Meeting Notes 6/15/16

Erika from Creative ReUse came to tell us about how her pay organization runs (she is the Executive Director at Creative ReUse)

  • Some other agenda items were discussed after this, scroll below to see.

Meeting began 6 19 pm  6/15/16

Tom opened with mentioning that he would like to pay people at Free Ride, but he’s unsure of how he’d be able to afford offering pay as an option to volunteers.

History of Creative Re-use

– Creative Reuse is modeled on a similar organization in North Carolina. Their budget is over half a million dollars a year. They own their space. Creative ReUse was always designed to be a social venture that would pay people and generate revenue. The plan for the organisation has always been to be entirely self-supporting. Creative ReUse got some start-up funding, but CJ got much more. Revenue for CJ supports their operations, and grant funding supports new projects.

– Creative Reuse had a business plan that focused on retail space, retail staff members, along a stepped plan. Startup in PGH received 7000 from SproutFund. On 20/20 hindsight, this may have been slightly more. the PGH Creative Reuse used the money to do legal work to figure out how to get the space incorporated, the starters paid themselves a small amount in the first couple of years ( but one of the people never rtook the pay that was budgeted for her) and then the rest was used to pay teaching artists for creative programming.
– After some time in Faye’s dad’s garage, warehouse space was donated for the creators to store things. That very quickly got filled. Creative programming was, for the first several years, the only way Creative ReUse got revenue. The rest of the services the organization provided were for free.

– After volunteering for 6 months approx, one weekend here and there, Erika became the first paid staff member. ReUse was never officially designed to be a volunteer organization. The issue here is that the labour is so specific and requires a lot of training.

[ Tom chimed in at this point and mentioned that the labour at free ride with pricing and triage of parts and donations does require significant experience and interest in the field]

– When Creative ReUse opened the store, they started out only being open Wednesday afternoons and Sunday afternoons. They were not paying rent when they started, but they are currently paying rent. There was never a day when ReUse lost money by being open. For them, the secret of getting more money from the outset was to be open more.

Faye and Erika maintained the store and trained together, handled set up together. The sorting of the donations and all of that admin time was for volunteer basis in the beginning, but eventually she got paid for that admin time. The second paid staff member, Ashley, increased their revenue because her ability to organize and display things (merchandising) was way better than the store previously had. She is paid for these organizational efforts by hour, they occur outside of work hours.

In 2012, Faye left the organization and ReUse hired an outisde executive director. They also hired an outside program coordinator. These were awesome hires who brought a lot ofr knowledge and energy to the organization. They were hired to work 20 hours a week for a certain amount of money, and the other people were working twice as much and were paid less, so this created a significant amount of conflict within the organization.

[Erika remarked at this time that knowing about how to put across the ethics and politics of the hiring protocols within an organization such as this is key to lasting success and amicable terms with all involved, especially when different time expectations and pay grades are involved] After the program coordinators left, it took years to reintegrate the organization because a white collar / blue collar difference was created.

[Tom remarked at this point that everyone is worried at FreeRide that a board would create a divide, and Tess offered that board members have to be chosen carefully but could also offer a lot to an organization]

Erika commented that the place still runs with volunteers. There are thorough instructions given to all volunteers. Certain categories of processing checklists are given to volunteers and they mostly handle materials that have already gone through the initial sorting process. They currently have a PULSE fellow, who is paid $15000 for 9 months for an almost-full-time position within the organization. Lots of different groups of organizations come to volunteer at Creative ReUse. They feel valued, they feel like they’re part of a community, they get a discount on stuff, they come to talk to people.

Creative ReUse supervises all their volunteers. All staff are paid for supervising volunteers.

Tess asked wheree else ReUse’s revenue comes from. Out of the 369000 budget this year, 60% comes from shop, and the remaining 40% comes from organizations that seek them out. ReUse has no marketing budget. This year, Erika is trying to get 75000 in grants, and so far she has 7. Individual contributions make up some revenue, and small events at bars etc make up about 10000 in revenue.

Online donations typically arrive when there’s a big push for a certain item, otherwise there isn’t a lot of contribution of online donations.

No inventory is kept at ReUse.

Carya asked how qualitative decisions are made. Volunteers don’t do any initial pricing or sorting.
Pricing and sorting is a point of conflict sometimes with staff, because in order to keep everything organized, staff do have to be a bit OCD at times. Erika focuses on getting revenue out of things that are more valuable.

Erika does a sales forecast for revenue, and 20% growth and sales has been pretty consistent year after year. Erika acknowledges that this is going to flatten out but also points out that most customers are new.

ReUse does not keep track of inventory but they do keep track of category of sale. (Fabric is highest, 25%. Arts and crafts together would exceed fabric. Vintage, etc are other categories) ReUse knows the weight of how much in donations was diverted from a landfill. ReUse says No to donations more than they say Yes because they only have so much space at any time for donations.

There is a job description full of specific tasks when there is an opening for a paid position.

At ReUse, there is no clear path from volunteering to staff. There is an extensive training period where people learn skills AFTER they are hired. Everyone who is a shop assistant makes the same amount of money, even though some people have been there longer and they are definitely more skilled.

