Topic for Tuesday's meeting: Membership Levels, prices, and privileges/RFID Cards


There was some discussion today during the Board Meeting about the different Membership levels, their monthly cost, and the privileges associated with those various levels.

During Tuesday’s meeting, I will bring that conversation forward to the Tuesday night meeting so that we can get the consensus of the rest of the membership.

What was discussed in summary:

  • changing the $13.37 (Elite/Contributing) membership level for non-students to $25.00/month.

If you’re a student, this would not change your monthly rate, however, if you are a contributing member, this would change your rate to $25.00/month.

Also, if you are a Student or Full member, and you have not received your RFID access card, please come see myself or Jon Neal and we’ll get you signed up for a card that will get you into the space.


I won’t be at Tuesday’s meeting, but I think the student rate should be abolished and students can join at the contributing rate or pay full membership cost for full access. Or, make the student rate income-based and allow anyone to receive full membership at the $13.37 discounted rate if they don’t have the funds to pay full price.

Although I might support the change in membership fee increase , I am not understanding as to the rational behind the change.

If the reason for the change is based on financial constrains within the hive then I would fully agree. however i would prefer to seek alternative options to accomplish this shortfall.


  • Driving new membership ( this is essential component to increase revenue. Maybe need to set a membership adoption target)
  • Ensuring members pay ( if the difficulty now is collecting payments recommending an increase in fee wouldn’t help the payment to membership rate increase)
  • Seek hive sponsor to reduce monthly expenses( e.g internet , light etc)

If the above recommendations don’t make up for shortfall in revenue I would gladly pay an additional membership fee. Although the hive is not a business itself it has the core elements of one and in any business your end user(members) should not be used to make for financial shortfalls unless there are now other options.

However if its just an increase for no major reason then I couldn’t justify my support for the increase in membership.

New Topic suggestions

Below are a list suggestion I would like to hear discussed during our weekly Tuesday meetings.

  • payment to member ratio by percentage ( monthly)
  • acknowledgment or welcome of new members ( important, would be nice that new members get a welcome kit)
  • new membership count against goal ( monthly)
  • recap of any work done to enhance the hive facility by the board or members
  • recap of upcoming events within and outside the hive


I won’t be at Tuesday’s meeting, but I think the student rate should be abolished and students can join at the contributing rate or pay full membership cost for full access. Or, make the student rate income-based and allow anyone to receive full membership at the $13.37 discounted rate if they don’t have the funds to pay full price.


I’m a big fan of making sure that everyone enters with enough knowledge to make a great decision. Since numbers can be difficult to understand and process during a live meeting, I’ll share what I have with the group:

Our member distribution is as follows:

Elite: 40.82% (20)
Full: 51.02% (25)
Cornerstone: 8.16% (4)

Our Income distribution:

Elite: 14.02% (267.40)
Full: 65.53% (1250.00)
Cornerstone: 20.45% (390)

Our electricity is included with our rent.

Our Internet is $~60/month, and that doesn’t include the donated internet service that DaveB is actually giving to the hive right now to increase its capacity.

We are working on a plan for on-boarding new members as they join the hive. This is still up in the air as far as content, but, we are looking at using videos for the delivery of the content.

The things that we’d like to see are more project-based storage space, along with general improvements and more on-site items for restocking when needed. I want to keep things like an extra spool or two of welding wire at the hive, both through hole and SMD resistors/caps/transistors/555’s/etc, hobby stepper motors and encoders, and the like. For non EE-nerds, things like fabric pencils, PVC tubing, hot glue items, and assorted colors and thicknesses of paper would be beneficial to keep around the hive.

We are running into space limitations at the hive – we’re nearing the point where we’re running out of space to expand, and are in need of some long term project space, along with space for storage of materials that are needed for the hive (raw materials along with space for incoming donations).

All monthly events for the hive are posted on the Hive Calendar that is kept on the Hive13 website.

