Re: Funding and Organizational Model for Coho US
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2015 06:55:59 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jun 8, 2015, at 12:16 PM, Alice Alexander <alicecohous [at]> 
> wrote:
> Many thanks to the good comments on a revenue model for sustaining Coho/US.
> To confirm:
> Coho/US is not a membership organization; we are a 501(3) nonprofit
> organization. We do not require membership dues from individuals or
> cohousing communities, and our services as a connector and clearinghouse to
> grow and support cohousing are available to everyone, not just "members.”

Many 501c3 organizations have members, and serve everyone, not just members. 
They could also be called supporters or sponsors. The advantage of someone 
joining as a member is that they can be automatically billed annually. This is 
a reminder to contribute again. Paypal has the mechanism for doing this. People 
can either donate once or choose a recurring payment. They don’t have to have 
accounts and can use credit cards.

It’s hard for many of us to even remember if we have donated when or never. A 
recurring payment would ensure a regular income. At the cohousing conference 
one community’s bank used the condo fee payments as support for their loan. It 
was guaranteed income which demonstrated ability to pay. It’s good to show for 
the strength and support of the organization.

> A strict membership structure as a business model for associations (one
> that requires dues, and provide services to a select audience) generally
> only works well for trade associations representing for profit businesses
> (think American Medical Association).

I don’t know what you mean by “strict” but no membership plan has to be 
restrictive. Members can be listed on the website as supporters. This is 
important to many people. Losing that listing and not appearing as a supporter 
can be incentive to donate regularly.

> Cohousing communities are not profit centers, and support is based on a
> decision to recognize that Coho/US (1) provides credibility and relevancy
> for cohousing as a housing and living option; (2) attracts the public to
> cohousing, thus helping provide communities with robust waiting lists; and
> (3) serves as a clearinghouse and connector for cohousing resources.

Memberships can support all these things.

> Other sources of revenue include advertising (which at $50 per month for a
> classified ad is a great deal! we keep this cost affordable as a service to
> the cohousing world), and support from our cohousing professionals
> <>.

Affordability goes both ways. If the organization is perpetually underfunding, 
it becomes not affordable to itself.

> But understand that project grant funding
> does not support operational funds generally - so we are back to the
> challenge of sustainability.

Generally it doesn’t but overseeing organizations take a percentage of the 
funds for overhead so the organization is supported to the extent that it 
supports those grants. And each of those projects can fulfill the mission of 
Coho/US. Usually it is the person who wants to lead the project that writes the 
grant and organizes the staffing, etc. The organization can help by maintaining 
contacts with friendly funders. 

A Google search on “community organizing” brought up a number of sources. While 
various cohousing related projects may not match what they have funded in the 
past, I think the slant of a program supporting cohousing could be toward 
community organizing.

> A challenge that inspires me actually, and one reason I am committed to
> this position, knowing the importance of stabilizing and strengthening our
> basic organization.

And that is the reason I’m presenting these ideas, not as criticism of what is 
being done. The organization is stronger and more visible than it has ever been 
so the time taken is worth spending. There is a possibility at least that 
members of the cohousing community will take up the challenge and pursue 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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