitive, and human-friendly. Thank you for being a fellow human looking for equitable safe space supported by your fellow neighbors." - Amy Kaherl, Director, Detroit SOUP

5 Steps

Who? Someone who...

Resource Checklist


Don’t do SOUP monthly, try quarterly or six times a year as it can be a lot of work! It might take you two or three months to get your first event off the ground.


The basic premise

A neighborhood/city/village/community-based crowdfunding dinner.

  • 4 pre-selected projects have four minutes to share their idea and answer 4 questions from the diners.
  • The projects can be about ANYTHING! No restrictions.


  1. Presenters can’t use technology to present their ideas.
  2. The idea has be to be about your local community, your village, town or city.


Potluck-style (for our friends that don’t use that word, that means everyone is encouraged to bring food for all to share). To attract diners, we give food-makers 60 seconds after the presentations to share anything they are working on in the community (events, questions, projects, businesses, etc).


€5 suggested donation.

Why? SOUP wishes to eliminate barriers to participants, so some throw in $20 while others $0.20.


The winner goes home with the money raised at the door. Attendees have engaged and participated alongside other people who share in the desire for a better community. Diners have shared resources and ideas with all presenters. Connections have been made. Conversations have been had. People have felt empowered.


SOUP is a place for people to gather and to feel safe. SOUP is not the granter of the funds. Our job is to plan a dinner that creates an environment where participants can vote on what project wins the money from door. Each individual who walks through the door is agreeing to grant the money to the project they think is most deserving through democracy and critical conversation. We then ask past winners to come back in a few months to share with the community what they did with the money. That’s it.


  • a collaborative situation
  • a public dinner
  • a platform for connection
  • a safe space
  • a democratic experiment in micro-funding
  • a relational hub bringing together various creative communities
  • a forum for critical but accessible discussion
  • an opportunity to support creative people in the community

SOUP started out as a bunch of people trying to figure something out. We didn’t plan, think, or be conscious of others around us. The beginning was an experiment… this guide is 5 years of experimentation. This is SO important. The list above is the heart and the soul and the why and the how come and the reason why we continue to do this dinner many years after its origins.

Diversity is key in cultivating a group of people to work on SOUP. Members of the planning committee should either live or work (or both) in the community so that there is a real understanding of the needs of that area - this transcends the scope of the SOUP. We try to remember that the audience will reflect those that planned the dinner.

Think about members from different experiences and perspectives:

  • Young and old
  • Different social and ethnic groups
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Religious groups
  • Business leaders
  • Block clubs

Artists, farmers, coffee shop goers, and lovers of the neighborhoods they live in are all welcome and have a place at our table. The goal is to sit together and be a part of changing the ways we think about democracy, community, development, and safe space.


When you’re building a team, please remember that the implementation of SOUP requires a safe space in order to build toward an event that will also feel safe for the presenters and diners. Vulnerability is key as a team, so be kind with one another and experiment. This may require a strong facilitator; remember that while building a team.


You should be committed to the mission of promoting community-based development through crowdfunding, creativity, collaboration, democracy, trust and fun. That’s it.

We are committed to making SOUP a collaborative project that engages different parts of the community; this extends to, and is possibly most important in, the planning and implementation. Having a dedicated committee that takes on different roles in the process is essential to the success of each event and the concept in the community.

We have roles that have worked for Detroit SOUP, but if your community needs something different, empower the members of your committee to make those kinds of decisions with additions or subtractions.



The Leader is the manager and facilitator of each committee meeting and keeps track of the timeline and each member’s responsibilities. They need to plan, build agendas, and facilitate each meeting. The Leader must be a skilled facilitator and be comfortable contacting committee members one-on-one to follow up on commitments and tasks.


The Secretary takes notes at each committee meeting and works closely with the Leader to clearly highlight decisions and commitments made at each meeting. It’s best if this person can email notes to the group within 48 hours to make sure everyone stays up-to-date and is prepared for each upcoming meeting. It is important that this person documents how much money is raised at each event and who the winners, presenters, and proposal submissions came from for future reference. In some cases, the Leader assumes this role as well.


Outreach should be the responsibility of the whole committee, however, the Outreach Chair is the organizer and manager dedicated to local outreach. At a planning meeting before the dinner, the committee should brainstorm local organizations, businesses, churches, events, etc. that they can reach out to for the event. Each member should commit to doing outreach to a few organizations on the list and the Outreach Chair will manage these commitments. They are responsible for making and printing a SOUP flyer, and creating a social media page to promote the event. At each dinner, the committee should collect a list of emails to notify attendees of future SOUP dinners and other opportunities.


