I was recently asked why I didn’t want to get paid at the Non-profit organization that I founded.
It is an important question to ask when you think about it. It is linked to important core-values on how we operate at Helios. We created the workshop so that we can provide to everybody access to a communal space. Consequently, that will also benefit the founders since we will get access to a workshop too (and also, all of us are living in apartments).
The fact that we went with the NPO model was the argument that allowed us to not charge our members extra money to financially benefit the founders and thus, the topics of salary has always been put aside since there were no expectations that the founders were going to be paid. Furthermore, it came down to the organisation’s philosophy on how we deal with the team. I can say to any volunteer at Helios that my only benefit is free access to the workshop. That is also exactly what they get, there are no financial privilege between the founders, the board and the volunteers. It appears to have motivated the team to move forward since there is an incredible sense of fairness between each member of the team. My common saying is: “I do it because I love it. Every member of the team do it because they have a passion for Making. Salaries have nothing to do with passion.”
One of many reasons why we can charge a super affordable price for people to get access to tens of thousands dollar equipment is because we are all volunteers. Of course, it is important to note that we are eventually going to hire people. As the workshop grow bigger, we are planning to pay for an on-site technician/workshop supervisor to deal with the maintenance and safety. And much much further down the line, we will hire people for accounting, marketing and event management.
To answer the question “Why are you not paying yourself”: I want to convey a sense of ultimate fairness to each and every member of my team. If they are volunteering without monetary compensation, I will also do it without monetary compensation. Perhaps further down the line, if there is a clear justified need to pay for a manager (AND that the budget allows it), than it is in the power of the council to decide if I get that title. But that has not been an initial goal of mine.
As a closing remark: for sure, one day we have to grow and have a higher cash flow, even as a NPO. But as of now, it is simply not realistic to budget salaries in the early in the infancy of Helios. We can definitely hire employees 3-5 years down the line but that is 3-5 years down the line when the organization is financially rock-solid stable. I never went into the creation process of an NPO with the money in mind. The NPO was created to solve a community challenge.