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#1 2017-05-30 09:43:24

Registered: 2017-05-30
Posts: 1

Looking to donate bikes directly to end user

I enjoy rescuing bikes and making them run well.  I have looked around Austin for donation opportunities but I have not been excited about the options.  The yellow bike project is a disorganized mess and my donations appear to go into a big heap of bike part bins to never be seen or used again ( I have volunteered there and I have seen it).  I am not dissing YBP.  They provide a great service.  I just want my bikes to go directly to someone.  Many advocacy groups need children sized bikes (I will take those and fix them up as I have a school that has asked me for larger children's bikes, not small kid bikes).  Currently I have a larger hybrid type bike and I am looking for a good home for it.  I would prefer to give it directly to someone who will use it.  Any suggestions?  Thanks.


#2 2017-05-31 11:47:42

Peter Wall
Registered: 2013-02-08
Posts: 3

Re: Looking to donate bikes directly to end user

Dear Coffee Coaster, I volunteer at the yellow bike project regularly and I can identify with what you have to say. I would consider bypassing them and going directly to one of the non-profits they give bikes to, namely Refugee Services of Texas, or Caritas. Both of these organizations have a backlog of people in need of transportation who would be happy to receive a working bike from you.


#3 2017-06-01 10:53:22

From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,234

Re: Looking to donate bikes directly to end user

Pete is being too modest.  He's not simply a volunteer, but essentially one of the founders -- if not one of *the* founders, certainly one of the very first volunteers, and probably the longest-serving volunteer/member.  I also witnessed him trying to remedy the very problem the OP mentioned, a full 14 years ago.

YBP is 20 years old this year.  That's a long, long time for a volunteer-only organization.  I knew the principals, and remember the beginning.  The original plan was to fix up old bikes, paint them yellow, and leave them around town for people to use for free.  They succeeded in releasing hundreds of bikes in the first few years but they quickly disappeared.  I'm guessing the thinking was that if they kept releasing, then eventually everyone who wanted to steal a bike would have one, and then the new releases would tend to stick around.  But that didn't happen, and YBP pretty much gave up the idea of releasing bikes into the wild, moving on to things like running community bike shops to teach bike-repair skills and giving fixed-up bikes to non-profits.

In 2003, I attended a YBP collective meeting.  Up until that point (and maybe continuing today, I don't know), YBP was 100% volunteer-run, that was the culture.  But at that meeting, Pete proposed trying to get a grant to fund a paid staffer who would supervise people doing court-ordered community service hours, who would work on attacking the backlog and fixing up bikes.  Pete pointed out that without paying people, it was hard to attract enough volunteers, the frames were piling up, and his proposal had a lot of bang for the buck: hire one staffer but ultimately get way more labor because the staffer would be overseeing community-service workers.  Commenting on the proposal, John Thoms, one of the founders, said that he and the others felt strongly when they started YBP that it should be 100% volunteer-run, but looking around the warehouse overflowing with frames and parts that it looked like would never get built into working bikes, he was ready to change his position and he voted to go for the grant to fund the paid position.  But YBP operated (operates still?) by consensus, and a single person objected, so the proposal failed.  (This is one of the reasons I think consensus rule is a bad idea -- one person can stop the whole show, and in a large enough group, there will always be at least one person who will oppose a particular change, ensuring that nothing will ever, ever change, also meaning that nothing can ever improve.  A co-op I lived in used modified consensus, where a single person could slow the process down in order to make sure it wasn't rushed through, but couldn't singlehandedly stop all potential progress.)

The OP's post suggests that in 14 years, little has changed about the accumulation of frames and parts that go neglected, which suggests to me that little has changed about not having paid staff.  To YBP's credit, it's a rare organization that can survive long-term without paid staff.  (Treasure City Thrift also gets kudos on that score.)  But survival isn't the same as being as effective as possible.

In the co-op I mentioned, board members were volunteers, and in every year's board election we struggled to get even one candidate for each position, much less have an actual contested election where members could actually have a choice.  As a board member, I pushed hard to give future board members a small, token stipend (not available to we who voted in the stipend), and was finally successful.  The stipend amount didn't even amount to minimum wage, but it was enough to motivate people, and in the next election we not only had a candidate for every position, but several positions were contested.  Volunteerism is a lofty goal, but the reality is that without paying people, it's hard to attract enough people and get the work done.


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