Usually 2 people at a time volunteer at ReUse. Counting interns, probably a total of 4 volunteers. There are currently 11 defined internship positions. These interns provide a lot of human resource for the organization. Having a stronger commitment system for volunteers can achieve what internship achieves for ReUse [they are required to shoulder a certain amount of accountability and they are required to generate a minimum of 120 hours of total work time during the internship]. There are specific job descriptions for interns, the interns are expected to work at a higher level and take more initiative.

ReUse started with a very hands-off board. Now they are much more involved with organization of events and admin. Board members are all un-paid. ReUse’s board has final say in the organization, they are not controlled by Erika. Erika is unique in that she is on the board and paid.

ReUse makes $500 / day , 11-6 pm, open 7 days a week. FreeRide has no goal. At this point, I brought up that wee may stagnate without paying people and moving to that structure.

– At this point, Erika offered that she volunteered for an artist meetup group. There were over 1000 artists on the list, there was a governing board and there was a paid administrator who bottom-lined everything that was essential. the administrator collectively made most of the decisions. There was a clear understanding of “convening meetings, paying bills, making newsletter etc. would be handled by an admin.” the rest of the decisions would be made by volunteers.

At ReUse, volunteer hours are not tracked for tax purposes, but they are tracked.

FreeRide’s yearly revenue is $24000. ReUse’s revenues skyrocketed with Square after they started using credit cards. If she had to do it again, Erika would not use Square because it doesn’t allow for customer data.

I mentioned our specific issue with having barely any volunteers and staff members, and Erika mentioned that one paid volunteer coordinator would be able to do a lot more than a few paid members

After Erika left, council talked about hiring a volunteer coordinator. This transitioned to a talk about pricing and inventory. We then transitioned back to explaining that a volunteer coordinator would be able to actively recruit people who could open shop.

Would we be willing to set aside 10 Gs in savings in exchange for opening up the shop more per year?

There was discussion about getting a survey going to determine whether or not everyone who has a stake in FreeRide is interested in the changes that would come with hiring a volunteer coordinator.

The staff development coordinator position may be best served with a temporary term position, where continuation of the position would be dependent on the success that the coordinator generates for the shop. This segwayed into a brief discussion about how difficult it’s been to try getting everyone on board to hire volunteer coordinators in the past.

Goals for staff development coordinator

  • Generate a list of expectations – Collective brainstorm workshop, or can be done at a council meeting
  • Data needed – Need to be able to measure data after hiring them, and before hiring them
  • How many people are staffing the shop?
  • MONEY is also a good metric to measure, revenue per week before and after a volunteer coordinator
  • Goal of SDC is to retain people who are interested in training at skills and becoming greeters (or staff members if volunteers desired) and more involved as volunteers
  • Details of salary for volunteer coordinator are still pending
  • Volunteer coordinator also hopefully would help to keep the shop open longer
  • Carya to facilitate council meeting where we discuss volunteer coordinator position expectations

Other agenda items:

 – Tom proposed that things be proposed and discussed and updated in WP. Everyone was in agreement over this.
 – Pierce mentioned that there was a time when a female member of freeride was approached by several different men offering advice at the same time. Council agreed that advice in shop should be limited to a 1:1 basis of volunteer to user. This advice also should only be solicited, never unsolicited. Asking a volunteer if they need any help would help this.
 – We would like a sign that says “Ask before giving advice!”. That is now a volunteer task.
 – There was an issue where female members were sorting parts and male members were breaking down bicycles. This task was set out at the beginning of shop, and there was concern over gender bias for shop tasks. Council agreed that staff members should never bias tasks based on gender, and volunteers are encouraged to generate consistent feedback, positive or negative, based on what tasks they’re doing. If a volunteer prefers to do something else, they can be easily reassigned a task.
– There was an issue where a member’s pronoun came into question while that member was unavailable to clarify their pronoun. It was determined that, generally, a person’s facebook profile would have the most accurate public representation of which pronouns are preferred.
– It is acceptable to spend ~ $30 for council meeting food
– We will have BIKE LAB at all times for practicing skills. Whether or not someone has taken a class, the following will apply :
People will have the option for working on adult or child’s as-is bikes to practice their skills, during open shop or volunteer night. The bikes will remain As-Is because we do not guarantee volunteer work, and we will not add to the price of a bike just because a volunteer has worked on it. Hopefully this will accomplish the following things:
i) Students will get to practice their skills from the previous class
ii) Volunteers will get to wrench any time they come in to shop
iii) Our bikes will remain As-Is but, at the same time, may be on average in better condition, so when people come to buy them, there may be less work needed before the bike becomes rideable. This may make people more likely to buy them, and then gradually fix them when problems arise, instead of having a ton of work to do up front.
– We should have a bike triage specialist on Sunday evenings to pre-sort donations, deets and decision on this another time
– We should pile more donations in the corner of the shop in order to have more sorting options for our inventory, this ideally would be done some time on Sunday and that way, volunteers will be able to be put to bike-related tasks on Monday instead of lifting and unloading.
– Since locking up EABs, we have not had any EABs stolen. We will continue locking up EABs.
Next meeting : July 20th at 6 pm
Meeting adjourned 9 44 pm