(This post was co-authored by me (Cody Wild), Tessa Alexanian and Ray Arnold)
Do you care about the Berkeley REACH staying open? Has an open-access community space added value to your life? We have a few days to raise enough money to comfortably sign a one-year lease. If not, REACH will lose its current location, and the project will go into indefinite hiatus.
Community support for REACH has been substantial, and we’re proud to see the number of people willing to pay seriously for something important. But we haven’t hit the level where it’s realistic to sign a full year lease. For that, we’d either need an additional $2260/month on Patreon, or up-front donations of around $27,000 to make us secure enough to do so. If this lease isn’t signed in the next few days, REACH will lose its current location at the end of July.
If you’re excited about REACH, you’re probably already donating. We care about our community not overextending itself. One of the main benefits of REACH is to help those who haven’t yet gotten their financial footing stabilized, and if that’s your situation we don’t want you feeling pressure here.
But if you can comfortably donate more to REACH – if you’re one of those 6 figure salary programmers who are excited by the prospect of having an honest-to-goodness community in a world that increasingly pushes towards atomization, we’d like you to consider whether you want to do more.
If you’re willing and able to pledge more ongoing support than you already have, or want to make a large, one-time donation to help an early-stage project get its footing, the next few days are the time to come forward and do so.
- Reflections on the Berkeley REACH - Sarah Spikes, June 7
- Thoughts on the REACH Patreon - Ray Arnold, April 30
- Humans Need Places - Ben Hoffman, April 19
Current Financial Reality
REACH has a funding gap. While this funding gap remains, it doesn’t make sense to sign the lease.
- REACH is earning $3,600 a month in the Patreon
- The PayPal has brought in around $10,000 so far
- The landlord has been negotiated down to $5,500/month in rent
- Short-term room rentals have brought in $1000-$2000/month; we expect that to generally be lower outside of the summer months and think $1000/month is a reasonable year-averaged estimate
- Funding a 20 hour/week caretaker for the space, at minimum wage, would cost $15,110 over the year
- Maintenance and capital costs, optimistically, are around $100/month
- Not counting lost wages, about $10,000 of personal funds were already invested into this project
Taking into account solely the cost of rent, the funding gap on recurring and reliable funds is $900 per month, or $10,800 for the year. If we’re trying to fund the real cost of the space in a sustainable way, we estimate the size of this year’s funding gap at:
That’s a funding gap of $2260 per month, or $27,120 for the year.
Closing the Funding Gap
A few large donations to the PayPal, in the next few days, could offset enough of the $27,120 full-year shortfall that signing the lease would seem like a reasonable risk.
In general, though, a Patreon donation pledge can be relied upon in a way that ad hoc donations just can’t. Many of you have, in the past, given PayPal donations— which have been valuable— but if REACH is to survive, more people for whom REACH is valuable need to commit to donating funds on a monthly basis.
Why not move somewhere less expensive?
First off, this is the Berkeley REACH. It’s not surprising that rent is kind of high.
A house? There are houses in Berkeley with a similar amount of common space, but modifying them into a community center would require a permit from the city. This would, very optimistically, be a 5-8 month process.
Other commercial space? There are commercial spaces in Berkeley that are less expensive on a per-square-foot level. However, they typically require 3-5 year leases. This project is still evolving and stabilizing financially, so that’s too long of a commitment to ask a leaseholder to take on.
Even putting aside the hurdles of one of the above options, it would take at minimum several weeks to find an alternative, lower-rent venue, during which significant momentum on the project would be lost. The investments to the space, the donations, and the ways that REACH’s primary caretakers have configured their lives around it would be temporarily undone, and would have to be built up again.
Why are we posting this?
We won’t argue that this is effective altruism – while you could make a case for that, it depends on a lot of assumptions, and you may not want to count this in your Giving What We Can Pledge.
Yet. Humans are built for living in community, and we believe that donating money to help members of your community connect and thrive will make us stronger. We all spend money on things to make us happier, and we believe that, out of the available options, investing in community is one of the richer and more sustainable ways to do that. To quote Ray Arnold:
I think it’s very good that the rational/EA-sphere spends attention on helping far away or future people, even if they won’t return the favor. Part of living in the present era can and should include noticing that you have a lot of power, and the opportunity to use that power to help people at scale.
But, while money is the unit of caring, there’s plenty of things to care about other than far away people.
Freethinker-esque communities don’t just have trouble cooperating for grand altruistic projects. They struggle to cooperate to just buy themselves some god damn nice things._
I’m of the opinion people do not spend nearly enough money investing in their own communities.
By reducing the necessary activation energy, we make it easier for any given community member to think of a valuable community meetup series, or workshop, or activity, and just do it. There is a lot of bonding and mutual growth that comes out of events that would be too high-effort to initiate if an open space weren’t easily available.
There aren’t many parts of urban, secular, atomized society that optimize for community. REACH is still very much an experiment in going against that grain and creating an intentional space to be together and build together. We haven’t yet seen the full results of that experiment, but what we’ve seen so far is enough to make us hopeful.
Without more funding, the REACH will close. We hope you will join us in extending its run a little further.