Cycles for Change

December 9, 2019 Update

Dear friends of Cycles for Change,

The Cycles for Change Board of Directors would like to update you about the status of Cycles for Change. The short version is:

  • We are not shutting down;
  • We are preparing a new organizational plan, which will involve changes; 
  • We are planning a community meeting to share more about the situation and ask for input about our plan to restructure, particularly how it matches up with community needs. 

We appreciate all the messages from people about Cycles for Change and what the organization, staff, and programs have meant to the community. We heard a lot of questions about what happened. We would like to take this opportunity to explain more about the current situation and highlight some details about the organization’s future. 

Even as we recognize that our current financial position means we have to scale back, we also are energized and excited about finding ways to continue programs that serve and empower a more diverse community of bicyclists. 

What happened?

For the last few years, Cycles for Change has operated with the benefit of large, multi-year grants and contracts. This funding, along with support from individuals and other smaller grants, and revenue from our community bicycle shops, allowed us to offer multiple programs: Youth Apprenticeship, Slow Roll rides, Open Shop, and Adult Learn to Ride classes. 

We knew as an organization that the coming end to that long-term funding would present fundamental challenges. The last couple of years also have seen a leadership transition. And, as a result of both the funding challenges and leadership transition, we’ve recognized the need to address internal operations, to tighten up systems, and achieve savings and efficiencies where ever possible. To address our changing financial picture, we:

  • Built a cash reserve going into 2018 to help us through a planned Executive Director transition. A new Executive Director was hired in summer 2018.
  • Instituted several improvements in internal operations, from payroll to financial management to shop operations. 
  • Closed our Saint Paul shop in late 2018 because of higher costs and lower sales at that location in combination with a rent increase if we had stayed. 
  • At the end of 2018, launched an individual fundraising campaign to help broaden support and prepare for the 2019 season.
  • Adjusted our staff size and reduced salaries to alleviate financial pressures and adjust to the new operations of one bike shop.
  • Hired outside grant-writing and individual giving consultants to help secure new grants and bolster other sources of income.
  • Worked hard to deliver high quality programming. Minneapolis shop sales increased 28% over 2018. We increased the number of Open Shop opportunities, resulting in a 97% increase in participants. The Adult Learn to Ride program served 163 participants from across the metro. 

Over the last few months, we have been faced with an increasingly difficult and unsustainable financial picture. While shop sales have increased, shop revenue is insufficient to cover shop operations. We were unsuccessful in securing new long-term funding. As funding for programs was not replaced, our revenue structure broke down. In November, we laid off staff and closed our doors, suspending programming. 

What’s next?

Cycles for Change consistently has welcomed and served a diverse community, providing a place to become familiar with bicycle transportation as a means to greater independence and empowerment. The stories on our blog about the people we’ve served attest to this. We’ve been a particularly welcoming place for people of color and immigrants, people expressing all gender identities and people of lower wealth backgrounds. Doing this work well requires paying attention to people, acknowledging their different backgrounds and taking time to understand and address their needs. 

It is this work that we plan to continue, although it will be in a more limited way than in the past. We are preparing a new business plan focused on resuming the programming that isn’t offered elsewhere. While our Adult Learn To Ride Program is partially funded in 2020, we are unable to continue to operate the shop and are talking with potential partners about possible collaboration. We’re especially interested in partnerships that would allow us to resume Open Shop in our current location. 

We are very grateful to the individual donors who have stepped up over the last few weeks to allow us to deal with financial obligations. With this support, we are nearly debt-free, though do face continued operating expenses. We also are grateful to our landlord and to other suppliers, vendors, and partners for their support and understanding as we work on a new plan.

What can you do?

  1. Make a contribution. Every dollar helps!
  2. Spread the word about C4C within your community.
  3. Share what you value about C4C with us by email at [email protected]
  4. Stay tuned as we continue to provide updates and bring together a community meeting. 

Thank you for your continued support as we navigate this restructuring. It takes a village! We appreciate any level of support you can provide—whether it’s contributing financially, sending positive vibes, sharing your love of C4C with friends, or connecting us with partners or donors. We look forward to working with you and the greater community to bring C4C into a strong position in 2020.

With gratitude,

C4C Board of Directors


December 3, 2019 Update

Dear Cycles for Change Community,

As of November 2019, the Cycles for Change shop in Minneapolis is closed and programming has been suspended until further notice.

Changes in the philanthropic environment have led to a loss of several significant, long-term sources of funding. Board and staff have been working hard to find a sustainable structure. While we are encouraged by strong 2019 results at the shop, in terms of sales and participation, current income does not cover expenses of operations. 

 We value and appreciate the various ways people have connected with Cycles for Change: via the store, Open Shop, Learn to Ride classes or other programming over the years. The shop culture is unique: welcoming and inclusive. We are one of only a few organizations offering adult “Learn to Ride” classes. These are programs that are highly valued in the community and deserve our ongoing support. 

In light of that past support, the Cycles for Change board of directors still believes in our mission to build a diverse and empowered bicycle community. We are deeply grateful to staff, donors, customers and community members who have supported us over the last 23 years.

The world is a very different place from when we first launched as the Yellow Bike Coalition back in 1996. We have worked hard over the years to adapt to both the challenges and opportunities in the bike community, the nonprofit environment, and the world as a whole. Now, in 2019, we find ourselves faced with one of the largest challenges yet. 

We have only a few weeks to determine next steps, and we welcome your feedback about what you value about the organization (email us). We also greatly appreciate contributions to help us meet our financial obligations (make a donation). 

Sincerely, 

Cycles for Change Board of Directors