[hackerspaces] How to create a steady-state makerspace/hackerspace business model

Joshua Pritt ramgarden at gmail.com
Tue Jun 4 23:12:00 CEST 2013

I can tell you at Makers Local 256 we all just kinda take turns doing all
the janitorial stuff.  Basically when the piece of trash you're trying to
throw away won't balance on top of the pile of garbage that's piled up past
the top of the trash can you should probably take it out.  Or just find a
can with a smaller pile on top.
Our ~50+ members are all also volunteers for all the maintenance that our
~4000 sq ft space needs.  And the great part is that it all just kinda
works itself out and things get done.  If we run out of garbage bags
someone will just go out and buy another box of them.  If the space starts
to get chock full of clutter and people start to complain then we just have
a shop cleanup day (usually on a Saturday  and it all gets cleaned up.  So
our cleaning/janitorial costs usually come down to the costs of soap,
cleaners, bags, etc. which a subset of members basically all end up taking
a turn purchasing themselves.  I'm not sure if we even have any money in
our rent/bills/other costs treasury to cover any of these costs.

As far as paying the rent and bills we have two kinds of donations: monthly
member donations and random off the street/visitor/corporate donations.  To
become a member you fill out the membership application first.  There is a
line in there to fill out how much you wish to donate monthly.  And that
can be whatever amount you think the place is worth to you as long as you
stick to that number each month so the treasurer can do the numbers easier
and see if we have enough for the month, etc.  This has worked for several
years now and it should keep working well into the future based on the
number of new members we keep adding here and there.

Some of the tools and large equipment like laser cutters, CNC tables, and
welders are on loan to the shop and completely owned and purchased by a
single member.  Anyone is free to use them as long as they are "checked
out" on them by the owner or someone else that has been checked out and
known not to break it.  Sometimes people donate a little money to use them
to cover costs like our laser cutter and sometimes a subset of us will
divide the cost of repairs or replacement up from our own pockets.
Some of the other tools and equipment are purchased by several members at
once by dividing up the cost and kept there at the shop for anyone to use
in the same manner.  Same check out procedure and same random donations to
use them apply.
Some of the equipment like digital power supplies, oscilloscopes  and the
like are donated by local companies that upgrade to the newer stuff and
give us their hand-me-downs.  Or sometimes we go dumpster diving for broken
things and just fix them.

All of this with hardly any governing other than our bylaws on our wiki and
the general rule of thumb based however loosely on the Golden Rule.  I've
heard some people are amazed that this all works as well as it does.
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