Having one person be the main point of contact for people submitting proposals can be very helpful, especiallly as the dinner date comes close. The Proposal Chair will work closely with the Outreach Chair to find ideas in the community. This person will check in with proposal drop-off locations and manage an online proposal submission form. At least a week before the dinner, the board will need to decide which proposals should present at the dinner. The proposal chair should facilitate this process at the meeting and be the main point of contact for all proposal submitters.

This means:

  • Notify winners they will be presenting at the dinner and what to expect.
  • Notify proposal submitters not selected to present and offer a few points of feedback, encourage them to attend the event (perhaps even to bring food and speak), and resubmit their proposal in the future.
  • At each dinner, the proposal chair should check-in with each presenter before the dinner begins to make sure they know the agenda, which order they’re speaking in, and to answer any last-minute questions presenters may have before they speak.


SOUP was conceived as a potluck where attendees are encouraged to bring a dish to share. In practice, this is an opportunity for people to make a 60-second announcement in front of all attendees to promote an organization, business, or upcoming community event. To ensure enough food is present at the dinner, the Food Chair often works with other committee members. They are responsible for getting enough food donations for the dinner, communicating with food-makers before the event, managing the list of potential food-makers from a sign-up sheet at each event, and helping set up and manage the food table during the dinner.


To promote art and creativity in our communities, the Artist Chair is responsible for securing an artist feature for each SOUP. This person should also be responsible for making sure there is music (even just plugging in an iPod is fine) when people come in and during the dinner (unless this is part of the artist performance).


The Diversity Chair should be engaged with different aspects of your community and willing to speak out about important issues facing your events. As well, this person should work with the committee and the Leader to find ways to be more inclusive. This could include food choices, audience members, outreach, and other important conversations that arise.

NOTE: Many of these roles and responsibilities are shared throughout the process of planning and implementing SOUP dinners, but empowering your committee to take the lead on certain aspects will instill a sense of ownership over the success of this project in your community. SOUP shouldn’t feel like a lot of work, it should be fun and rewarding.

Since people are the most important part of SOUP, it is important to be constantly thinking about the needs of the people that are coming to the event. When choosing a location, it should be accessible, familiar enough for audience members, comfortable enough, and accommodating. Detroit SOUP and its neighborhood SOUPs have used coffee shops, church meeting rooms, soup kitchens, event spaces, warehouses, empty storefronts, art galleries, urban gardens, and school cafeterias.

The Citywide Detroit SOUP event (in its current form) is held at an old film production studio, and it is a large enough space for the 250+ diners that the event brings in each month. Our events encourage people to step out of their comfort zones, so the space is raw with wooden floors, brick and cement walls, and high ceilings. To accommodate all sorts of people, seating options include floor seating, bleachers, some tables and chairs, and there are people standing during busier events. This can be and often is adapted, manipulated, and changed with each SOUP.


  • vacant storefronts - with permission of the owners, we have collaborated with local artists to put a little paint on the walls, install some construction lights, and add a portable toilet. Just a few additions and we had a new space to reimagine possibilities.
  • church basements - this could be a barrier to entry for some, but in some of our neighborhoods, it feels right.
  • coffee shops at night - on off-hours, many of these can fit 75-100 people.
  • restaurants- there are many restaurants that close often on Mondays or Tuesdays, so we use the space (and their chefs) to supply the space and cook.
  • community centers - these are usually ready for any event needs.
  • school gymnasiums - amazing spaces because they are already set up for students with tables and this can be great way to involve families.
  • dance studios - these can be fun, just be careful of the floors!
  • co-working spaces - these usually come with a small kitchen, a community of engaged entrepreneurs and a unique setting.
  • artist residencies or gallery spaces - usually spacious, these offer an artistic environment that can aid conversations and collaborations.
  • parks or park pavilions - this may not work in all seasons so you might need to come up with a second option. But, it’s still a fun communal meeting space with great potential.
  • dance club - it is already set up with sound systems and vacant space. Often clubs need to find money making opportunities during the day or early on weeknights.

