Buy Nothing Project
Sprouting FAQs
This document was created by Buy Nothing Project volunteers on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project. 
These ready-made questions and answers can be so helpful during a sprout to focus members on becoming a more hyper-local community. These questions and answers were collected by a former Buy Nothing volunteer, Jess Llewellyn, but have been modified as the Buy Nothing Project had changed over time. They are offered as a resource for Buy Nothing groups going through the Sprouting process. Please note that sprouting is not the only approach used by Buy Nothing groups to accommodate group growth. See more information here: Growth Options,

Q: Why are we sprouting?
A: One of the major missions of the Buy Nothing Project is to form connections between real-life neighbors. Remember having block parties? Running next door for a cup of sugar? Shoveling the driveway for a few neighbors? Many of us only experienced such things through movies or tv shows until we joined our local Buy Nothing group, where Gives, Asks, and Gratitude bring people together in some old-fashioned ways. We have heard over and over again, “This is the first time in years that I actually know who my neighbors are.” Our hearts swell when we hear that. That's the Buy Nothing Project mission at work, right there. Our group has grown because of these connections, and we’ve reached a size where the sense of community connection that drew us here is being lost in the number and speed of posts. We’ve had a community conversation and have reached a consensus that sprouting is our best option to give each person in our community access to a functional Buy Nothing group. 

Q: You say we're sprouting because we're getting bigger and there are more problems with bigger groups. Why not just add more admins?
A: More admins won’t actually tackle the core issues. The issue of why these problems start increasing in a bigger group, is exactly that - the group is bigger. We would have admins messaging more people, posting more reminders, monitoring more comments. And these issues would just grow and grow. In a nutshell, big groups tend to have big problems, and big communities aren’t generally served well in the long run by a volunteer admin team of any size. We’ve learned through experience that Buy Nothing groups are more sustainable when they’re smaller, and sprouting is the way our community has decided to give us each a functional group.

Q: But I love some people here in this group. You're destroying our connections.
A: That love is a real thing and it’s a treasure. We are moving slowly through this sprouting process so that each of us has time to share contact information and otherwise “friend” the people we’ve grown attached to thanks to our sharing in this group. There’s no way around the fact that sprouting will put some of us in different Buy Nothing groups. Luckily, we can stay in each other’s lives in other ways, and we can always take our Give, Ask, and Gratitude posts to our personal timelines or other such locations to include more people in our general Buy Nothing lifestyle.

Q: Why can't you just delete the inactive members? That will make the group smaller.
A: Don't you think it's sad that we have inactive members? Did you know that the majority of our inactive members stop participating in this group because they give up on ever receiving anything? Or they don’t want to travel to certain areas of the group for pickups? At this point, it's a numbers game. Oftentimes, you are one person out of 50-100 others requesting a gift (which also contributes to our group becoming more and more impersonal). Why bother participating when you have so much competition for gifts? Once the groups are smaller and more local, magically, the Buy Nothing Project has seen in other communities that inactive members start participating again. We're so happy that you personally have made many personal connections, and we want to grow in a way that creates space for others to have that same experience in a Buy Nothing group. You may even build new close connections with neighbors who are closer to you geographically, making it that much easier to see each other in real life, as friends. 

Q: Do I join now, or on the date listed in the sprout announcement? (this answer will depend on which sprout schedule you are doing.)
Version A Sprout - You can certainly wait until our official moving day, but we encourage you to request your new group as soon as you are able. Those who do so ahead of time, will be joined first into the new group the day of.
Version B Sprout - Yes, please request to join your new sprout group now and we’ll process requests as quickly as we are able.

Q: I've requested to join a week ago. How come you haven't approved my request? (again answers depend on which sprout schedule you are doing.)
Version A Sprout - Our sprout date is set and admins won't be adding members to the new groups until that day. We encourage our members to join early to speed up their entry into the new groups on our sprout date. No one will be admitted until that date.
Version B Sprout - We’re adding people as quickly as we can. If you didn’t answer the questions when you made your request then we may not have all the information we need to approve your request. Please check your message requests folder to see if an admin has tried to make contact with you.

Q: I see that you’re asking us to send the admin team a message about which new group I’d like to join. Why can’t you just message me? 
A: It might seem like that would be easier, but there are a couple of stumbling blocks: First of all, there are way more group members than admins, and we just don’t have the volunteer hours to message each person. Secondly, messages from group admins are frequently routed to member’s hidden or spam folders, where they might as well be invisible. The best communication pathways we have are these all-group posts, and your comments and messages sent directly to us. 

Q: Can you just move me to my group?
A: No, the platform hosting our group doesn’t allow us to do that. It’s important for people to join online groups that interest them in a fully consensual way, so we each need to find the new group that works for us and go through the official steps to join it. 

Q: Can I join all of the new groups? 
A: We would prefer you join the group where you live. Our groups work to connect you to your very own neighbors. The Buy Nothing Project has learned through years of experience that these online groups work best when we each commit to one community and focus on building connections there. The global pandemic we’ve all experienced showed us the value of being connected to the people who live close to us, and how important it is for us to be ready to help each other out as quickly and easily as possible. Smaller local Buy Nothing groups have played a big part in many people’s survival through the pandemic. 

Q: Can I start gifting and receiving right away, once I am in the new group?
A: Yes!! Have at it! There may even be people ahead of you who have posted things already. Start posting your items, and requesting from the posts already there. We believe we live in a gift and materials economy of abundance. We will never run out of gifts of stuff and self to give.