Re: Handling donations
From: Jessie Kome (
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2015 15:49:21 -0800 (PST)

You packed a lots of related issues into your donation question. Here are some 
thoughts on 1) donations of furnishings, 2) donations of things that have 
operating costs, and 3) cash.

I have lived in two cohousing neighborhoods that have discussed these issues 
and figured out different ways to tackle them. I think Eno Commons, also in 
Durham, did a neat job on their policy for cash donations to purchase things 
and to get projects done, and I hope an EC’er pops up to explain it. 

At Eastern Village Cohousing, where I have lived for about a decade, most of 
the donations in the first group (furnishings) are handled by the steward of 
the room or space where the item would go. The community set a policy that the 
community aesthetic would be “folk-art funky”, and requires that the fire 
regulations be observed. The community also programmed the rooms (dining room, 
living room, kitchen) and so forth. It is up to the room steward to keep the 
room useful and either get donations or propose a purchase to the community. 

The second group generally requires the community to agree to accept an item 
because, at EVC, money decisions for ongoing costs belong to the group. In the 
case of a hot tub in common space, there are also insurance and liability 
issues that, at EVC, belong to the community and would need agreement. We have 
an annual community benefit process (sort of a capital budgeting/project 
approval time), and sometimes handle one-offs in our membership meetings for 
more urgent items. Usually, the steward or someone is championing accepting and 
installing the item.

Donations of cash we handle in a few ways. We tried to set a policy that would 
not make people with less money feel as if a neighbor with more money was 
taking away any resident’s participation in community decisions. The main 
policy is that anyone may bring a proposal to the membership meeting. If the 
community has agreed at some point in the year that a project is worthwhile and 
has a champion, the project is added to the list of possible community benefit 
projects. We have an annual event that is sort of like the budget fair 
described in the cohousing-l archives (maybe by Rob Sandelin, long ago?).  
Everyone who wants to participate helps divide up the total amount in the 
community benefit fund. Anyone may donate cash to the community benefit process 
as a whole, or to any of the projects on the list.  But the community as a 
whole decides what projects are on the list. 

I hope this helps a little. Approaching these discussions as a way to learn 
about your neighbors’ feelings and thoughts about money is a great way to build 
and strengthen community. Really.

Jessie Handforth Kome
Eastern Village Cohousing
Silver Spring, Maryland
“Where I lost my mind last night and volunteered to help redesign our common 

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