How are Your Donations to Buy Nothing Put to Use?

Why do we ask for donations for the Buy Nothing Project and how are you contributions put to use? Great question and we’d love to tell you:

For the first 9 years of Buy Nothing, we paid all of the expenses ourselves, using income from our other day jobs to cover the administrative and organizational costs of supporting this movement that’s grown to include over 7 million participants. As more people join Buy Nothing, the costs have risen and we need to ask you to chip in with a tax-deductible donation to help keep Buy Nothing alive. What expenses are we talking about? And how do we put them to use?

We’re going to use one of the recurring tasks we’re tackling this month to parse just a few of our monthly expenses out.

We’re one month away from celebrating our 10th anniversary and it’s time to do our biannual membership count! How do we do it?

It’s easy to count the number of people in the BuyNothing app as our Google Analytics account can tell us how many neighbors we’re serving at any given moment. Our Google Analytics account costs us a monthly fee, and it sure saves us time!

For our Facebook groups’ membership, we have to count those numbers by hand. It takes us 2 weeks of after-hours data entry (beyond our regular daily Buy Nothing volunteer jobs) to input the number of Buy Nothing members in each Buy Nothing Facebook group into a database we maintain to calculate those numbers, twice a year. At last count our membership had reached 7 million neighbors worldwide in 7000 groups!

Our database costs us a monthly fee and our website, where we maintain our comprehensive “Find Your Buy Nothing Community” list, also costs us a monthly fee.

We then broadcast those numbers out to our volunteers and members via our Slack channels and our Mail Chimp-powered newsletters which also cost a monthly fee.

We spend hours each day in our G-suite, our social media accounts, and on Canny (in the BuyNothing app) responding to hundreds of emails, messages, and tags from people who need help with their Buy Nothing experience. We provide free support to Buy Nothing Admins and Community Builders (the volunteers whose service is a profound gift to their communities), and participants in all sorts of Buy Nothing communities. Both of these communication platforms charge a monthly fee. And we adjust settings for users in the app via Django, when they want Community Builder status or have made a donation, and Django also costs us a monthly fee, along with all of our server storage costs. We also pay each month to host the Buy Nothing Help Center where people can access free resources and get in touch with our all-volunteer team.

Why does an accurate Buy Nothing participant count matter?

The #1 asked question we get via media interviews is…”How many people worldwide are part of your movement?” So, although we can’t keep a weekly count, our growth is important for us to report, as it tracks how quickly local gift economies are spreading around the world.

By tracking our 6-month growth, we can also track our growth alongside economic, social, and environmental influences. The more we understand how these factors are impacting people around the globe, the more we can improve things like our Buy Nothing Academy, and create new resources for our public library (in more languages) for our website, to help more people bring Buy Nothing to life in ways that help them and their communities.

When we have an accurate number of Buy Nothing participants, we can use this along with aggregate data about the number of gifts given and shared in communities to calculate our collective circular economy impact. All 7 million+ of us using Buy Nothing are making a meaningful impact in many ways, and we need an accurate count to help us (and the researchers who contact us) calculate how together we alleviate some of the impact of poverty, empower wealth accumulation for people who haven’t had easy access to this, redirect items from becoming landfill waste, reduce our carbon footprint, increase our emotional and social well-being, and more.

This might sound rather dry and academic, but accurate metrics help us tell the truth, and the truth can be profoundly inspirational both in terms of individual action and larger societal shifts. It will also enable us to receive grants in the future and to form working relationships with municipalities, organizations, and businesses to increase our collective impact for the better. Your participation in Buy Nothing matters, and your donations help us show the world what we’re all building together, to inspire more people to make gift economy sharing part of their lives, too. Thank you!

With gratitude,

Liesl & Rebecca on behalf of the entire Buy Nothing Volunteer Team