The Fine Print

Buy Nothing Project Global Standard Rules

THE BUY NOTHING PROJECT is an international network of local gift economy Buy Nothing groups. Buy Nothing offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors. We believe that communities are more resilient, sustainable, equitable, and joyful when they have functional gift economies.

This movement is supported by a free online course, the Buy Nothing Language Team, volunteer librarians, and a library of public copyright resources available to everyone around the world. This document is one of these resources. It was written to provide a Buy Nothing structure for Facebook Groups, and you may also find it useful for Buy Nothing communities using a similar private group structure. This is a dynamic document that we update as we learn more about how to make this movement more accessible and powerful. 

The Buy Nothing Language team has gifted a condensed version of the Buy Nothing Rules and Standards for participation that is available in 38 languages. You can find those resources here. The list of languages is organized by the way speakers in their language pronounce their language accompanied by an English speaking version. If you want to help translate, need a translation, or have questions about translations please reach out to the Buy Nothing Language Team at BuyNothingLanguageTeam@Gmail.com.

Afrikaans
Bahasa Indonesia / Indonesian
Bahasa Melayu / Malay
Dansk / Danish
Deutsch / German
Español / Spanish
français / French
français / French Canadian
Hmong
Italiano / Italian
Kinyarwanda
Kiswahili / Swahili
Nederlands / Dutch
Polski / Polish
Português / Portuguese
Português (BR) / Portuguese (Brazilian)
pусский / Russian
Românesc / Romanian
Soomaali / Somali
suomeksi / Finnish
svenska / Swedish
 
Tagalog / Filipino
Tiếng Việt / Vietnamese
Türkçe / Turkish
Ελληνικά / Greek
հայկական / Armenian
Hebrew / עִברִית
Arabic / عربى
አማርኛ / Amharic
हिंदी / Hindi
বাঙালি / Bengali
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ / Punjabi
Urdu / اردو
ဗမာ / Burmese
한국어 / Korean
中文(繁體) / Chinese Traditional (Hong Kong)
日本語 / Japanese 

The Fine Print for Buy Nothing Project Facebook Communities:

The Buy Nothing Project provides a number of freely-given resources that are available to anyone around the world interested in building a Buy Nothing community. In their original form, as we’ve written them, we refer to them as our Global Standard Documents. The majority of our Global Standard Documents carry a public copyright from Creative Commons. This public copyright gives people the legal right to use the Global Standard Documents as-is, or to make edits, for non-commercial purposes. 

Communities using Global Standard Documents without alterations use our resources as they appear on our website. The Buy Nothing Project movement is diverse and also includes communities using our free app, currently in beta testing, as well as many Buy Nothing gift economy communities based on Facebook, where local group leaders have made changes to the Global Standard documents. People create these customized Local Variations of our documents to better meet the needs of their community, or to grow the sort of gift economy they want to lead. We welcome these Local Variations and are excited to see our document used as foundational tools. Anyone making edits or copies of this document must, per the details of the public copyright license, include the attribution which you’ll find in the footer of this document (it begins with “This work was created by…” and ends with a URL live link to Creative Commons license). 

Local Variation communities frequently allow or even encourage participation in a number of Buy Nothing communities, as some are set up for very specific groups of people within larger communities. It can be beneficial to everyone when people have multiple opportunities to bring their Buy Nothing mindset to as many aspects of their lives as possible, for instance by being part of Buy Nothing communities where you live, where you work, and within your mosque/synagogue/church/parents’ group/book group/activist group, etc. Each Local Variation community has its own unique set of rules and guidelines, so you’ll need to check in with your community’s leaders for all of the details.

Below, you’ll find the Global Standard “rules,” or Fine Print written by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller, co-founders of the Buy Nothing Project; we are the “we” mentioned in this document. We have written this document for use by Local Community Leaders, Community Participants, and anyone who is interested in understanding how to lead and participate in a Buy Nothing community on Facebook. Please note that your group may have a modified version of these rules:

Rules for Participation (Outline):

  •  Keep it legal Details

  •  Show your humanity Details

  •  Build trust Details

  •  Give freely Details

  •  Participate as yourself Details

  •  Give from your own abundance Details

  •  We Are A Gift Economy (no buying/selling/trading) Details

  •  Ask and give creatively Details

  •  The Buy Nothing Project Mission Details

  •  All members participate at their own risk Details

Criteria for Membership (Outline)

Welcome to The Buy Nothing Project! We’re glad you’ve found us. Our criteria for joining a group is simple:
By joining a Buy Nothing Group, you agree to participate in this Project at your own risk.

