Re: Getting the work done
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2012 08:42:13 -0800 (PST)
On Nov 15, 2012, at 11:03 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:

> But how do donations fit in, exactly?  Is the idea that you've already 
> collected, via assessments, the $12K for the play structure -- but then 
> suggest that donations are welcome, so as to not over-deplete the savings 
> account?  Or do you make a special assessment for $6K, hoping that the 
> especially interested will volunteer the shortfall?   Or, do some people just 
> like to put extra money forward for projects they find particularly appealing?

We've never had special assessments, only monthly condo fees that are set 
annually as part of the operating budget.

We include the amount requested from the appropriate Reserves and the amount 
donated in the proposal when it comes up for consensus. For example, the 
antenna proposal. In the meeting explaining the proposal and taking concerns 
and objections, the team asked for ~$4,000 from Capital Improvement Reserves. 
Then they solicited donations. At the meeting seeking consensus, they announced 
the donations received of $800 and reduced their request to ~$3,200. If more 
donations had come in after the proposal reached consensus, the amounts taken 
from the reserves would have been further reduced.

Personally, I favor the strategy of not expecting donations for items that 
benefit everyone. I think they should be funded by monthly condo fees and 
reserves because that is what they are for. People shouldn't feel guilty about 
not paying more.

The antenna team felt that everyone should donate because it benefited 
everyone. Everyone didn't, of course, but they felt that lack of donations 
meant people didn't value something they had worked hard on and would 
contribute to the value of all the units whether people used it or not.

I believe the condo fees are collected for these purposes and we should budget 
for them. The process is transparent and builds good budgeting behavior. There 
is less opportunity for emotional manipulation. It's collective process equally 
shared by everyone. Condo fees are based on a formula that we have determined 
is fair (more or less), so when expenses are paid according to this formula, 
they are also proportionate.

The exception in my view is something that is very clearly a special interest 
item like the Universal Gym or a specialized tool for the workshop. Parents did 
donate and we held a 'fundraising' talent show to raise funds for a fence 
because parents wanted an area of the property fenced so their children could 
play more safely on the property. At that time we had almost no savings so it 
was the only way to get it done and it was the not something that many other 
people thought was necessary.

There are as many theories on financing in common interest and non-profit 
communities and the expected results of each. It's big topic. But in the end it 
all depends on the results given the beliefs and actions of people in your 

On the importance of formal processes see my blog post on the Tyranny of 
Structurelessness. As cohousing groups grow, the importance of formal processes 
also grows. I posted this article here, I think, but it is also posted here:

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
Making Freedom and Equality a Reality

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