[hackerspaces] New to the list and have some questions on offering classes

Nathaniel Bezanson myself at telcodata.us
Thu Sep 27 19:02:26 CEST 2012

At i3 Detroit, we hardly ever charge for classes. There's a somewhat neglected writeup here:

On our calendar, we have a lot of informal events. Hangouts, birds-of-a-feather, whatever you want to call them. There's no attendance limit, and they're generally announced on our mailing lists. Sometimes we talk about 'em on the main site blog, which gets a much broader readership. For these sorts of things, it doesn't matter how many people show up, the more the merrier. 

And then, there are more-formal events and classes, of the sort that get deliberately advertised to the outside world. These get a little more planning, and we usually use Eventbrite as an easy registration system that lets people claim seats and helps us plan for how many folks might show up. It's especially handy for very-small groups, like one I'm leading Saturday where five or six people is about the limit. If it books up, we'll run it again soon!

I've never charged money for a class that I've run, though a few other members have. What I do is take a break about halfway through the class, and mention that there's pop in the fridge, maybe lead an expedition to the kitchen so we can all grab a drink. While everyone's relaxing, I'll gesture to the donation jar, and explain about how i3 is a nonprofit, and where our money comes from, and how much we spend on rent and utilities, and what a similar class might cost over at TechShop. Once the gasps of horror subside, I wander outside, or to the bathroom, or something else for a few minutes. When I come back, there's invariably a bunch of cash in the jar. Then I thank everyone for their support and continue on with the second half of the class. 

That's aside from materials fees, of course. If we're using consumables, everyone pays their share, even members. But for the class time itself, it's free, and if people find value in it, they're welcome to contribute whatever they feel is appropriate. I've never been disappointed in the jar's contents at the end of the night.

It occurs to me that our treasurer's paypal address should be written on the donation jar. 

As for what happens to the money afterward, that's a matter of some discussion. We did a member survey recently where the overwhelming majority thought that folks leading classes should pocket some portion of the proceeds. I was surprised by that, as I've always just thrown it into the general fund. I think there might be tax implications to splitting it up, and frankly I'd rather not worry about that. It does strike me as totally cool that the member who "earned" that money should have some say on how it's spent, such as, "we just had a really well-received electronics class, I'd like the group to spend that money on a new oscilloscope", or whatever. Alternately, it might be interesting to put out two jars, labeled "instructor" and "group"? I dunno. 

One more thing:

In all the above, I spoke of a single instructor for simplicity, though in reality, a "buddy system" works much better. There's a subject-matter expert who actually leads the activity, and there's a guest-wrangler who helps with everything else. From signing guests in at the door, to showing people where the bathroom is, to making sure pens and power strips get where they're needed, all the stuff that would interrupt the flow if the instructor had to do it. This turns out to be a really great way to convince folks at the right-edge of the proverbial Dunning-Kruger curve that they really do have what it takes to lead their own classes, and to help newbie members feel helpful. Sometimes both at once.


Ward De Ridder wrote:

Hi Phil

I can tell you how we organize it (at hackerspace voidwarranties Antwerp).
We don't have the problem of having too many people over at a workshop, 
so I don't know a solution for that.

But as for price, most of the time we say members: free, non-members: €5 
(about $6,5). If we have a really expensive speaker, or some material 
will be provided (like components for some soldering workshop) we charge 
more for both members and non-members. Members from other hackerspaces 
pay the same as our own hackerspace.


On 09/22/12 19:55, Phillip Broussard wrote:
> Hey all, I'm Phil with the SquidFoo hackerspace. I've been lurking on
> the list for a bit but I finally found a reason to introduce myself.
> We need to start offering some classes/training to our members and the
> public. Do you all have any suggestions or advice for doing this? I'm
> worried we will offer a class and allow to many people to register or
> limit it to to few. Pricing is also an issue. We have no idea what we
> should charge or what things should be a free service.
> Any way, nice to meet you all and thanks for the advice.
> Phil
> _______________________________________________
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> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss

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