Group Content Standards (Outline):

 

These are the types of requests and offers that belong in the groups:

  • Offers of any goods or service you’d like to share, loan, or give away.

  • Requests for services or any goods you’d like to borrow or keep.

  • Gratitude! Sharing the gratitude is what fuels the magic.

 

Aside from goods and services, there are a few other types of gifts that fit into our mission:

Finally, in addition to gifts, requests, and expressions of gratitude, we allow discussions sparked by those gives, asks and gratitude as well as discussions about a gift economy mindset and the group in general, even if they are uncomfortable conversations. Details 


Additional Suggestions for Successful Participation (Outline)

Below are suggestions for crafting your Buy Nothing community interactions. These are not Rules, so they are not grounds for removing a member, but are helpful suggestions for stewarding an authentic Buy Nothing Project gift economy.

By joining a group within the Buy Nothing Project, you agree to abide by the Buy Nothing Project Mission and your Buy Nothing group’s Rules as they have been published to your group by your group’s leaders.  All Rules and Standards are subject to change.

Details About The Fine Print

Keep reading to learn more about each of our rules in greater detail.

All members participate at their own risk

 

By joining a Buy Nothing Facebook Group, you agree to participate in this Project at your own risk. You further confirm that you are an adult, and that you agree to abide by the rules of your Buy Nothing group. Your group’s leaders may ask you to confirm this information via private communication in order to approve your membership request.

Groups in the Buy Nothing Project network are for individuals, not businesses; join your group as yourself, not as a business profile. 

 

Group Membership & Boundaries:

The Buy Nothing Project was founded around the idea that local gift economies empower each person to Give Where You Live to create a resilient network of connections that see entire communities through times of joy and sorrow, ease and hardship. As part of this, we originally asked people to join only one Buy Nothing Facebook group, the one where they lived, and we helped people set up only one Facebook group per neighborhood. Things have changed a lot since then! You can read more about  what we’ve learned along the way in this blog post

We’ve put what we’ve learned into practice. Now this Buy Nothing Project Fine Print document offers two basic approaches for each Buy Nothing group on Facebook to choose from: 

 Flexible Membership, Soft Boundaries  

Or 

One Group Per Person, Give Where You Live

Check with your Buy Nothing community’s leadership team to learn which of these options they’ve selected to use. Each approach is described below: 

Flexible Membership, Soft Boundaries communities use the following wording regarding membership requests and Facebook group boundaries: 

Flexible Membership, Soft Boundaries: Our group serves the community identified in our name and description. If you identify as a member of our community, we welcome your full participation in our group. We ask that you invest your time and energy in making connections with us here, since the real wealth being built in our group is the strong network of connections between the people here. Please Give, Ask, and share your Gratitude here, making this Buy Nothing gift economy a focus of your everyday life. We need your active presence here in order to succeed as a community, so please start sharing! 

 

One Group Per Person, Give Where You Live communities use the following wording regarding membership requests and group boundaries: 

One Group Per Person, Give Where You Live: In order to join this group, you must reside within its designated boundaries. If you have more than one home, are without a permanent residence, or are traveling, we will ask you to join the group that lines up with the location where you spend most of your time, or where you sleep at night. If your circumstances change or you move to a new location, we ask that you leave this group and join the one that lines up with your new circumstances.

Again, please reach out to your group’s leaders to learn which of these approaches they’ve chosen to serve your Buy Nothing community’s Facebook group.  


Definition of Adult: Our definition of “adult” refers to the *most restrictive* definition in your area (country/state/county/city). In most cases, this age is the legal drinking age, but this is not always the case. By using the most restrictive age requirement, we are able to freely give things in our groups that would otherwise be disallowed, including items of an adult nature. This way, everyone truly has the legal right to participate at their own risk, per their local laws.

Removal From Group: If your group’s leaders discover that you have joined multiple groups, that you have moved or live outside of the boundaries of their group, or that you do not meet the criteria for “adult,” they may remove you from their groups. 