This isn’t about “Driving more people” to the hive right now, but this is more of a “Make sure that the hive has enough money to pay for new equipment, materials, and services to keep serving its membership” play. I don’t want to set an artificial count on the number of members that we /should/ have every month – we want the type of individuals at the hive who can foster the right community and educational goals that the rest of us have – and setting an artificial limit could mean that we sacrifice quality for quantity. We don’t have an issue with people paying the hive – generally speaking, everyone pays with paypal, and we (now) have an automated process that turns off their RFID card once the member has been inactive for the grace period that is defined in the bylaws (yes, this is a trick to get everyone to read and get more familiar with the bylaws).

I look forward to discussing this with everyone tomorrow night.



Thank you very much for the excellent information you have covered it all in your reply.

So based on a quick mental calculation if agreed upon, the membership fee increase will give us close to $250 boost in monthly revenue assuming the current membership standings stays the same.

Now the big question will be would we lose members due to the increase in student members fee.

I guess this could be discussed further at tomorrow’s meeting.


Not to complain but, I thought you might like an outsiders view on this;

I’m not a member at the moment but am a potential member. While I have most of the equipment and tools to do much of the projects I want to take on at my house my primary reason to join this group would be to get the benefit of experience from it’s members. I have yet to make a meeting due to work and life getting in the way so I have little knowledge of what the Hive has to offer (other than what I’ve read). I’ve been reading through the posts here and checking out the website and up until I read this thread was fully prepared to join.

I’ve been a volunteer and board member of a large 501c organization for many years so I do understand the monetary challenges they face. Unfortunately that much of a price hike would cause me to forgo becoming a member and I think it would turn other potential members away as well. There’s a point where each person has to weigh the monthly cost with the benefit and for those people that are on the outside looking in as I and many others are, the monetary burden would cause most of us to just say it isn’t worth it.

The problem you guys have is that the benefits your group offers to a potential member is relatively unknown but the cost is not. This makes it a pretty hard sell to anyone who watches where their money goes (and there’s a lot of us these days).

To my knowledge Jeff, we’ve never turned people away that wanted to come hang out. There are plenty of non-members that come around on a pretty regular basis for things ranging from 2600 to CAN group to just weekly meetings to hang out. While the benefits are unknown for an outsider, the door is more open than closed in terms of being able to come and see what things are about. Changing membership levels isn’t going to affect this policy. Those who are motivated to come around and see what there is to see will still have equal opportunity to do so.

Just my 2 cents.

Since Tiffany and I are missing the meeting tonight (2nd year anniversary!) thought I’d share my 2cents…

One reason we are talking about this now is changing membership. Over the last year or two, we have increased the number of E-LITE and student members while full members have decreased. So, although the Hive isn’t in immediate financial danger, our revenue-to-membership ratio has decreased.

I think membership dues depends a lot on the vision for Hive13. If we want Hive to provide awesome equipment and plentiful consumable supplies for its members, we should be looking at raising dues. If we want the hive to be more of a basic space for members to socialize and work on projects with their own supplies, it’s probably less necessary. I think both of these are good things for a hackerspace to be.

Personally, I’d rather not see mandatory dues increase. I like it that we provide membership that’s affordable for students and “starving artists”. There’s also members who mostly just come on Tuesdays to socialize and swap project stories, and I don’t see it really being fair to charge them more, or force them into “guest” status. That said, we should encourage E-LITE and student members to bump up their membership if they can afford it. Maybe more incentives for full membership? (I’m a student member myself…$50/month still sounds scary to me, but I’m voluntarily bumping myself up to $25/month.)

Money issues can often be divisive…remember everyone here wants Hive13 to be the best it can!


That’s why I really think making the $13.37 membership income-based is a better idea. There are plenty of students who could afford the $50 and plenty of non-students who can’t. Since we’re not a government agency, it could be done on a case-by-case basis, but I really think the cheap-y memberships should be reserved for those who truly need a price break.