Pick a date and start

In the spirit of fun, unless someone is getting paid to run this thing, don’t do it monthly - try quarterly or six times a year. It’s a lot of work. You already are a hero for doing it. Don’t sacrifice your life for this thing or it will swallow you and your volunteers up, and you might not be friends with the people when it’s over. In Detroit, we do a monthly dinner (minus July and August). We take this welcomed break in the summer because of beautiful Michigan summers and the need for refreshing rest. We don’t want to sit inside when the sun is shining, and our attendance has never been spectacular in the summer for that reason. It works for us, but that’s just our community.

For our neighborhoods, the committees are charged with three SOUPs a year. It works out lovely, we retain the gracious commitment of our teams and there is a nice break in between the dinners. If people are volunteering, this is a good way to value one anothers time and efforts.

Try not to get stuck in the preparation stage when you’re starting a SOUP. Once you have a committee dedicated to a shared vision and that’s ready to start this project, then just start. Pick a date and a location, and then start telling people what’s happening.

We’ve had the most success with committees that allow at least 2 months before their first event. Make sure to set some guidelines and set goals for your team, but remember that this is supposed to be fun and empowering - be flexible and kind to one another. We have a general timeline that works for Detroit SOUP’s communities, but work with your committee and community to decide what works for your SOUP.


Outreach for SOUP is two-fold. You need to get people to feel empowered to present their ideas to their community as well as people to come watch the presentations, learn about their community, and vote on the project that speaks loudest to them. Once details are set for your event, it is time to sharpen your message and start telling people about what impact SOUP can have for your community. If you’re starting a SOUP, it’s probably a relatively new concept to most people. Not only that, but the thought of empowering people through democracy can seem like a foreign concept in many communities.


For SOUP to work, you need to have people present about their ideas. That means, encouraging diverse sets of people to submit proposals about ideas they can share with people that are invested in that community. We’ve found that starting with people that the committee is familiar with and working out from there works well.

Develop lists of groups/individuals that have had a positive impact on the community and reach out to them about their possible future projects. The first couple of events are a bit more work on the outreach side, so make sure your whole committee is working on getting the word out.



These groups and people are the ones that not only should PITCH at SOUP, but also these people should ATTEND. These are groups who are interested in community engagement as well as need small sources of funding. It is a win-win!


The proposal form that Detroit SOUP uses is simple because we want all people to feel empowered to talk about their ideas with diners at SOUP. Not only do we make the questions simple, but we make sure to have both digital and paper copies of the proposal forms to break down some of the barriers that exist in low income communities. Be mindful of your community’s needs. Remember: you are creating low barriers to entry for these ideas - be purposeful.

DETROIT SOUP PROPOSAL (Feel free to steal, adapt, empower.)

  • Outreach options that have worked for Detroit SOUP:
  • Schools (all levels)
  • Religious organizations
  • Block clubs
  • Community development groups
  • Business associations
  • Urban agriculture coalitions
  • Incubators
  • Social justice entities
  • Artists
  • Neighbors
  • Business owners
  • Nonprofits

    Your job is to create safe space for people to access both human (volunteers, phone numbers, emails, connections) and physical (more money, dance shoes, a lawn mower, etc.) resources and to leave the evening feeling empowered. There are SO many networks of people in your community, so make sure to tap into as many as you can.


    Now that you’re on a roll getting people interested in presenting at the event, they need diners to listen to their stories. The process is similar (and often overlaps) with proposal outreach, but the potential audience members need to know why they are committing their time, suggested $5 donation, and energy to SOUP.


    For lots more info on Marketing, and all the nitty gritty details of running a SOUP event, check out the PDF guide.

    • What is your project?
    • Why does this project matter to the Detroit community? (This part would be community specific for you and for our neighborhood events.)
    • How will you use SOUP grant funding towards the realization of your project?
    • What is the time frame for your project, and how could you share about its progress/completion at an upcoming SOUP?
      • You need food at your event.
      • People that bring food get 60 seconds to talk about whatever they want. That’s a powerful tool.
      • Talk to local restaurants, gardeners, or chefs and see if they will donate.
      • Have startup restaurants think of the diners as a test kitchen.
      • You need diners.
      • This is an exercise in community, collaboration, democracy, conversation, and love.
      • You need sustainable support.
      • Make sure you talk about what this will do for your community in the years to come. These projects and ideas are about supporting the longevity of your community through the passion and dedication of people that live, work, and play there.