Further grounds for removal are described in this document, and may include but are not limited to:

  • Spam, advertising/marketing, or offering items or services for rent, sale, barter, or trade

  • Joining any group with a fraudulent account(s) or with the purpose to defraud others

  • Hate speech, cruelty, or threats towards or between group members

  • Dishonesty or obtaining items under false pretenses in order to sell said items without disclosing that intention

  • Repeated instances of disregard for the rules or principles

  • Blocking or refusing to communicate with a group leader

  • Repeated complaints about the group or rules

  • Statements that make it clear to the group and its leaders that you do not intend to build trust or participate in line with the mission and rules. 

  • Using the group as a platform for promoting any personal agenda that doesn’t meet the mission or rules of the Buy Nothing Project.


Group Content Standards

These are the types of content that belong in Buy Nothing groups:

  • Offers of any goods or services you’d like to share, loan, or give away.

  • Requests for services or any goods you’d like to borrow or keep.

  • Gratitude! Sharing your gratitude is what fuels the magic.

Aside from goods and services, there are a few other types of gifts that fit into our mission:

  • Gifts of self:
    A Gift of Self is something that one participant can do for another. It could be an evening of babysitting, a ride for an errand, help in the garden, a request for a spiritual act like prayer or meditation, even the gift of your own company in the form of a game of Scrabble, or anything else that one neighbor might do for another neighbor.

  • Gifts of talent:
    A Gift of Talent is anything that one participant can teach another. Examples include: cooking or canning classes, computer lessons, tutoring or anything else that you would like to learn or teach.

  • Gifts of time:
    A Gift of time refers to offering or asking for someone to spend time with you. Examples include: jogging/walking/workout buddies, coffee/tea meet-ups, playdates for kids or pets, organizing an activity for the members of your group. This does not include open invitations to attend events that are also advertised elsewhere and open to the public, unless the recipient will be attending as a guest (or date) of the giver.


Needs vs Wants:
Despite the fact that we all have needs and wants, and an innate ability and desire to both give and receive, there are no prescribed ways to do this on equal footing, person to person. We don’t differentiate between wants and needs here in the Buy Nothing Project. In an effort to create equal footing, all requests are welcome, whether they’re to meet a need or a want, and all offers are in the control of the people doing the giving. Givers are always free to choose the recipients of their offers, using whatever standards they desire.

We Welcome Discussion:
We welcome discussions that are sparked by the giving, asking, and gratitude shared in the groups. All of our stuff and gifts of self can be great starting points for building connections between us. Please refer to our “Show your humanity” rule and to the Community Agreement created by the Equity Team to guide your discussions.

We ask that every discussion start naturally in response to a give, and ask, or sharing of gratitude. We also allow questions and discussions about the Buy Nothing Project, how to further the Buy Nothing Project mission to build inclusive and equitable gift economies, the platforms groups use, and gift economy culture, including links to relevant articles and information.

We welcome all perspectives about Buy Nothing groups. Discussions about improving the gift economy groups can be uncomfortable for some, and may include statements that are angry (including the use of profanity that isn’t directed at other people) or otherwise emotional, and that may mention other members by name or situation. No one can use threats or hate speech, but even difficult, controversial, and emotional discussions are welcome provided that they follow the Community Agreement.

We welcome discussions about reuse, repairing, and upcycling items that are given and asked for in the groups. If you are looking for information or advice about how to make something, how to reuse something, or how to repair something yourself, those make wonderful gifts of self that you are welcome to request here. We welcome efforts like this that help people live a Buy Nothing lifestyle. This includes requesting or offering information about where things that no one wants as a gift can be reused/recycled/upcycled to keep as much as possible out of landfills and incinerators (check with your group admin(s) to see if there’s a Buy Nothing Re-Use Store – Your Local Zero Waste Roadmap document in your group’s Files for this sort of information).

Your Buy Nothing group is not the place for personal status updates; promotion of current political parties, candidates or ballot options; religious conversion efforts; offering unsolicited advice; outside-of-this-group community announcements, discussions, or invitations to public events; lost and found pets or items.

Be Both A Giver And An Asker:
If no one asked in their Buy Nothing groups, we wouldn’t be able to build gift economies. No single person is an island, so the key to a healthy gift economy is BOTH the giving and receiving. As we wrote in our book, “The ask, and the act of receiving, is the critically important other half of the gift economy equation. Asking requires trust, courage, a willingness to show our vulnerability, and faith that our requests will not diminish our value or respect in the eyes of others. In truth, our requests foster interdependence that benefits us all.”