Thanks Dave for your input, openness is important to organizations like this and it’s one reason I would prefer to be a member rather than just someone who casually drops by.

Tiffany, how are you thinking an income based cheap membership be determined/enforced?


% of AGI?

I also would rather not see a mandatory increase.

In my opinion, more people paying a lower rate is preferable to fewer to people paying a higher rate. In other words, it’s actually good if the ratio of (revenue)/(members) decreases. This has been one of our goals since the beginning[1]. It’s only bad it the absolute value of revenue decreases too much and we can’t pay the bills.

If you look at the numbers Ian quoted earlier, and my arithmetic is correct, we could survive financially even if every Elite member quit. I don’t find evidence that we need them to pay more. Now, I realize that we do want to be able to to more than just get by. We want to be able to fund awesome stuff and improve the physical space more. I personally would rather see awesome stuff get funded by a) gaining many more paying members, b) crowdfunding, or c) grants. Charging existing members more doesn’t seem as sustainable.

The benefits of a lower rate are that more people can join, bringing more diversity. You never know who might be a great member but doesn’t have a lot of disposable income. In the interest of being as open as possible, keeping the rates low is favorable.

The benefit of a higher rate is more revenue ( assuming we don’t lose more than half the people ). In theory, it also encourages a more serious commitment to membership. Someone paying more is probably less likely to join and quit frequently and is also probably less likely to trash the place, etc. I think these things are kind of cultural issues also though and we shouldn’t start the process of trying to fix them by starting on the money side of it.

My impression from the discussion on Sunday was there is concern with the cultural issue of people joining too casually, not respecting the space, and the churn rate of the Elite members. In addition, and as a separate issue, it was brought up that if we want to spend money on extras around the space like more shelving, consumable parts, etc, we would need to find a way to pay for it. I think those are two issues that are related, but not the same. Raising the rates for the Elite membership obviously affects both. I was definitely not given the impression that we were in danger of not being able to pay our bills. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Also, I just want to add that checking into people’s ability to pay / hardship is a bunch of overhead ( can of worms ) we probably don’t want to get into. I think trusting people to be honest with us and choose the rate that is right for them is the best course.

Lastly, as has been mentioned before, rate changes have to be approved by the members anyway, so if it is the will of the membership to raise the rates so be it. The members will decide in the end.


[1] - One reason I’m probably resistant to this is that it felt like a huge accomplishment to even be able to offer low rates in the first place. Many out there may not realize this, but it was $100/month for everyone for a long time at the beginning ( I think we changed it to $50 in Dec 2010 ). We struggled for a long time to get the price lower in order to get more people in. So I have a personal attachment to the goal of lowering the rates and not raising them.

Just to toss some Hive history into the ring:

When the we were first working on organizing the space we were meeting in Taza coffee house. The original membership fee was established based soley on the expenses after we found the Spring grove warehouse for the hackerspace. With the # of members and the amount of the rent + insurance it ended up being calculated that the membership fee needed to be $100 / month. I was a UC student at the time, and although I was lucky enough to have a coop job, there was no way I could have afforded $100 / month. I argued strongly for a reduced student rate and we established it as $35 / month and labeled it the "Contributing" membership.

We also setup a wiki page documenting some ideas for determining the membership fees:

The $100 / month full and $35 / month ‘contributing’ membership held for about a year and a half. There were several problems with this scheme. While we remained solvent, not many people can afford a consistent $100 / month, so our rate of new members just barely balanced out the rate we lost members. As for students, even I started to feel a pinch at $35 / month, and that was with working 6 months out of the year full time.

The other problem we ran into was each member was paying $100 / month, and we could barely afford to buy tools & supplies for the hackerspace. Aso, since the members were paying so much to just use the space, they did not have any funds left over to buy new tools for the space. Despite this, we still managed to slowly build up a stock of tools and equipment.

