[hackerspaces] payed staff vs volunteers

Clement Quinson clem at electrolab.fr
Tue Dec 16 21:46:20 CET 2014

Hello all,
well, that is exactly our status at the Electrolab : we just recruited our
first staff in december !
Just FYI, Electrolab = 1500m² near Paris, officially a hackerspace, closer
to a makerspace given our equipment.

We've been running our non profit for four years on volunteers only, and 6
months ago we moved to a bigger space (from 150 to 1500m²). It sort of
always was part of the plan to have paid staff at some point to handle such
a big space. We're just having some sort of an egg & chicken issue : you
need someone here full time to start new activities (think workshops with
kids -> during the day, when most of our volunteers do work, think
coworking space, same issue...), and these activities shall get some money
in to actually be able to fund these salaries.

Thankfully, we've found a heavily subsidised (by the state) contract, which
in the end isnt that expensive, and which core members can, if required,
pay with their own money for the transition time.
We've also recruited someone who has been a member for a long time, knows
the group & environment quite well, while at the same time not being a
suuuper involved/often present volunteer.
So far, so good... but I cannot really give you a valuable feedback, as we
just started this whole "having paid staff" thing :)

BTW about cleaning up the space, we had a discussion something like 2 years
ago. The question we discussed in the yearly member meeting was something
like this:
- the space is dirty most of the time.
- The board thinks it is a problem.
- the board cannot clean after you all the time
- the board choses to attribute some of our budget to the cleaning, but
would like to think about two scenarios: first one, we pay x €/month to a
company that will come and clean the space. Second one, some members
organize a cleaning each week, at a specific time (eg, a proper cleaning),
and we keep note of who/which group comes to do so. The money budgeted for
the cleaning then goes to the subsidised project they support.

In the end, members chose the second version (eg, do not pay someone else
for something as trivial as cleaning). It did work quite well for like...
12?18 months ? and these days, well... it doesn't work that well, but for
other reasons (huge evolution on the operations of our space after a x10
increase in its size).

On Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 9:00 PM, Florencia Edwards <floev22 at gmail.com>
> This is good , thanks. Any space that had volunteers and changed to payed
> staff?
> 2014-12-16 5:09 GMT-03:00 JB Zurn <jbzurn at gmail.com>:
>> I am a member of a nonprofit hackerspace, and also helped start a space
>> with employees nearby.
>> In my experience it has been beneficial to have -both- types of groups
>> (with employees, and all volunteers).
>> The volunteer spaces can have great communities and you can meet many
>> interesting people, doing things for fun.
>> The space with employees is great for starting businesses. When you are
>> trying to run a business, you need to know the machines will work & that
>> they will be available at a specific time. Employees monitor the space and
>> machines.
>> We've found it is actually nice to have the spaces separate. You can send
>> the people who are over-utilizing machines for work, to the professional
>> space. And the people who want to hang out and chit-chat, you can send them
>> to the volunteer club.
>> Another thing that is working for us. You don't want people to leave the
>> volunteer club. People rarely get the kind of community in a business
>> environment, that you have in a club. That social environment is helpful to
>> people.
>> Simple solution - set the membership fees for the professional space high
>> enough.  Then if someone is a member of the volunteer club, you can deduct
>> their dues from the professional space membership. That way, they don't
>> have to choose one over the other.
>> -Brooks Zurn
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