Rules for Participation

Keep it Legal:

  • Don’t offer or request anything illegal. Follow all national, regional, and local laws, as well as the Terms of Service and community standards of any platform you’re using.

  • The Buy Nothing Project also prohibits giving or asking for items that endorse or oppose any current political party, candidate, or ballot option.

  • The Buy Nothing Project does allow neighbors to request, give, and receive items (example: signs, banners), and supplies to create these items, in support of social movements and events (example: Black Lives Matter, Pride parades, memorial vigils).

Show your humanity:

  • Remember that every person participating in your group is a real life neighbor of yours. Each person here is of equal importance to this gift economy. Cruelty, harassment and hate speech will not be tolerated in the groups. All members, including volunteers, will abide by the Community Agreement.

  • Each group is open to every adult who lives in that group’s boundaries, as set by each group’s local volunteer(s). The Buy Nothing Project welcomes all people, regardless of race, ancestry, national origin, economic status, ability/disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, philosophy, politics, beliefs or values. As such, the groups are diverse and allow us all to experience what it’s like to give, receive, and share with people who may not experience the world as we do.

  • The Buy Nothing Project welcomes discussions about the impact of the actions and words within each group’s content. Each participant is fully responsible for their words, actions, and gifts and also for anything they delete. Each participant is empowered to make their own choices, being mindful that being a member of their Buy Nothing community requires communication that doesn’t include such things as personal insults, slurs, or anything that qualifies as hate speech.

    (Our deepest gratitude to everyone on the Equity Team for all of their labor on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project, for creating and maintaining the Community Agreement, and to members of the Equity Team for reading and offering their thoughts and edits for use in the original draft of the above 3 paragraphs in the “Show Your Humanity” section and for the final paragraph below in the “Regarding Complaints” section. These paragraphs were first published into the Fine Print in early 2020 and have been further revised as part of the December 2020 update to this document.)

     

  • Regarding Complaints:
    If you have a complaint about another member, you have several options: Ignore content that bothers you, knowing that everyone participates as they like and that no one is ever forced to request or offer a gift they’re uncomfortable with; use the Community Agreement as a guide to start a discussion with your group, addressing whatever the issue is; approach the person via other means, away from the group, to suggest a discussion to resolve the issue, as you would for complaints about people in your life outside of your Buy Nothing group. Each Buy Nothing participant is responsible for resolving their own conflicts. Local group leaders are not professional mediators or counselors, and cannot step in to resolve conflicts between group participants
    If your complaint is about your local group leader, please know that we are not decision-makers for any Buy Nothing groups other than our own community gift economy. We encourage you to work out your differences directly with your local leader or within your group to create a dialogue about your concern. Buy Nothing groups are “brave spaces” where we allow the space for people to speak up if they feel they’ve been treated unjustly. Our Member Resources page on the website might also be helpful.

  • We are an inclusive, equitable movement, not open to active haters. We encourage everyone to report accounts that are responsible for hate speech and hateful action directly to the platform they are using, so that the platform and the group are safer for all.

Build Trust:

Trust is the foundation of this gift economy, which will thrive when there is trust between the people sharing with each other. Act with honesty and empathy, using each interaction to build a culture of honesty and mindfulness.  There are many ways to build trust and a few things we know damage trust in Buy Nothing groups – We’ve listed some below, and your Local Group Leader(s) may remove people who damage trust in their group in these ways or others.

  • Stealing is Prohibited: Do not take anything from your neighbors without specific permission. If you discover that something is missing from your porch/home/doorstep, if something you did not set out as a gift has been taken, please ask in your group to see if a mistake was made. If you suspect theft or any other crime, contact your local authorities as you would for any situation. Your local group’s leader(s) has no enforcement authority when it comes to illegal actions. 

  • Reselling: There is no rule against the reselling of Buy Nothing Project gifts outside of the groups, but reselling must be done in ways that build trust. You simply need to share your intent to resell a gift when you request it. Givers are always free to give as they choose, and the disclosure of reselling respects each participant’s right to make informed and mindful choices about their giving. Many people are happy to give gifts that will be sold elsewhere to support organizations they respect, to help neighbors make a living by reselling, or to provide materials for artists and craftspeople who reuse gifted materials in their work. It is the responsibility of people who resell gifts to openly and clearly explain this when they ask for gifts they’d like to resell.

