I want to go back to that comment that David Norris at Cyberia Makerspace made. Even though it spun us down a different road, there was something important about it.
What he was referring to in the discussion about members was this:
There tends to be some combination of things that members of a makerspace come looking for.
Some members join and never make a thing. Perhaps they have their own fully stocked workshop at home where they tinker, or maybe they just don’t have time or energy in their life to build right now ( a sad state, but we know it happens to the best of us at times). Why would someone like this pay to join a makerspace? They are either just looking for community or a combination of knowledge and community. These kinds of members tend to ebb and flow. Maybe they join to bounce ideas off of like minded people while they complete a large build at home. Maybe their way too busy life overwhelms even their ability to hang out with the cool kids. Whatever the reason, these members come, stay for a while and then sometimes drift away again…
Some of the people at a makerspace only sign up for classes and never become members ( unless you have a policy preventing this). There is nothing wrong with this. These are the knowledge seekers. Depending on how many classes you offer, and how much time and money they have, some of these folks may spend more time at the space than a regular member ;-0
Then there are the tool training/test em out folks. They come for a combination of classes and tools, but the classes they are looking for are not content or process– they are tied to learning how to use tools. They might be learning and testing before they buy at home. They might be learning and prepping themselves for a new job opportunity. There are more than a handful of reasons these folks show up at a makerspace, but once the learning and testing is done they tend to disappear, unless you can actively grab their interest. Sometimes these folks come for a combination of community and tools– they know enough to not have to take classes, but want to tap into the collective knowledge of the space in order to make decisions about a model or brand. This is a bit of an in person google search. Sometimes these folks only pop up at open hours , but never become members. If you are a non profit with a public mission, these types of users should be in your business plan.
A related class of makerspace denizens are the job shoppers. These are the folks who join, use a set of tools for a specific project and then disappear again. Unless they have a series of projects, they rarely convert to a more permanent user. Since this is part of the mission of a makerspace, this type of user should not be a surprise. The trick is to tie into a constant stream of them, so as one finishes a project, a different one is getting ready to start.
Why is this an important topic? Because at the end of the day, every makerspace has to generate a certain income stream. If you are not monetizing these opportunities, you will be missing a certain segment of potential income. There is a caution to this and a thing to take to heart–
At the very center of this venn diagram are the people who come for it all, the ones who are passionate about the knowledge and the tools and the community. These are people who become your core group of members. These are the ones who empty the trash without being asked. These are the members who don’t just have skin in the game, they donate blood to the cause.
If you price all of these drivers too high without giving some break to the combination, you will make it hard for these critical core to grow and sustain. Work instead on growing your other member and customer types into this center core by talking and listening to the things that bring them in, and challenge the space to meet their needs as well.