How Hackerspaces Spend Money

Running a hackerspace is no easy task. One of the biggest issues is money — how to collect in dues and donations, managing it, and how to spend it. Everyone has different interests and would like to see the budget go to their favorite project or resource. Milwaukee Makerspace has come up with a novel way to handle this. Members pay $40 a month in dues. $35 of that goes into the general budget. The member themselves can pick where the last $5 goes.

Using the hackerspace’s software, members chose where their $5 goes each month. It can all be spent in one area or split up among different resources at the hackerspace. Members choose from many different interests like the 3D printing area, the laser lab, the forge, or specific projects like the power racing series. This results in a budget for each area which can be used for materials and parts. It also gives the hackerspace board of directors information on which resources people are interested in, and which they aren’t.

In the current budget, no one is supporting the anodizing area, but lots of people are supporting the laser lab. This is just the sort of information the board could use when planning. Perhaps they could store the anodizing tools and expand the laser lab. Click through to the link above and see how this year’s cash voting panned out.

Of course, all this only works if you have a hackerspace with plenty of active members. In Milwaukee’s case, they have about 300 members. Would this work for your hackerspace? Let us know down in the comments!

13 thoughts on “How Hackerspaces Spend Money

  1. Seems like a great idea. Unfortunately, I don’t have an active hackerspace here in Rhode Island. I never was highly involved with the Space back in PGH, but they managed to last a few years.

  2. MMS generally does a great job running their space. An active community but more so an active list and transparent communication/feedback really goes a long way!! They are very plugged into the neighborhood/community as well. A true valuable resource to the area!

  3. Just to head off a bunch of emails to our board, we use membership software from Wild Apricot that allows members to change their area contributions at will without help from the board or treasurer. https://www.wildapricot.com/

    The original reason for the system was to find a way for member to tell the board what areas they wanted to see financially supported – it takes the decisions away from a small board and lets the entire membership decide how space money is spent.

    It does a great job of getting input from members who don’t fill out surveys, actively participate in discussions on the message boards, or show up more than a few times a year.

    Tom G. retired member of Milwaukee Makerspace Board of Directors.

  4. There are a couple makerspaces around here but being California they’re all ~$150/mo which is more than I can really afford without a business justification. Given I’m looking for a software 9-5 there is none right now.

    1. There in lies the rub. For what they are charging you can get a big ticket item of your own every 6 months, or a medium ticket item every 3 months, or a couple small ticket items every month and they are yours, not a shared resource.

    2. Most of the California hackerspaces I go to have lower dues and are fairly lenient about collecting them. Here in the Los Angeles / OC area we have Null Space Labs (North Hollywood, $40/mo), 23b Shop (Fullerton, put whatever $ in the bucket), MAGlab (Pomona, $40/mo.), CrashSpace (Culver City, $38). It may cost more to become a keyholder with 24 hour access, but being a member and having access to the tools while they are open is fairly cheap.
      The ones branded “makerspace” are the ones with the high fees you describe. Burbank Makerspace (Burbank, $250/mo.), Hexlab (Chatsworth, $110/mo.), and further out, Makerplace (San Diego, $160), Vocademy (Riverside, $99/mo.) . These spaces make more sense for folks with small businesses like craftspeople making bespoke items for sale; it’s cheaper than rent and equipment rental on your own shop. They don’t really make sense for personal projects unless you have a very large disposable income. Sometimes you even have to pay extra to use a particular piece of equipment, beyond your membership dues. Makerspaces generally keep regular business hours, and *sometimes* have a better selection of equipment, but you pay much extra for that. They also often require you to pay for pricey classes before they will let you use the equipment.

  5. We charge our participants €25 per month (basically the dutch standard amount).

    We have about 100 participants that are able to pay full dues, and a few (junior or financially incapable) pay less.

    Out of the 2500 euro budget per month, 1500 goes into our rent. We then have some additional cost and the rest is used to buy tools, supplies and components. Also we like to invest in the space, recently purchased a semi-pro lasercutter, invested in a acid cabinet/fume hood/lockpicking etc etc.

    I like the idea of giving participants a small portion to vote with, but our participants are already used to making proposals to the board and also getting crowdfunds matches donations.

  6. In general, shared workspaces fail eventually unless unfairly subsidized by nonparticipating members.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

    These project spaces always go-under every 3 years as the rent-seeking economy pushes out light industry through rezoning, lease-price external-factor driven manipulation, and district community issues like property crime.

    For example, everyone contributes to purchase a machine, but without a dedicated trained operator the damage caused by unsupervised students becomes frustrating to existing operators. It is like finding out the brakes in your car spontaneously fail the longer they are not in use, and the availability is uncertain as the accountability is diffused.

    In general, the club rules should be very clear and voted on… but in practice the different personalities will favor the more dominant types.
    Your subculture will simply be appropriated, monetized, and driven into lameness even if you are careful.

    Resistance if futile… but try to enjoy the experience for as long as you can. ;-)

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