  • Private Communications: Don’t pressure others via private message. Only send a private message to another group member when they’ve asked you to do that. If you want people to reach you via private message, be sure to let them know. Gifting in the Buy Nothing Project is always at the discretion of the Giver.

  • Please have patience with people whose accounts are hacked by games and other apps, sending messages without their consent.

  • Recruiting: Do not use Buy Nothing groups as a means for collecting personal information about your neighbors, or to recruit people to join your religion, political party/candidate/ballot option, business or other organization. Buy Nothing groups are inclusive and equitable at their core. All group members should be respected as equals, just as they are.

  • Integrity, honesty and trust are required for your gift economy to flourish and for human-centered connections to develop.

Give Freely:

Trading, bartering, buying or selling is counter to the Buy Nothing Project mission. Keep in mind that all gifts must be freely given without any expectation of reward or another gift in return. There is no limit to giving or receiving in the groups. Participants may offer and request as much as they’d like, as often as they’d like. No one is under any obligation to give or receive, but everyone may ask as they choose, and give as they choose.

Participate as Yourself:

  • If your group is on an online platform, you must use your personal account, and not a business account.

  • You may share or request goods or services from or for your business, school, charity or other organization, as long as those offers or requests are not presented as a way of marketing, advertising, recruiting, promoting or otherwise “spreading the word” about your business or organization.

  • You may request and offer gifts in your group on behalf of your family, friends, organizations, etc. If you know someone who wants to participate in a Buy Nothing group and is able to do so, please help them establish membership in their own local Buy Nothing group. If you know someone who can participate with assistance, that is a welcome gift of self to offer. You can help them participate in any way that makes their Buy Nothing group accessible to them. We ask all group leaders and participants to expand their understanding of what accessibility and inclusion looks like to allow for shared accounts, people who offer and request on behalf of others, and people whose abilities and circumstances impact their participation in ways that may be new to you. Gift economies are especially strong when individuals are empowered to participate directly, as themselves, and there is a beautiful diversity in how this manifests.

How Does This Work In Practice?

Let’s say you’re a professional fish groomer, and you want to share your skills. You could definitely offer your services, but they’d need to come from you, without any mention of your business name, directions to your business office, store, or website, or anything else that might even remotely smack of marketing or advertising. You could say something like “Offered: One grooming session for your goldfish. I’m a professional fish groomer and would love to give an hour of my time to help your Goldie look her best. Please let me know if your fish could use a spa day. If there’s a lot of interest, I’ll choose a recipient tomorrow around 8 pm.” As with everything, the offer needs to be completely free, given with no expectation of any return or reward. It’s fine if a conversation develops and people ask about your work, your training or expertise, your business, etc – there’s a difference between natural conversation between neighbors who are interested in learning about each other and using the group for marketing. In a Buy Nothing group, we practice building relationships through natural conversations, knowing this leads to a more resilient real life community in many ways.


Give From Your Own Abundance:

  • Please do not tell people where they can purchase an item, pay for a service, or receive charitable assistance. If you know of a free assistance program or free community resource that would be helpful to your group, we encourage you to check in with your group’s leader(s) about the creation of a Community Resource document in the group’s Files.

    The Buy Nothing Project welcomes the creation of a Community Resources file in your Buy Nothing group to list and link to all of the community resources that group members may find useful. The co-founders of the Buy Nothing Project believe that creating one document as a go-to resource for these links can help the group by providing permanent access to these resources in a way that doesn’t take up space in the daily feed. This gift economy was set up as an experiment to see just how many of the community’s needs can be met right here in the group. The creation of a Community Resources document is optional; check with your group’s leader(s)about their approach to this.

  • The traditional charity and community support paradigm often splits people into “haves” and “have-nots,” and the two aren’t on equal footing. The Buy Nothing Project is not a charity, it’s a network of person-to-person gift economies that can subvert this traditional have-have not relationship. Everyone here is both a “have” with things to give away (whether those are tangible goods or gifts of self), and a “have not” with wants and needs that the group can help fulfill.