Eventually we decided to try an experiment: New members could sign up at $50 / month and if we could get enough new members, everyone could drop down to the $50 / month price point. As for students, as much as they don’t believe it, they tend to have more free time then people with full time jobs and we thought it was important to have as many people involved with the space as possible. The $35 / month was a burden for some students, so we dropped it down to $13.37 to make it more of a ‘token’ fee. Not free, but enough to cover some basic costs, and enough people at $14 / month does add up.

This ended up slowly building up some momentum for the space. It took a bit of time to get moving, but people at $50 / month were more likely to stick around, so while the membership rate was still slow to increase, we also had better retention of existing members. Further, it is a cascading effect. The more people we can retain at the space, the more people who will want to join the space.

At this point there are still several people who pay the old $100 / month level, they do not really get any additional benefit, but they continue contributing at that level because they want to keep supporting the space.

Going back to the wiki page that has the following formula for membership fees (with minor edits to reflect current reality):

Dues = [Total_Expenses + Spending_Cash - ($13.37 * EliteCount)] / FullCount

Using the following numbers:

  • Total_Expenses = 1275.93 / mo

  • Spending_Cash = 400 / mo

  • EliteCount = 20

  • FullCount = 29 (This is lumping the 4x $95 and $100 members into ‘full’)
    We get the following formula:

  • [1275.93 + 400 - (13.37 * 20) ] / 29

  • = 48.57 / month
    So, assuming we want to have $400 / month in spending money to improve the space, then we are right at the membership level we need. Depending how we want to tweak the ‘Spending_Cash’ variable, the needs of the membership change.

As for the current predicament around memberships, I do not really see an equitable and universally enforceable way to split the full membership tier into $50 and $25 categories without causing strife. Especially if we keep the ‘Elite’ category as it currently is defined (no voting, no door code, only $10 off classes and ‘use of the space’ which we give to almost all guests).

My suggestion would be for us to cut our loses, grandfather any current members in their current status (existing elite members with 24/7 access keep it) then enforce the existing rules that any new member who is not a student is added at the current agreed ‘full membership’ rate.

Or we can try the same thing we tried when we dropped the membership to $50. New members can join at new, lower rate, then once we hit a critical mass, all memberships drop.

I can’t access the website here at work to look at your membership rates and benefits (work blocks a lot) but if I remember correctly you have a basic membership that does not have voting rights and does not get access to the door code, in other words, is basically a guest of someone there to let them in? Since you already allow “and ‘use of the space’ which we give to almost all guests” why not allow people to be a guest for 1-2 meetings and after that they are required to join, make an affordable flat rate that allows everyone access to the door (I don’t know the reason behind not allowing access unless you’re concerned about theft).

If you have to have separate membership levels then limit the number of visits per week to the flat rate members or give perks to the Elite members.

Membership would go up if people knew they could gain access to the Hive when needed rather than when an Elite member was present. Unfortunately, you’d have to police this and from reading through these posts it seems as if there’s concern about people that would abuse the system.

There are currently three categories defined for membership:

  1. Full Member - ($50/month) 24/7 access to the space, voting rights, full use of the space’s tools without supervision as long as you know how to use the tools.
  2. Student Member - ($13.37/month) Same rights as a full member, just a lower membership cost & it requires you to be a full time student.
  3. Elite Member - ($13.37/month) This is where it gets sticky. It looks like the best definition for this we have is on the current membership page:
  • This membership level is intended for people who cannot pay for a full membership. You will have access to site materials but not voting rights, and you won’t get the code to the door
    I think the way Elite is written on the membership page, that people who are Elite members are welcome to come down to the space whenever it is currently occupied, and they can use the tools and resources of the space while they are there. However, I am not sure that we have any guidelines that say what happens when the Full members leave, I am assuming it is them left up to the Elite members to close up shop.

