Reviewing a budget, step-by-step: Getting Started and Expenses

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Reviewing a budget, step-by-step.

First, look at the proposed budget, found in the WordCamp dashboard under Budget > Budget.

Look at the top box on this page to understand the size of the event, noting the number of attendees, days, tracks, speakers, and volunteers. Check these numbers for consistency. For example, a 2-day, 3-track event will probably have about 42 speakers (7 speakers per track, per day), and should include at least 8 volunteers (2 per session room and 2 for registration).

For the “per attendee” formula to work well in the Budget Tool it’s best to include speakers, volunteers, and sponsors in the Attendee figure. This is because you’ll want to calculate the lunch count and event swag count based on total individuals at the event.

If there are any inconsistencies in those base numbers, suggest the organizer update the spreadsheet with more accurate information.

Number of attendees:

First WordCamp? Try to stay at or under 300, unless the community has been meeting with more than 30 people every month for 6 months AND they have a kick-ass inexpensive venue AND their team has conference/volunteer organizing experience.

Second/repeat camp? How many tickets sold last year? Doubling attendance from last year because you sold out is usually unsuccessful — we recommend teams try to increase 25% per year, not 50%.

Ticket price:

If in US: $25 per person per day is the maximum; generally understood that price includes lunch and a piece of custom swag. If not providing lunch or a t-shirt, preferred to reduce per day cost by about $5 if the budget allows.

If outside the US: use the Big Mac Index to assess ticket price, not a straight dollar-to-local currency conversion. The ticket price should be roughly the equivalent of a cheap dinner and a movie for one, as culturally appropriate. In very expensive cities/countries, a ticket price on the more expensive scale can be offset by providing a good chunk of scholarship/student tickets (this works especially well in European countries).

Another important thing to ask if the event is not in the US or Canada: how do they want to run the money? If they’re not in the US or Canada, it’s not required to run the money through WPCS, and actually not recommended if it will result in the organizing team having trouble. In non-US/Canadian countries where wire transfers to pay caterers and printers are uncommon, then the local organizing team might find it easier to run the money themselves. We can still run ticket revenue through WPCS and send that to the organizing team with their global sponsorship grant via wire transfer to an organizing team member. If an organizing team is not running the money through WPCS, the team is expected to hold to a very high level of public, financial transparency.

It’s also good to know what kinds of payment processors are common in a country. If Paypal is not common or popular, then the local team can write a payment gateway plugin so they can still use Camptix (this is important to us, as we want ticket selling transparency and access to those metrics), and we’ll activate that on the wordcamp.org network. We’ve done that in multiple other countries, and it’s worked very well.

Total Expense per attendee:

This is a good “quick check” to see if the WordCamp budget is skewed to the high side. If the expense per attendee is under $40/pp/day for a one day camp or $30/pp/day for a 2+ day camp, then the event budget is usually lean and manageable.

If the expense per attendee is double the $40/pp/day figure for a one day camp or double the $30/pp/day figure for a 2+ day camp, then there should be some very good reasons to support that budget, as it’s out of scale with other camps worldwide.

A note on cultural/regional/community variations:

All communities are different (just like all people are different), but very few WordPress communities are *that* different. 🙂

While cost of living and cultural expectations may vary, all WordPress communities should share the same *open source* culture, in which the community has leaders rather than owners, changes are iterative rather than drastic, and everyone works together for the common good.

While just paying someone to do XYZ might be easier on the lead organizer, recruiting volunteers to help do XYZ will help build community while it saves money on the budget. Sometimes repeat organizers prefer to take the “just pay someone” approach; it’s good to gently remind them that asking for more community help will help them identify new/future leaders in the group so they don’t have to do everything on their own, forever. A good reminder is that WordCamp organizing is community organizing, not simply event organizing.

Next, you’ll move down on the page to the Expense line items, noting the cost of the venue, food, swag, parties, etc.

Reviewing Expenses

We have a great handbook page here, and a fantastic budget review checklist. Please use the checklist when you’re reviewing a budget; there’s a lot to cover and it’s easy to forget things. We won’t test you on the contents of the checklist.

Some things we never pay for:

  • design services
  • event organizing services
  • special perks or gifts just for the organizing team
  • special perks or gifts for vendors
  • bribes
  • emcees
  • photography

Some things we very, very rarely pay for:

If you see these on a budget you’re reviewing, let the organizers know that it’s very unusual to pay for these things, and ask them how much they really need them. These expenses should be approved on a case-by-case basis by an experienced deputy:

  • advertising
  • speaker travel (only for commit-level core developers with a financial need)
  • vehicle rental for event setup/breakdown
  • stock photos
  • membership fees
  • bank fees or taxes (for WordCamps not running the money through Central and that will have to pay taxes on the event expenses or income)
  • door prizes
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