  • Please do not direct each other to charitable organizations to meet requests shared in your Buy Nothing group. Focus instead on helping each other whenever and however you can with your own hands, time, stuff, and presence. This social experiment is about finding ways to strengthen connections between neighbors through giving, receiving, and sharing creatively.

 

We Are a Gift Economy
(No Buying/Selling/Trading):

  •  This is not the place to refer people to ways to meet their needs or desires through the market economy. This means the following things are not allowed here: marketing or advertising; offers or requests for paid employment; offers of items for sale, trade or rent; GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaigns and the like, requests for items you’d like to buy or rent; items you wish to barter, trade or exchange; real estate for sale or rent; encouraging people to buy, sell, or trade items or services elsewhere. Ask your local group’s leader(s) for your group’s policy on coupons, gift cards, and gifts of cash.

  • This is the perfect place to offer free gifts of all legal kinds, including free gifts of self in the form of services, skills, assistance, items of all kinds and in all conditions, etc. You may request or offer anything you might otherwise want or need to buy; since this is the Buy Nothing Project, you just may find what you want and need here without buying it.

Ask And Give Creatively:

  • We encourage you to experiment with your giving, receiving, and sharing. Find ways to include as many people as possible, and to offer and receive.  There are so many creative ways of giving and asking. If you need or want something, wow your neighbors with a photo to draw their attention to your words, tell a story about why you might need or want something, or include a joke or philosophical observation with your request. On the giving side, consider offering a service that is easy for you, like tailoring clothes (this could help someone with an upcoming job interview,) organizing a garage, fixing a toaster, or even offering their gifts on their behalf if they’re downsizing, or moving, and don’t have the time. 

  • Other ways to give creatively are through community lending libraries, clothing share events, free holiday boutiques, round robins, junk in the trunk, books and beverages events, community gleaning, neighborhood potlucks, free bike programs, and other group get-togethers that involve sharing. Some groups even set up Buy Nothing booths at their local farmers markets to extend the giving and receiving further to their communities. Ask your group leaders about these great Buy Nothing community-building initiatives.

 

All Members Participate At Their Own Risk:

The Buy Nothing Project, Founders and Local Group Leaders accept no responsibility for any loss, damage, or legal liability that may arise from a member’s participation in the groups.

Additional Suggestions for Successful Participation

Here are some suggestions for successful participation with your group. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but are suggestions and requests by the Buy Nothing Project, based on our experiences, and our mission to build and foster healthy hyperlocal gift-economies.

Full Disclosure

Condition of Item:
We all participate in this project at our own risk. Please be honest when you describe an item you’re offering – it’s fine to offer items in any condition, but your fellow group participants need to know if something needs to be fixed, cleaned, picked up with a large vehicle, etc. If a gift has special sentimental value, we’d like to hear that too – stories about gifts are hugely popular and help build community.

A giver is not required to take back an item if it does not meet a recipient’s expectations. Nor are recipients required to accept an item if, upon seeing it in person and before taking it home, they realize it won’t work for them. If you find that a gift won’t work for you, just be honest and let the giver know.  It’s perfectly wonderful to re-gift Buy Nothing gifts if you find yourself with something that doesn’t work for you. 

Communicate

Cultivate a Mindset of Openness, Trust, And Empathy: The following are steps we ask each of us to take whenever we are taking action and communicating, whether it’s between two participants, between a group leader and a participant, between two group leaders, etc:

  • Ask questions

  • Listen & think

  • Experiment with empathy

  • Find ways to say yes

  • Trust in abundance

  • Use the Community Agreement

Diverse Communication Styles Are Welcome: Communicate in ways that are easy for you. What you say must fit into the rules about what sort of posts and comments belong, but how you express yourself is entirely up to you. Participating in your Buy Nothing Project group should be fun, not a complicated chore. Explain what you’re offering or requesting in the words of your choosing. There are no rules about how your communication with your group must be worded or formatted. It’s fine to use a lot of whole words to tell a story about your offer or request, it’s fine to use very few words, it’s fine to use abbreviations or acronyms, or to use any combination of words, images, and links to online content that help you express yourself. We ask everyone to extend patience and understanding to each other, as each Buy Nothing group includes people with a variety of languages, literacy levels, available time, physical ability, internet access, and communication styles. Accessible communication for one person may not match up with accessible communication for another person, so we can help each other out by bridging the gap when we see ways to add comments or questions that help with any confusion, to make posts and comments more understandable by more participants. The more your personality comes through in your offers, requests, and comments, the more you’ll build connections with others. You’ll build more connections when you share stories, and connections are one of the best Buy Nothing gifts.

