[hackerspaces] payed staff vs volunteers

Robert Davidson robert at dallasmakerspace.org
Wed Dec 17 16:36:59 CET 2014

At Dallas Makerspace we are running on both volunteers and paid services a
little background we are at 500+ Paying Members and that number is
increasing at approx 20-30 people a month and ~17,000 Square Feet of Fully
A/C space.

We hire out,
Weekly cleaning contract (Bathrooms, Trash, Vacuuming, Mopping, Dusting (We
have this done on the same day before our weekly open house))
Weekly Dumpster Pickup
Electricians that will come in that will handle the permits and connecting
up new equipment
Maintenance Contracts on the Air Conditioning and to do maintenance
(Required by our Lease but Highly recommended especially if you have a
Landscapers that come in during seasonal change to change out flowers
(Covered by the Lease)
Paid Services for equipment repair (Depending on the equipment Volunteer
Speed is way to slow and we have to hire someone to get it up fast)


Take out the trash
Give Tours
Teach Classes (We are doing a pretty cool Honorarium Program (
http://dallasmakerspace.org/teach) it's a program to pay teachers and what
they care about
Manage Committees
Enforce Policy's

Stuff we are looking for,
Full Time Teachers (Very Wide Skill-set and would need to be able to
demonstrate the ability to create a good program)
Bookkeeping (We have not gone this route we tend to do a lot of automation
but our transaction count is going up every month so it will come up)

A couple notes,

We have tried hiring members for cleaning and it just has never worked out
usually it does not scale well and members become to personal and in the
end it's a business transaction and the organization has requirements.

The honorarium program has been great addition

Volunteers are great but as the organization grows larger and larger it
becomes hard for volunteers to keep up and that is when hiring someone is
viable so you can focus on creating a great org.

Volunteer burnout  - It can be a lot of work to volunteer so from an
administrative position one of my overall goals is do anything I can do to
help the volunteers that could be hiring them help or finding more people
that will help them.

Criticism - volunteers will occasionally get criticized for volunteering,
we call this drive by criticism they have no intention of helping they are
just criticizing (Beware this is POISON and is deadly to the volunteers)

Feel free to ask any other questions

Robert Davidson
Dallas Makerspace
Board of Director

On Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 4:10 AM, Mark Janssen <maniac.nl at gmail.com> wrote:
> At revspace.nl we are running on volunteers only, we have thought about
> hiring people to do some cleaning, but in the end settled on a
> cleaning-bounty system.
> Every week there are a few (monetary) bounties that can be claimed by
> members (vacuuming the space, taking out the trash, etc), which can be
> signed-up for. The volunteers who do these tasks then get drinks-credits
> for their work.
> So far (we've been doing it for a couple of weeks), this has been working
> nicely, even if it's still mostly boardmembers and the usual suspects doing
> the cleaning, they at least feel somewhat compensated for their time now.
> It costs us a lot less then hiring a cleaner, the money still flows back
> into the space mostly, and we end up with less grumpy people.
> Note that the larger common-area's (and stuff like toilets and kitchen,
> which are shared) are cleaned by a cleaning-company hired by the landlord,
> with the costs as part of our (and everyone's) rent.
> Otherwise, we have no intention of (ever) having payed staff, this is, and
> should be, a community driven thing
> Mark
> Revspace
> On Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 9:46 PM, Clement Quinson <clem at electrolab.fr>
> wrote:
>> 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).
>> C.
>> On Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 9:00 PM, Florencia Edwards <floev22 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> 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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> --
> Mark Janssen  --  maniac(at)maniac.nl
> Unix / Linux Open-Source and Internet Consultant
> Maniac.nl Sig-IO.nl Vps.Stoned-IT.com
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