Re: handling donations
From: Susan Coberly (
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2015 10:38:14 -0800 (PST)
Tim (Durham Coho), et al:

At La Querencia ["LaQ"], aka Fresno Cohousing (Fresno California) community
agreements / policies require donors to Kitchen to submit proposed donation
request to the Kitchen Committee, which is now part of the Common Meals /
Kitchen Committee. This is successful for the most part. It largely depends
on whether people read the policies, or ask first. Sometimes we get
"mystery" bowls, etc. turning up. Periodically we "cull" the kitchen and
put out no-longer-needed items on a table for pick up (either by original
donor or someone else). The remainder goes to a thrift store.

Recently the CM - Kitchen Committee accepted a donation of muffin tins; I
periodically restock the wine glass shelf thru donation, purchasing
them very inexpensively at my church's thrift store.

Furniture, etc:  we are 6+ years after initial moving-in began (Sept 2008).
Originally these donations were reviewed by the Common House Furnishings
Committee, but that committee is now dis-banded so the proposed donation
goes to the Common Facilities Committee for consideration. Again, with
varying results.

I gave a couch to a fellow cohouser during our development phase and after
move in, the couch ended up in the Teen Room. After  a few years, the
numerous couches in the Teen Room needed weeding and I was asked if I
wanted it back, or whether it was ok to haul it to the thrift store. I
suggested putting it out by the curb; it was gone in an hour. Some people
have donated exercise equipment to the Exercise Room and then when they
moved away took the donations with them. Others who've moved away said,
when asked, they didn't want their donations [couches, treadmill, etc]

I like the idea of asking the donor if they want it back when it is no
longer useful to the community. I will say that as time goes by it may be
difficult to remember who donated what, so you might want to have a binder
or something briefly describing donations. I also like the idea of the
decision to accept most donations and to cull equipment being made by a
committee as it is so easy to just "ask the head of the committee" for
permission, and the "head of the committee" might forget to run it by the
committee.  (However, you will find that that happens thru no bad intent -
people are just busy and forget.)

Conditions on donations (imposed by donor) - except perhaps "return to me
when no longer needed"  - those are a little problematic.

Some donations really might seem to be "donated" solely to have a place to
put them.

We do get attached to "stuff" - particularly emotionally meaningful "stuff"
  --- that includes me - I still have my grandmother's china in a box in a
closet in my sewing room. That and the lace tablecloths... Silly. I should
use them periodically.

Piano, hot tub - I would first ask the community at a [noticed] meeting
whether to accept since there is a cost to the entire community on a long
term basis and the community should weigh in on whether it accepts that
cost. Obviously someone needs to detail the expected costs for full
disclosure/ consideration.  And you might want to decide whether the
community would agree it would or might "replace" the item if it wears out,
and who pays for that, and a way to re-visit that decision later on, esp.
if the donor then wanted "it" back years after community replacement.

There are a lot of community spaces not used by all the community members,
e.g., exercise room, bike shed, children's play structure, but which
benefit the whole community, so personally I wouldn't place a burden on a
hot tub or piano donation that "it wouldn't be used by everyone."

However, there could be donations that are so specialized - e.g., a pottery
kiln, that requires a hook up to gas, clear fire safe space around it,
safety issues, specialized knowledge to use, proposed by the donor with the
additional condition that only the donor could use it or clear others to
use it. That one would require scrutiny - *does* it benefit the community?

Money donations [without conditions, e.g.  you have to buy the couch from
my brother's store, or it has to be apple green with red trim] - I see no

People who can't afford to donate "stuff" or money are no less loved
members of the community than those who can. I don't know whether anyone at
LaQ in such a situation feels less valuable. I hope not.

One of our families wanted to get an electric plug-in Prius, and made a
written proposal to the community that they would 1. put a solar panel on
common house roof at their own cost, with future maintenance to be by
community and 2. meter / monitor their electric usage (garage spaces and
their electric outlets are on the common facilities meter - not on
individual meters) and report the stats annually to the Finance Committee.
The community would get any power produced over and above the metered /
monitored usage; if the solar didn't produce enough to cover the car's use,
the family would pay for the electric over-usage. After consideration at a
community meeting of the written proposal the community approved the

I donated a round cast aluminum glass top outdoor table to the common house
outdoor patio that I dearly loved but had no room for, straight off the
moving truck bringing the rest of our household goods on Jan 2, 2009.
People like its looks but we all dislike having to keep the glass top
sparkling - so someday I may propose we thrift store it and get something
more practical. Another family donated their large high quality outdoor
dining table and chairs for the dining porch, and also some high
quality lawn chairs for use by the pool. The community then bought a large
rectangular dining table and chairs for the dining patio, as well. so with
those 3 tables, some foldable tables, and chairs from the dining room, we
can seat quite a crowd for outside meals and events.

I am sure you will get more ideas from others who have dealt with these
issues...I am looking forward to reading those ideas as well.

Susan Coberly (Fresno, CA)

From: Tim Hunter
Subject: [C-L]_ Handling donations

Hi folks!

Our community is struggling with how to handle donations of furniture and
equipment. How do others handle this issue in your community? Can you
recommend a best practice?

We?re lucky to have some very generous members at Durham Coho. These folks
are able - nay, eager - to donate furniture and equipment for use in our
common rooms, and also money to buy such things. When we were moving in we
relied on donations to furnish our common rooms.

However, now we?re in and we?re looking at donations that replace or
augment our current furniture and equipment. As much as we?d like to just
say ?Yes! We love donations!? we?re also aware that the issue might be a
bit more complicated that it first appears.

What if somebody wanted to donate a hot tub? A hot tub requires ongoing
utility costs and maintenance costs and may only appeal to a subset of the
community. Should we accept a donation that commits the community to these
Do donors have control over their donations? (?You have to put my couch in
the media room and move the one that?s there somewhere else!?)
Do members that can?t afford to make donations feel less valuable to the
When should we turn down a donation?
Is a monetary donation different from a material donation?

There are many more of these kinds of questions, but I won?t bother to list
them all as I?m sure you can think of them yourself.

How should we decide when to accept a donation and when to turn it down?

Tim Hunter
Durham Central Park Cohousing Community

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