Commit to Your Group:
Rather than offering the same gift in multiple groups, we would love for you to commit to your Buy Nothing community and offer first to your Buy Nothing group. But if items are also offered elsewhere, please let your neighbors know.
 

Pick-Ups:
When responding to an offer, please be sure that you communicate clearly about your ability to pick up the item in a timely manner. Givers are not expected to hold onto items for a recipient for any longer than is convenient, but we do hope that all members will do what they can to work out any scheduling mishaps.
If your neighbor has not picked up an item you’ve set out for them, feel free to message them privately, or let them know in the group that it’s still waiting for them, or you can always choose another recipient for your gift. 

Transportation
If you are unable to transport an item, be sure to include that information, whether it’s an offer or a request. Sometimes, other members of your group may be able to help with transportation; this is a great gift to request.

Value:
Please do not feel the need to tell the group how much the item cost, how much it is worth, or how much it could be sold for. In Buy Nothing groups, all gifts are equal, and monetary value
is irrelevant.

Chime In
:  
If you see something that you feel is not in keeping with the Rules and Standards of the Buy Nothing Project, feel free to let the participant know. Local Group leaders can’t be in the groups at all times and it’s always helpful when neighbors remind fellow neighbors about each Buy Nothing group’s unique rules.

Practice Patience

Let It Simmer:
You can build a stronger Buy Nothing group when you move more slowly to select recipients for your gifts, and when you choose recipients through a variety of methods. Letting your offer “simmer”, “soak” or “stew” for a bit before choosing a recipient will allow more people to respond to your offer. If you need an item gone right away, you can choose to use a variation of “first come, first served” or a “flash give” to select a recipient, but it’s much more positive for the entire group if you can use other methods, such as drawing a name from a hat.
 

Curbside Giving:
Let your neighbors know if you’ve put something out on the curb as a free offering, or if you see something in your neighborhood that one of your neighbors might be able to use.

Keep Trying:
Sometimes gifts are offered and don’t find a recipient. Sometimes requests are shared but not fulfilled. Don’t give up! It can be discouraging or feel embarrassing when your offers and requests aren’t met with enthusiasm. Participating in a gift economy can make all of us feel emotionally vulnerable at times. There are many reasons that offers and requests aren’t met. Sometimes online platforms hide content from group members, sometimes people are too busy or focused on outside events to check in with their Buy Nothing groups, sometimes it’s just one of those days or weeks. Please know that this is a shared experience. We encourage you to try again – offer a different gift, or offer the same gift with a new description; post your request again, with a genuine bit of your personality in your wording. Experiment, and feel free to share your feelings and frustrations with your group, to request help and tips that can make your offers and requests more successful.

Build a Shared Narrative:
Please keep your content available to your group, even after your gifts have been given, your requests fulfilled, and your gratitude seen. Each interaction in your group is a valuable addition to your shared narrative. We have learned that a shared narrative built on an archive of content, helps new and longtime group participants build a shared local gift economy vocabulary, and this shared vocabulary, complete with old stories of gifts long given, is a cornerstone of a sustainable local gift economy. Please do not delete your content, but allow it to remain as part of your group’s story.

Be Yourself

The goal is to grow a web of interdependence between real-life neighbors through giving, receiving, and sharing. Get to know your neighbors. Let your neighbors get to know you. We are all a part of this amazing experiment together! 

While we don’t want the groups to turn into neighborhood chat groups or discussion forums, we do want members to have natural conversation with each other, and share about themselves and why they might want a particular item, or a personal story about an item they are giving away. It’s great when an offer or request turns into a conversation about other topics that are connected to the stories that go with the gift. As long as your comments relate to the offer or request in some way and don’t violate any other rules, please share them. This sort of conversation helps neighbors connect, offer support and encouragement, and get to know each other better

Buy Nothing Project Policies

  • Buy Nothing Project Local Group Leaders are volunteer stewards of this international project for their communities. Group Leaders should not be expected to mediate between members, resolve legal matters or negotiate when things don’t go as planned. As all participants are adults, everyone must handle these matters for themselves.

