[hackerspaces] Makerspace best practices in the US context (was payed staff vs volunteers)

Edward L Platt ed at elplatt.com
Wed Dec 17 17:00:18 CET 2014

Almost missed this post, glad I didn't.

+1 for preventing drive-by criticism. Similarly, there's a prof here at the
Media Lab who insists on a "no kibitzing" rule for group projects and it
makes a big difference.

Happy hacking,

On Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM, Shirley Hicks <shirley at velochicdesign.com>
> Robert,
> It sounds like you and the folks at the Dallas Makerspace are doing a
> _great_ job at building community.
> I saw your IRS tax filing numbers on both Guidestar.org and the
> Foundation Center's database (www.foundationcenter.org) while doing
> initial grant research for the Red Mountain Maker space in Birmingham, AL.
> (I'm new to writing grants, and have since recruited a more experienced new
> makerspace member) Sounds like you are doing many things right. In your
> opinion, what has made the difference for you in doing that? Leadership
> with experience in other non-profits or in the corporate world? People who
> know how to work within the US non-profit grant system?
> Am somewhat intrigued by the speed at which you have grown and your
> apparent level of success.
> Your space in Dallas is definitely on my "must visit" list when I have a
> reason to be in Dallas.
> Shirley Hicks
> Red Mountain Makers
> Birmingham, AL
> In your opinion,
> On Dec 17, 2014, at 9:36 AM, Robert Davidson <robert at dallasmakerspace.org>
> wrote:
> 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
> metal/woodshop)
> 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)
> Volunteers,
> 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
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> Discuss mailing list
>>>>> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>>>>> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
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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 <http://vps.stoned-it.com/>
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Edward L. Platt
@elplatt <http://twitter.com/elplatt>

This electronic mail message was sent from my desktop personal computer.
Please forgive any long-winded, overly-prosaic ramblings.
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