Five Dollars of your Makerspace dues…


Milwaukee Makerspace dues are currently $40 per month for a “full” membership, and we allow each member to “vote” for what areas they want to support with their dollars. In our membership software a member can choose up to five areas to fund, with a total of $5.00 per month. You can put all $5 towards one area, or split it up among multiple areas.

For instance, if you tend to use the laser cutters a lot, you can put your $5 towards the laser cutters. This compounds with the funds from other members, and creates a pool of money for the laser cutters that the Area Champion then gets as a budget. The Area Champion decides how to spend the money. They can purchase spare parts, materials, software, etc. Consumables tend to be at the top of the list for many areas. For the laser cutters that may be cleaning supplies and new lenses, and they may want to have enough cash reserve on hand to purchase something more expensive, like a new laser tube, if needed.

Other areas might stock up on tape, blades, glue, small tools, etc. Besides building up a fund for each area, the “vote with your dollars” method also allows the members (and Board of Directors) to see which areas are the most popular. (Assuming people put their money towards the areas they care about and use.)

Here’s an snapshot of the funding as of the writing of this post. (The raw data is available here.) Note that a low dollar amount doesn’t necessarily mean an area is unpopular, as they may have just spent all of their cash. It’s better to look at the monthly allocation to get an idea of the popularity of an area, listed as “Current Member Funding” on the page.

Area Dollars
3D Printing Area $830.03
Anodizing Area $0.00
Forge Area $1,198.82
Casting Area $635.25
Ceramics Area $356.04
CNC Area $496.36
Craft Lab $847.76
Electronics Lab $725.66
Metal Finishing Area $163.48
Jewelry Area $575.60
Laser Lab $2,642.60
Leatherworking Area $339.50
Maker Faire Funding $677.29
Metal Shop $1,134.20
206.76 $189.01
Power Racing $163.67
Print Area $189.80
Soda Fund $129.00
Vacuum Former $164.35
Welding Area $624.22
Wood Shop $1,482.69

Besides the $5.00 per month that members can allocate, they can also choose to donate directly to these areas using our member management software (which is built on Wild Apricot.) This is a good way to support an area that you might use infrequently. For instance, I used the Paint Room quite a lot for two weeks leading up to Maker Faire, so I just did a straight donation to that area rather than change my monthly allocation.

I mentioned “full” member above, and that’s because we also have “family” members, who are add-on members that only pay $10.00 per month for their membership. We scale down their $5.00 per month to just $1.25 per month, so they can choose up to five areas to support, but at only 25 cent per area.

Obviously not all spaces can operate in this fashion, but with close to 300 members and a good financial standing we’ve got what I think is a pretty good system.

So, how does your space do it?

(Note: I was told that the Anodizing Area was rolled into the Metal Finishing Area, so that’s why the number is $0.00. It’s still in the system due to legacy reasons.)

6 replies on “Five Dollars of your Makerspace dues…”

Any chance anyone at your space can talk to me about specifics of the WildApricot setup? I think it would be nice to try this, and we are already using WA in our Makerspace.

@Kurt – in the early days of my space (before I became a member), they did monthly events to drive traffic in. They would work on something internally for a few weeks, and then hold a public event to do whatever activity they had worked on. Space paintings with spray cans, chocolate powered rocket engines, tech recycling (making art out of old tech), Techmas was recycling tech into christmas ornaments. March of the Robots. Nowadays, you could probably draw in attendees for an overview of the Raspberry Pi or an Arduino class or 3D Printing basics.
The last year or two, we have done several Star Wars related events – the Balloon Fiesta had an opening day event with the Darth Vader & Yoda balloons. We have a table at Star Wars day this month at a local library (one of our members makes sparring lightsabers, another prop lightsabers, and another does a lot of SW related laser cut models, with patterns off the net).

Starting our second year, we are just estimating “area” budgets for replacement costs. Area improvements are voted on by the board, and informed by member polls and anecdotal grumbling. I like that the member-driven budgets avoid the “use it or lose it” mentality of prescribed budget amounts. We also use WildApricot as a back end, and opening up the option for directed donations like you mention seems like an easy step in this direction.

I am curious how the voting is handled with the actual finances. I assume that the full membership fees all go into one big account, and the spending by the area managers is handled with reporting rather than bank account driven spending limits. That is, the welding manager is informed how much she can spend, and then her purchases are grouped together and reported. Perhaps there are some spending policies maybe up to the Treasurer that avoid going over that limit.

Thanks for posting this!

Comments are closed.