  • The Buy Nothing Project, Founders and Local Group Leaders accept no responsibility for any loss, damage, or legal liability that may arise from a member’s participation in the groups.

    All members participate at their own risk.

  • Local Group Leader(s) reserve the right to delete anything that doesn’t belong in their groups, usually without notice, or to remove participants who act in ways that are not in accordance with the Rules, Standards or Principles.

  • The goal of the Buy Nothing Project is to create and nourish a network of local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors. To achieve this goal, Local Group Leader(s) will have the option, when a group has out-grown its current incarnation, to transform it into smaller groups devoted to more hyper-local neighborhood regions. Local Group Leaders also have the option to cap membership at a sustainable number of participants, encouraging multiple smaller groups to serve the area, so that everyone has access to a Buy Nothing group that’s a workable size. 

Other Useful Tips

 

  • To find the right Buy Nothing community for you, visit our Join Buy Nothing page. If there’s no Buy Nothing community where you are, you have a few options. We’re developing a free BuyNothing app that will connect you with people around you instantly, or you can start your own Buy Nothing community on the platform of your choice, using our Freesources and tips from volunteer Buy Nothing Librarians

  • To join your local Buy Nothing Facebook group, follow the directions provided by the group. You can usually find this information for a Facebook group in the Group Description area. 

  • Are You Moving?
    There are Buy Nothing Project communities all over the world! You’ll find a list of them here. When you move, remember to click on “leave group” in your old Buy Nothing Facebook group so your newsfeed doesn’t get confusing, and so it’s easier for your new Buy Nothing community’s leaders to see that you’re new to their neighborhood.

  • This Project is run entirely by volunteers. We all have busy lives, and sometimes things slip past us. You can help your neighbors by commenting on what they share, encouraging their giving and requesting, and offering your knowledge and experience of the rules, standards and mission. Your participation will make your community stronger!

  • Buy Nothing Groups Can Be Varied:
    Do you see a difference between your local Buy Nothing community and the mission, principles, and rules expressed in this document? The co-founders of the Buy Nothing Project created this document and offer it freely to the world with a public copyright so that anyone can adapt or use it for noncommercial purposes. There are many iterations of Buy Nothing around the globe, and some have very different principles and rules. You can bring any Buy Nothing resource to your group to spark a discussion about possible changes, or you can set up a new group of your own, to bring to life your own addition to this movement. See our Freesources page for helpful resources, including volunteer Buy Nothing Project Librarians who can help you find everything you need to establish your own Buy Nothing community. 

  • The Buy Nothing Project May Not Be a Perfect Fit for Everyone:
    Do you have an intense dislike for your Buy Nothing group? Are you unhappy with your group and also have no desire to create one for yourself as an alternative? We know Buy Nothing communities aren’t a good fit for everyone. If you’re not happy with the rules, mission, or developing culture, please feel free to find another group that’s a better fit. No one is held against their will in their local Buy Nothing group. If you make it clear that the Buy Nothing Project isn’t a good fit for you by attacking the volunteers who lead your community, by continued complaints, personally-directed hostility, willful disregard of the rules, or an announcement that you intend to leave the group, your local group leader(s) will help you find the exit door so you can look for a happier place.

  • Do you have general questions about The Buy Nothing Project? Be sure to check out our founding team’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

Commonly Asked Questions

Questions About Our Fine Print


Questions about Eligibility


How to Use Your Buy Nothing Group


How to Handle Difficult Situations

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This is a dynamic document that changes over time. Most Recent Update: 6 June 2021 

The Buy Nothing Project co-founders retain the right to make changes without notice as they see fit in response to changes in law, in the pursuit of creating a more equitable sharing experience for all participants, and in other ways to enable the further development of the Buy Nothing Project’s mission.

This work was created by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project. As noted in the Show Your Humanity section, we are especially grateful for the Equity Team for the labor they have invested in the Buy Nothing Project and for calling us to account for the damage being done by our words and actions, and for reading and offering edits on the first draft of 4 paragraphs of the “Show Your Humanity” and “Regarding Complaints” sections of this document, which were first published in early 2020.
The Fine Print document is offered as a gift to the world for noncommercial use and adaptation, with attribution, to support the international Buy Nothing gift economy movement.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License – Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/deed.en