What is at issue?
Smart is a shared coop which is not-for-profit and follows the principles of solidarity economics. At the same time, it must cover its own running expenses – economic efficiency is a prerequisite for Smart to continue and develop for all of us to participate in and share in the benefits.
We currently still receive partial financial help from Smart Belgium. It is important for Smart to reach break-even so that we, as a community, finally have a sustainable and self-reliant structure at our disposal.
How will we get there?
Smart receives no subsidies (except for Covid) and basically no public money for ongoing operations. For cooperative shares we ask for a onetime sum of 50 € per member, a symbolic and nominal sum. We are therefore independent, however, our Smart Fee is the only resource to cover costs for the common structure and all its services, such as our office, the workforce of the team and necessary external services (contracts, bookkeeping, payroll accounting, billing, dunning, administration, workshops and advising, …)
What are the experiences so far?
The fee was too low from the start. Knowing that the fee was a further expense for users, we wanted to keep it as low as possible. In the first years of growth we have learned and gathered experience; who the users are and with what projects and orders they come to us, how high the real workload is (also with continuous digitalization and higher efficiency), how and how quickly we grow. We now know in retrospect that 7.5% was too low from the beginning. And that in the future the common structure, with a fee of 7.5%, cannot under any scenario function self-sufficiently (no matter how quickly or much we expand). It is our responsibility and a necessity to remedy this.
Especially since the cuts resulting from the Corona crisis, painful for both users and the Smart office, we know that we soon (concretely: end of 2023) must be able to operate economically on our own through user contributions. Therefore, it is even clearer that a fee of 7.5% is unrealistic, since this goal, despite extensive development projections, is just not feasible.
We are not alone in this decision, almost all Smart offices in Europe will have to raise their fees, such as Germany, Belgium, France and Italy.
What are the next steps?
Based on these considerations, the fee we will be increased as of July 1, 2021. The raise to either 9.5%, 10%, or 11% is up for discussion. For users this means e.g. with an order of 500€ net, and an increase to 9.5%, an actual additional 10 € in fee; for an order of 3,000€ net it is 60 € (see sample calculations below). A higher fee would also mean that we would be able to improve the services faster and broader, according to your wishes.
How can users join the discussion?
In April and May, we will hold online discussion fora. We will present the basis for decision making and necessities; and evaluate the different options and the initiatives these would allow. Most of all, however, we want to discuss your wishes and needs. Join the fora and contribute your perspective:
Thursday, 29 April 2021, 2–4pm
Zoom meeting ID: 863 5887 5628, passcode: 883838
Wednesday, 19 May 2021, 5–7pm
Zoom meeting ID: 836 7690 7554, passcode: 489066
Subsequently, we will vote on the new fee at the general assembly in June 2021 with all members of the coop. All users are invited to join as members and to participate in decision-making! In this way we will secure Smart sustainably and in the long run, and we will be able to continually improve services for users; right now, for instance, we are working diligently on the digitalization and automatization of tasks to allow advisors more time for individual counseling.
What does this mean practically?
All orders submitted through our website by June 30, 2021 will be calculated with 7.5%, even if the order is to be fulfilled in the second half year. All orders submitted through the website as of July 1, 2021 will be calculated with the new fee. Standing orders which are calculated monthly, will be charged the new fee as of July 1, 2021. Advisors are happy to answer any question.
Where to with questions and concerns?
Don’t hesitate to get in touch should you have any questions: email@example.com oder +43 1 997 44 66. We are happy to discuss the details with you, at the discussion fora, at the general assembly or in personal talk.
We thank you in advance for your continued trust and support. As a coop, it is the community which carries Smart; not only in economical, but first and foremost in social and cultural regards. And that community is all of us, together.
In a nutshell
- Smart is not for profit and solidarity economic based – a common self-supporting coop
- User’s common contributions via Smart Fee secure the coop and its’ sustainable development
- The cooperative must be self-supporting in order to continue existing for everyone’s benefit – that is not the case presently
- We receive no public money for ongoing operations (except Covid)
- The fee is the only financial resource (for infrastructure, office, team, all services, etc.)
- After the experience of the first few years, we now know: the 7.5% fee was too low from the start
- Therefore the fee will be increased as of July 1, 2021 to 9,5%, 10% or 11%, for long-term security, sustainability, and improvement of services.
- The raise will be discussed with everyone interested at two open fora, then voted on at the general assembly in June by all members
- We are here for your questions! At the fora, the general assembly or in personal talk with advisors
- Thanks for being on board! Smart is all of us, together