Few movies have aged like It’s A Wonderful Life, the iconic Christmas classic most of us grew up watching. As of December 2, 2020 Esquire ranked it as the #1 Christmas movie of all time.
If you are one of the aliens dropping monoliths around the world and haven’t seen it, the story follows George Bailey, a dreamer who wants adventure but seems unable to escape the small town he’s from. He grows embittered with life and reaches a breaking point, but an angel appears and helps him find true meaning.
Alert: If you have not seen it in the 74 years since its release, stop everything and go watch it now.
*Spoiler Alert (twice, because we care)* The movie ends with the entire town rallying around George Bailey’s business, the Bailey Building & Loan, to help it pay off its debts. Neighbors that George helped in the past literally toss in the cash onto a big table. Heck, even the debt collectors caught up in the moment toss some dollars on the table and start singing with the jolly crowd.
If ever there was a pure picture of crowdfunding, that would be it. But it’s important not to confuse the context. The reasons George’s neighbors contributed weren’t because he had an innovative, flashy business. It wasn’t because he would disrupt entire industries. They contributed because either he had helped them or simply because they trusted him.
Once the trust was built, George simply had to present his need to the public.
This film was made in 1946, but we believe the collective trust of a community has never been more relevant. Established small businesses or startups with well-loved products are especially well-positioned to experience that trust. (Particularly when they’re operating in a location full of pride.)
The parallels end there because George’s neighbors were essentially donating. It was goodwill; they didn’t expect returns. Vicinity is inviting community members to invest in the places they know and trust, betting on the future of their cities and the people building them. These are not donations, and while there is always the risk that you lose your investment, there is also real potential to build personal wealth with financial returns. You can diversify your portfolio and build the community around you at the same time.
Investment crowdfunding, aka microinvesting, gives all investors (not just the wealthy ones) the opportunity to put their money in places like local pizzerias, chocolate makers, coworking spaces, or working mom-empowering startups.
If that ending scene of It’s A Wonderful Life tugs at your heartstrings, take a moment and ask yourself why. You have the potential to live out that scene in your community AND make investments with people you believe in. This Christmas be a good neighbor to one of your local businesses with an investment that will make you, George Bailey and your community proud.