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Smart City Learning Cafe Finances

   The Milky Way, Yosemite National Park, by Akseli Mende, Ida B. Wells High School Class of 2021

Brief History and Where We Stand Today


We had our first session on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. We have been meeting almost every Wednesday that the local public schools have been session for the last year. (We did not meet in September 2022.)

Both Amy and Joe love doing this and have received overwhelming support from the students who attend, their parents, peer tutors, and many other sources. It is clear that we are serving a need. We want to keep doing this. We are committed to continuing through the current school year. We do not yet know what we will do after that. Your input is welcome. Keep reading.

Are You a Business or a Charity?


Good question. For the first year (January 2022 - January 2023) we have volunteered our time. But we can't continue doing this. We are considering becoming an official 501 (c) (3) non-profit in the future, but we have not decided yet. For now, we are a small family business. This means that any donations are not tax deductible.


What About the GoFundMe?


We did a GoFundMe and raised $5100. Our goal was $5000. We closed the GoFundMe once we realized we met our goal. We have also raised about $300 from the donation jar that we put out. This $5400 is sitting in a savings account. We have not spent any of January 2023.

It is important to us that we are completely transparent about how the money from the GoFundMe and the donation jar is spent. 

Amy and Joe to Get Modest Pay Beginning February, 2023


For Semester 2 of the current school we are going to pay ourselves $200 per week total for Amy and Joe each week that the Learning Cafe is in session. Total pay = $3600. There are enough funds in the savings account to cover this even without further donations with $1800 left over.

Funding Semester 2 2022-2023

We have decided that we do NOT want to run another GoFundMe. Rather, we are going to encourage the families who use the Learning Cafe to donate to cover the modest expenses of running the program. The suggested donation is $5/student/hour. We are averaging about 25 students for two hours each week. If everyone contributes at that level our weekly income would be $250. That is enough to cover the $200 per week we will begin paying ourselves. 

If the users of the Learning Cafe come through and the donations meet targets, that will strongly influence our decision to do this next school year.

Update: Very few families donated. The donation model did not work. Thanks to the small handful of families who donated.

Funding Semester 1 2023-2024

We have decided to go with a low-cost model rather than a donation model. This is detailed on the main Smart City Learning Cafe page. In brief, the fee is $10 per session with a semester pass of $100. Black, Indigenous, and anyone with a financial hardship is free. Peer tutors are also free.

Why Not Become a Charity and Write Grants?

We might just do that. However, in our long careers in education both Amy and Joe have seen how infrastructure and bureaucracy crush great ideas, students, and teachers. We want to help youth find success, one student at a time.

If the students who use this service and their parents think the Smart City Learning Cafe is worth $5/student/hour, we will continue being a small family business. We like this model. We are having loads of fun being as authentic as we can be. 

That said, we have not ruled out founding a charity. We fell in love in 1992 cofounding Nearby Nature, a Eugene-based nonprofit that is still going strong at 30+ years. Nearby Nature is the best work we have ever done. We know first hand how much work it is to run a non-profit. We are not afraid of hard work, but we want to make sure what we are doing serves the societal need as efficiently as possible.

We have also considered finding an existing non-profit group to act as our "umbrella."

If we do go the 501 (c) (3) route, that will involve lawyers and accountants, and, of course, their fees. If we have remaining funds in the savings account where we put all donations, we will use these funds as needed to obtain non-profit status.

This is a Great Idea, There Should Be Something Like This Every Night of the Week in Every Neighborhood

Yes, we hear this quite a bit too. But we are grassroots people. We are not growth-minded business people. We want other people to take this idea and run with it in their own community. We have not copyrighted or patented anything. This is open source social change. Please, create your own Learning Cafe or something similar. Our youth are in crisis. Education is in crisis. Earth is in crisis. Be inspired. Get to work!

Your Input?

We would love to hear from you. Send Joe an email

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