SOUP Returns With New Leadership, Structure

By Chris Hubbuch
La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Launched in 2015, SOUP is a “micro-granting dinner” designed to support creative projects. For $5, attendees get soup and bread and listen to pitches for projects. They vote for their favorite, and the money goes to the winning idea.

La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

The local crowd-funding effort known as SOUP is back with new leadership and a focus on accountability.

Four people will pitch ideas for community betterment projects Tuesday night under the auspices of a formal organization with a board of directors.

Executive director Josh Court said La Crosse SOUP is registered as a limited liability corporation, and the board has voted to pursue nonprofit status as part of an effort to restore credibility and keep the popular event going after its founder stepped down last year after redirecting donations to pay for a promotional video.

Launched in 2015, SOUP is a “micro-granting dinner” designed to support creative projects in La Crosse. For $5, attendees get soup and bread and listen to pitches for projects. They vote for their favorite, and the money goes to the winning idea.

Past events have provided money for a bike fix-up station, a community forest and to send kids from the Boys and Girls Club to a leadership summit.

Court said the mission remains the same: to support creative projects that “bring the community closer together.”

But now the quarterly events will showcase pitches vetted by the 12-member board, and winners will be expected to provide periodic updates to the board and the community. Board members will also help strengthen proposals and the execution of projects.

“We’re making sure we’re working especially with that winning pitch to help that pitch come to fruition,” Court said. “We’re doing some of those things to really work on building trust.”

Andrew Londre, who founded La Crosse SOUP and ran it largely by himself, last year admitted using $8,500 in donations for student-generated community projects to fund a promotional video highlighting several local startups, including one he claimed to have co-founded.

In December, Londre said he made the decision after all but one of 10 students failed to complete their projects by the end of the school year. He later offered to refund donations to anyone who wanted their money back.
Londre did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

The creators of the video series, which was to be distributed through web streaming sites such as YouTube, said they planned to highlight young entrepreneurs in half a dozen cities while promoting the idea that millennials can change the world.

Producer Brandon Adams said Friday the La Crosse segment has not been edited and did not provide a release date.

Court, a social worker and administrator at Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Franciscan Healthcare, said he first got involved with SOUP last fall when he helped recruit people to pitch at the fall event.

“I just kind of loved the idea of what SOUP was,” he said. “I really got hooked on the process and the event itself.”

Court said he began talking with Londre about taking it over in the fall and took control of the website and Facebook page in January.

He turned to Rick Kyte, director of the DB Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership, for advice. Kyte, who also serves as a community member of the Tribune editorial board, recommended establishing a board of directors with broad community representation.

“That was the first step,” Kyte said. “Giving the organization some accountability and giving the group a reputable board that he’s answerable to.”

The board then had to decide whether to retain the name or make a clean break.

“There was some real success with SOUP,” Kyte said. “Despite what happened there’s some name recognition. Name recognition is worth a lot.”

Court said there was clear support for sticking with SOUP, a label used for similar community events worldwide, and that the organization is grateful for Londre’s past efforts.

“We thank Andrew for bringing SOUP to La Crosse and all the work he put into it,” he said. “The board is excited to take this project and build on past successes.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top