Buy Nothing Project
Sprout Process
This document was created by Buy Nothing Project volunteers on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project.

Considering Your Options

The premise of sprouting within the Buy Nothing Project comes from the goal to create and nourish a network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors. Sprouting is the term developed within the Buy Nothing Project for the process of transforming a too-large single Buy Nothing group into a set of smaller, more hyper-local groups. When your group numbers grow larger than 800 - 1000 members, it can make the giving more difficult. People lose their focus on connecting with each other and it often becomes more focused on the stuff. We’ve seen this first-hand in groups, usually accompanied by people having a hard time finding their own posts, debates about how to give, increased complaints about no-shows and flash-gifting, lack of clarity on basic core Buy Nothing rules and other issues.

To maintain a hyper-local focus, when a local Buy Nothing Project group determines that the focus has shifted from building connections between people to be more about impersonal free stuff, there are several different Growth Options. When considering how you want your group to grow, we expect that you will look not only at population, but also demographics around race, wealth, transportation accessibility and social vulnerability. We have learned that sprouting can, at times, reinforce historic lines of segregation. Before you sprout, please do research within your community about whether there has been gentrification and any historic redlining there. Please take these factors into account and find ways to make sprouted groups as diverse as possible, avoiding the same boundaries governments may have made for segregating neighborhoods as part of systemic racist practices.

If your local community decides that sprouting is the best course of action then this is the place to start! Your group can be ‘sprouted’ into smaller groups devoted to smaller city or neighborhood regions while still doing your best to keep the diversity that helps gift economies thrive.

Here are some signs that your group may be ready to sprout:
  • Many gifts are being offered on a “first come, first served” basis;
  • Members are concerned about the “speed” of the group, or how quickly gifts are being claimed;
  • An increase in “no-shows” or lack of follow-through from members;
We usually, but not always, see these signs when group membership reaches between 800 and 1000 members. The activity level is the biggest factor to look at when thinking about the right time to sprout. If you have over 50 posts a day that is going to feel busy to many. Over 100 posts a day and things are going to get lost because that’s just a huge number to keep track of. If you start to see these signs, hyper-localization sprouting may be the next best step.

There are lots of different ways to sprout, so please take this as a template and adjust it for your needs. Some things to consider:
  • Consider taking the Buy Nothing Academy free online course if you haven’t already.
  • Take a look at any data your group’s social media platform provides to help you understand your group members’ experiences. For instance, Facebook provides “engagement details” to group admins.
  • Think about how many new sprout groups you’d like to create based on your current group size and rate of growth. Going too small or too large with the new sprout groups means you’re struggling to match Asks and Gives, or seeing the same concerns pop up that got you to sprouting in the first place. Ideally your new groups would start off with 150-250 members.
  • What local neighborhoods would you like the new groups to include, considering demographics of race, wealth, population, transportation accessibility and social vulnerability? Who would be the admins in each new group and are your new admins representative of the diversity present in your group?
  • What would be the appropriate names for the groups to help people find and join the one that matches their best sharing area?
Once you have recruited the admins you need, it’s time to agree on group footprints and names. You may want to review our suggested naming conventions. Please review the Sprout Schedule below and determine what date will be the official day to launch the new groups. It should probably be at least 4 weeks in the future to accommodate for the sprout announcements and prep.
If you haven’t done any education about sprouting before now, be prepared for some big feelings and words. You are taking a group that people feel a sense of community in and changing it. That can be scary. Please listen to your community when they are expressing these feelings. With a large group there are always going to be people who don’t like the change. At the same time, listening to your community is a part of creating a new group for them. If the concerns feel overwhelming in number or severity, seriously consider if your plan is the best one at this time or if you need to change it.
Also we want you to be prepared for unhappy members to create new independent or overlapping Buy Nothing gifting groups. Welcoming more gifting groups into the world can be seen as a positive addition but often it initially feels like a slap in the face. Keep your focus on your group and what you want to create.


The ‘Sprout Process’ of determining footprints and names for the new groups can take 2 or 3 weeks, but it could be longer or shorter depending on the area of the group and how much time your admin team has to prepare. The ‘Sprout Schedule’ document includes some ideas on how to utilize this time period to help prepare the members of the group for the upcoming sprout. Once you decide you’re ready to announce the sprout to the group, you’ll need to determine your official timeline.
There are 3 weeks of Sprout Announcements, followed by approximately 1 week of Sprout Wrap-Up, so you should expect to set your Moving Day for at least 3 weeks after the Initial Sprout Announcement and the Archive Date about 7 days after the Moving Day.

Dates you’ll want to determine in order to follow through with the Sprout Schedule are:
Initial Sprout Announcement date:
  • A post will go up in the group explaining that the group will be sprouting, describing what a sprout is, and giving the date when the next announcement will be made.
Second Sprout Announcement date:
  • One week later, another announcement will be posted, this time with the names and usually links to the new groups. This post will again describe what a sprout is, and give the date when members will be added to the new groups.
Official Sprout Announcement date/Moving Day:
  • Two weeks after the initial sprouting announcement, admins post an announcement with the links to the new groups. Let your members know the current group is closed to new posts and all members need to request their new hyper-local group. Generally, it works to start adding members to the new groups either the same day or the next day following this announcement, so the Official Announcement and Moving Day may be the same day or 2 successive days.
Archive date:
  • This is when the admin team determines that most of the active, engaged members have transferred over to their new group.
This document, Determining Group Footprints will help you define group areas and create names for new groups.

While ironing out the specifics of how to define the new neighborhood footprints, you have a perfect opportunity to do extra prepping for sprouting with your local group members. Start mentioning the future plan and the expectation to sprout into more local groups more and more often as you get closer to a sprout- it really makes all the difference for having a positive experience.

Check the Various Sprout Posts for some ideas of how to start sharing with your group about sprouting, and for sample posts for your sprout schedule.

Sprouting, the Private Group Model
If you'd like to keep using the private group model provided by other platforms such as Facebook, visit this page here to get your new groups set up.

Links in this document:
Growth Options:
Sprout to the BNApp
Buy Nothing Academy:
Determining Group Footprints:
Various Sprout Posts: