While makerspaces continue to be community hubs for creativity and innovation, many of them are struggling to find a sustainable business model, attract new members, and manage their day-to-day operations.

The State of Makerspaces survey, conducted by The Makers Nation, tracks potential progress, highlights successful models, and gets a better understanding of how the members of these spaces are evolving as the maker movement gains maturity.

The State of Makerspaces takes a high-level snapshot of the emergent industry of makers. The call for submissions is only open for 4 weeks, and then the anonymous results, as well as a summarizing presentation, are released and shared within a month of the survey ending.

Take a look at the infographic highlighting some of the 2015 results, and then go ahead and participate in the 2016 survey!

Top Makerspace Takeaways at a Glance

  1. Many of the spaces that participated in the survey were not profitable; of those that were, a large portion of them were entirely volunteer run.
  2. The most popular (by a landslide!) piece of equipment in a makerspace is a laser cutter!
  3. The most under-represented age ranges in many spaces are seniors and youth, while post-secondary and adults make up the majority of members.
  4. An average of 6-10 people attend workshops conducted in makerspaces, and the majority of spaces charge less than $40 a person.
  5. The three things that makerspace managers requested help with were:
    1. Funding: finding a way to cover expenses, keep the operations going, and pay staff.
    2. Outreach: people finding out the maker spaces exist, and getting them in the space.
    3. Operations: the day-to-day management of the business. Taxes, bookkeeping, volunteer management, team dynamics, etc.
Graphics by Christina Hug

Graphics by Christina Hug. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The Bottom Line?

The membership + workshop model is typically not enough to sustain overall operations of a makerspace, so they often need to be augmented by other means.

Essential Learnings to Promote Success Amongst Makerspaces

Outsource expertise and underused machine time to work on projects for the business community. A number of spaces have become prototyping studios for ad agencies and corporate clients in their area to diversify revenue.

Find financial supporters with a vested interest. Government leadership can change and charitable giving can dry up. Work with a partner who wants to co-produce with you and will actually use the space.

Integrate with the greater creative community. Of the 34% of spaces who were profitable in 2015, 56% said they felt like they were integrated in their community, which is 27% higher than average. This could mean opening the doors to other communities, participating in existing events and festivals to broaden your reach, and matching downtime in the space with communities in need of a venue.

outreachtools

Create a Maker Journey. Many spaces use workshops to get new makers in the door, which means a lot of the programming is focused on introductory skills. A few spaces have started to create a more diverse set of classes which attract makers at all levels. This, in turn, allows for more engagement between members and skill sharing and a lower likelihood of someone feeling like they will ‘outgrow’ the space.

The 2016 survey is open now! The Makers Nation is dedicated to continually tracking industry progress using this annual survey. If you run a makerspace or Fab Lab please consider participating at themakersnation.com/makerspaces.