Discussion Thread: Member donations of equipment and materials to VHS

VHS as a member run organization has been helped tremendously over the years by folks who have shared their experience with other members, volunteered their time to help keep the space running and also donated tools, materials, and equipment to the space. We would not be here today without all of these contributions.

However with this growth there comes a continual stream of more tools, materials and equipment coming into the space.

The way donations works now is pretty much anyone can show up at VHS and drop off anything and it gets added to our 3 week bins or left somewhere in the space.

What this usually means that someone else at VHS will spend time and effort reviewing this stuff, deciding if we need it and then doing something with it.

The current steps involved in this process seem to be.

  • Decide if we want to keep it. (i.e. Does VHS need it or want it?)
  • If it is decided to keep the item then we need to
  • Figure out where it lives. With limited space this can be somewhat of an issue
  • Get the item into a working state. This can take significant time and effort
  • Document it on the Wiki so that members can find it/use it. Let members know if it can be hacked or not. If it require training. What to do if it breaks etc
  • If VHS decides NOT to keep it then it now must be disposed of somehow.

The above process is a time consuming and continuous process that is not frictionless. There seem to be generally polarizing views on each piece of equipment which can lead to some lively discussions and also hurt feelings.

SO… With this in mind I would love to open a discussion about member contributions of equipment and materials to the space and possible ways to make this easier for all involved.

One idea of mine is that if you wish to donate something to the space then should ask in the appropriate talk/slack channels if others are interested in this donation prior to bringing anything into the space.

Another idea is that if your donation is accepted then you or some other person must become the designated champion of that thing before it is even brought into the space. What this means is that champion of that thing would

  • Document the thing on the Wiki.
  • Find a place for it to live at VHS
  • Make sure that the thing is in working order or if not working then collect all the required parts to get it up and running and/or lead a team that will do this
  • Set a time frame for when this thing will be functional by

It seems to me that If a champion cannot be found then likely VHS should pass on a particular donation.

Just looking for ways to hack the flow of stuff at VHS!

What are your thoughts?


Friendly Donor Person:
“Hi - I’d like to donate this random awesome thing
to VHS.”

Thanks for your offer FDP! Please tell us…

  1. Does the item work?
  2. Have members agreed on talk they want it and that it fits in the space?
  3. Will you be maintaining/championing this piece of equipment, if not, is
    there someone else who will be?

If the answer to any of the above is no - please donate elsewhere. Thanks

1 Like

I noticed low read count on the per equipment piece threads (~40) compared to >1000 for 3d printer training, for example. Arguably those are really (implied) votes to junk it. If people don’t care to read about the equipment, will they ever use it ? Obviously not I think. Which is to say I think you could go even more aggressive on the no dumping policy and set some reasonable usefulness criteria.

I dislike the idea of tossing stuff. Part of the appeal to the hackspace is
that there is equipment available to be hacked. But I recognize that some
people want to have a cleaner space so I’m not objecting to @majicj taking
the initiative to clean things up.

Personally I feel that there is lots of unused space in the hackspace and
that we shouldn’t be tossing stuff until the space is actually full. But
that’s just my opinion.

1 Like

Ditto. But then shelving has to be built. And the interior design suffers no matter what. I think @xquared has the right idea about priorities for the space. Ditto deference to @Majicj who not only documented the possibly junk equipment but had to have done a lot of sifting as well.

Yeah, with better organization and better shelving we’d have more space
available for everyone. I mean, sure, we are going to get more space
available by cleaning up everything and chucking things out but now we have
less resources available to use.

I’d rather have lots of resources available to use than less, and I know
that others do feel the same way. Having those resources available to me is
the appeal, even though I might never use them. Like I’ve never used the 3d
printers but knowing that they are available to me is one of the reasons
why I am a member.

It’s like the vinyl cutter, I’ve never seen it used, but I know that people
want it.

But with that being said I’ve got nothing against what @majicj is doing,
because some of the stuff isn’t needed and he isn’t chucking things out
blindly. I’m glad he’s doing his due diligence.


bump - back to how to deal with donations…

Maybe talking out my ass here, but shifting focus to the more key community values might be rewarded with the kind of space that allows to keep the potential resources around i.e. not have to do the difficult trade-off analysis, conflicts of opinion etc.
Im not sure what it would take to attract a potential donor of space. Maybe look at what kinds of tax write-off are available to a donor ? Aside from that hacking is antithetical to urban society which makes it hard to sell I’d think. Maybe the toastmasters concept has something to offer ?

@Janet TLDR; make space for donations, keep accepting them, continue using
our current system of purging stuff.

what system? Actually scratch that question. I don’t want to distract from a discussion of donation handling. :smile:

I say no “donations” at all unless directors approve.

@Janet three-week-bin system.

I don’t see any problem with the way we are doing things and I don’t see it
problematic or time consuming.

The three week bin is great. I totally agree with you Toma.

I’m talking about random dumpings/donations that don’t seem to be managed by that system. i.e…they’re just left at the space in a corner.


Toss it in the three week bin?

Did someone leave a bunch of stuff in the corner recently that I am not aware of?

Yes a few things, but they have been sorted out with the owners.

Presuming the answer is ‘no’:

At VHS we really try to not make the Board of Directors a dumping ground for random administrative tasks. Ideally the BoD pays the rent and other bills, tracks the bank account, manages the relationship with the landlord, and gets to spend the rest of their time hacking stuff like everyone else.

If you want a designated group to handle donation processing, feel free to convene such a group and invite others to join. If you think it needs official VHS buy-in, propose a new committee at a QGM. Or you could do what anyone else has done who has ever managed donations, and just do it.

The donations tend to be of relatively little value. Same thing at VCL: about a dozen arc welders, many of them antiquated or non-functional. There for not a donation but a liability once disposal costs factor in.

I didnt say the directors have to do anything.

Wait, what?

I say no “donations” at all unless directors approve.

I’m confused.

No… If I understand the gist of what you said, it’s Do-ocracy ie You leave stuff at your own risk, unless you want to administer a safekeeping program. Directors identities are public so nobody can be be prevented from asking you anything anyway… I wouldn’t expect a response necessarily, but…