Bumping up from $13.37 to $25 is an extra $140 a year. I’m pretty busy during the week with sports from spring through fall and free weekends are an extreme rarity any more. Throw in the overtime I’ve been working lately (I’ll be here until 8:30p tonight) and I’m lucky if I can make it to one Tues night meeting every other month anymore, let alone find time to come it to work on projects. At $13.37 per month, I’ve been willing to continue paying my Elite Membership dues without stepping foot in the space for months at a time, because I do want to support the group… but with an increase to $25/mo, I would be seriously tempted to quit the Hive for the busiest 6 months of the year and then rejoin in late fall through spring when there’s more time for projects… this would cost me the same $160 per year I’ve been paying. It would be a real shame to have to resort to this, however…

Would there be a way to tier the payment system based on perceived use of the Hive space? I feel like this could work well with the advent of the RFID system Ian installed. Keep the “base” Elite Member dues at the $13.37 price point, and if you reach a certain number of visits per month, you get charged the additional $11.63. It would still require an honesty policy, as multiple people can enter when one person uses their RFID badge.

Maybe? Back when my grandma started the Freestore, they just met with
people and would listen to their "story." Being cheap or not thinking
you'll use the space much aren't valid reasons to pay $13.37. Then, I read
Paul's history post, and I wonder if it wouldn't be better to have the
discounted membership be required to do some sort of service to the hive in
which they're "paid" in the full membership (Dayton Diode calls it sweat
equity). Even if it's just a couple of hours of required work a month, if
it was official and tracked, it might serve the hive better in the long
run. It'd be a way to guarantee things like sweeping, bathroom upkeep,
kitchen cleaning, were done. They would also give the sweat equity
providers a reason to be around the space and more ownership in the space

I also decided to see what spaces nearby are doing. Here's a recap:
Club Cyberia (Indianapolis)
$25 non-voting member, $50 full-member

Dayton Diode
Full: $50/month, full access to the space and full consensus participation
in group decisions
2600: $26/month + sweat equity, full access to the space and full consensus
participation in group decisions
Elite: $13.37/month, magnificent karma boost and the enduring good feelings
of your local hackers

(They do a fantastic scholarship here: -- A
Makership is a $100 project stipend and 3 months worth of LVL1 membership
dues awarded to an individual in the Louisville area.)
$13.37 -- Monthly donation only (no membership)
$50 -- membership

Membership is $50.00 month, or $75.00 for you and a family member.


I feel that doing anything more complicated than solid rates at different levels would unnecessarily complicate things and make a mess.

Exceptions for those who cannot afford to pay: bring it to the board for those circumstances is an easy and flexible way to deal with that situation on a case by case basis. I think that our policy should be a bit flexible to allow those people not to be discriminated against, because they could have value and much to contribute to the community and the space.

The “number of use” idea - I highly dislike it. A large chunk of the times that I go to the hive is not to use materials or tools, rather it is to hang out or improve the space either with a project or by cleaning it up/organizing things. I know many other individuals also come to the hive without using up resources or tools, but with the intention to help improve the space physically or technologically (RFID system, Google hangout, network infrastructure, etc.). If we enforce a “pay by number of use” then effectively a large portion of our members at the elite rate would be paying extra to volunteer for the Hive.

At the board meeting we did discuss possibly talking about a “reward” such as a few laser minutes or something similar for hours recorded working to better the space. This gives a perk for the people who do good work in the space, and enjoy improving the space vs. forcing people to do something that would be of less quality to keep membership. I think a timed-volunteering requirement would really turn a lot of people off, and overly complicate things. Overall a reward system vs a “requirement/punishment” system tends to work much better in keeping people on board, and motivating people to be better.

RE: “Being cheap or not thinking you’ll use the space much aren’t valid reasons to pay $13.37.”

That seems a little harsh. Would you rather have a very inactive member paying $160 a year or get nothing from that member because they left the Hive? Is it acceptable for that member to quit and rejoin on 6 month cycles so that they feel their $25/mo is being well spent?

I’m not taking it personally or anything, so no hard feelings here. Just genuinely curious as to how everyone feels about that. I imagine I’m not the only one in that boat.