Money and resources are key issues for all Hackerspaces.
In many instances you’ll find that your resources can come from your co-hackers – someone might have furniture or tools (or they might know someone), or someone in your Hackerspace circle knows how to – or is motivated to – do something that needs to be done. Pull resources from your co-hackers, and when in doubt, ask around. However, don’t expect that you can get everything for free or that the tools and equipment you get as donations will work, or be safety compliant.
Money is fuel for your fire. Here is a list of common costs to expect. These items below are the costs you will have to pay for monthly or semi-regularly, except for project consumables (materials) and maintenance of equipment.
Rent - Usually the most capital intensive line item that is paid monthly as a space is starting up. Use this example equation to calculate your annual rent costs and plan a budget:
$1 per Sq Ft * 2000 SqFt per month * 12 months = $24,000 / year
Utilities - These are the basic resources that make your space more habitable. You’ll need electricity, water, heat, waste removal, recyclables removal, and an Internet connection.
Insurance - If your space is being set up in the United States it is a common stipulation for commercial leases to require a general liability insurance policy in place with $1-2 million in coverage before keys are handed over for the property. Depending on location, and coverage requirements it may range from $500 – $2000 or higher per year. Directors & Officers liability insurance may also be useful.
Permits - Some municipalities and federal organizations may require permits, and they’re usually not free. This can vary from an Air Emission permit to run your laser cutter or to do new construction inside your space, or needing a permit to hang a sign outside. Check with your local municipal offices so you don’t get stung – or worse, shut down – until you become compliant.
Consumables - Materials utilized for projects: sometimes you can get these donated, but for specific items (such as 80/20 aluminum stock, lumber, raw plastic materials, wiring, solder, or Arduinos) you’ll have to pay for it.
Tools and equipment - If you want to write code, this means laptops or servers. If you want to weld you’ll need a welding rig and clamps; to cut acrylic, a laser cutter – and no matter what, plenty of extra safety gear. Make a list with all the items your co-hackers want and affix a price tag for new or used versions.
Staff - You might want someone (dependable) to handle your administrative work instead of it all falling on you, or instead of depending on volunteer hackers. An intern can deal with paperwork while you go hack on stuff, and they can be paid or unpaid – as long as you agree to compensate for their time in a concrete way, and agree on expectations about their time.
To pay for all of this, you have a lot of options. This list is not definitive, but it’s a great start:
- Membership dues
- Product Sales
- Fundraising: bake sales, car washes, parties, raffles, silent auctions, etc.
- Corporate Sponsorship
- Space Rental
Just remember to be flexible in your funding sources and not to rely on one method. You may have a sponsorship stop or your membership drops below the minimum required to keep the lights on – and this would spell trouble for your Hackerspace.
Bank Accounts & Payment Processing
If you take money in for your organization, it’s probably not the best idea to stick it under a mattress. You must set up a way to store your funds and turn on the ability to process non-cash payments like debit and credit, or Bitcoins. I’ll go into more detail on this, and the prospects of legal incorporation in a forthcoming post. Just remember to get your ducks in a row before you have a pile of cash frozen or your account cancelled.
A good rule of thumb that is followed by many Hackerspaces I’ve worked with is to keep a three-month “rainy day” buffer of funds handy “just in case.” Make an estimate, and don’t touch that money unless things get desperate. Of course, having a longer cash reserve is always better.
After you have settled on a model (which you can change later) for you and your co-hackers to support your Hackerspace it’s time to focus on the space itself.
The next step is How To Start A Hackerspace: Part 6 – Get Your Space Ready