Yesterday I had a chat with emk on IRC concerning the organization and funding of the Nairobi LUG. He suggested that we ought to introduce some sort of monthly contribution by members.
Part of the reason this came up was that our domain name, nairobilug.or.ke, expired recently and money was needed to renew it. emk felt that it would have been easier for us to come up with the money if we had a kitty with members making monthly contributions to it. He suggested that we needed funds to spread the word and recruit members.
I pointed out several issues with this proposal. Collecting money would create the need for an office of the treasurer. Who would collect and keep the money? It's just a detail, but isn't the devil always in such? There would also be need for rules and regulations governing the use of the funds. I failed to point out that we do not have a registered membership. This would make collecting regular contributions from members that much harder. I feel that imposing membership fees and/or contributions would also have the negative effect of discouraging would be members from coming on board.
So how to finance an organisation of Linux and FOSS enthusiasts? On Thursday I had been toying with the idea of raising money for the LUG by selling Nairobi LUG swag. We might put up a store on the website and get members to purchase printed t-shirts, printed mug, and even mouse pads. The problem with this approach is that it needs money in the first place.
We could always seek out sponsors, perhaps in the form of companies or other institutions working with Linux. I would be glad to hear from any. I am not too enthusiastic about the idea of a community being bankrolled by a corporate sponsor though.
I am personally comfortable with the idea of donations from members whenever the need arises, with everyone contributing whatever they can , from each according to his means so to speak. When we the registered the nairobilug.or.ke domain initially, we split the cost between all those present at the meetup where the decision to register it was made.
I had a similar conversation sometime ago with Fred Muriithi a fellow Nairobi LUGer, and he seemed to share many of my views on the subject. I asked for suggestions from fellow LUGers on IRC and I hope this will be an ongoing discussion. I would also like to hear about how other Linux User Groups fund themselves, and what they use their funds for. If you have any thoughts or ideas on the subject drop by #nairobilug on Freenode IRC and share or post to the mailing list.
As things stand we do not really need money for anything, save for the KES 2,320/- for renewing our .or.ke domain once a year. In the end Alan Orth and Ibrahim Ng'eno split the cost of renewing the domain. I look forward to reimbursing them my contribution at the next LUG meetup.