Reviewing Budgets: Intro and Philosophy

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When does a budget review happen?

After an organizing team has been approved for pre-planning, but before they announce their date or we sign a contract with their venue, we ask the lead organizer to schedule a budget review. During the review a deputy will discuss the budget with the lead organizer (or organizing team). The budget it reviewed line by line with changes suggested if necessary. Once the deputy and the organizing team have arrived at a budget that they’re both comfortable with the preliminary event budget is marked “approved”. At that time the organizing team can send their venue contract or agreement to WordCamp Central for signature. Once the contract is signed and the required fields in the WordCamp’s page on central.wordcamp.org are completed a deputy moves the event to “scheduled” and the organizing team is free announce their date and move into the active planning stage.

Why do we hold budget reviews?

Budget reviews serve two purposes: first, it’s the point when WordCamp Central and a local organizing team come to an agreement about what expenses the global program will commit to paying for. Anything on the approved budget is a guaranteed expense, whether or not the local organizing team reaches its attendance or fundraising goals.

Second, a budget review can help a deputy understand exactly what event organizers have planned for their WordCamp, since we go down the list of expenses line-by-line and discuss each one. If an organizer is planning something that doesn’t fit within the WordCamp model, or something that has caused stress or trouble for other WordCamp organizers, we frequently discover that in this deep discussion of the plans for the event. So a budget review can help us avoid issues before they become problems.

Budget philosophy

We’re not a non-profit organization, but we do our best to act like one. We advocate lean budgets for a number of reasons:

  1. Fundraising takes a lot of organizing team energy away from speaker selection and event logistics. The more money local organizers have to raise, the less time they can spend making sure the event has carefully chosen content, well-prepared speakers, smooth event logistics, strong outreach, and engaged volunteers.
  2. Complex events are complex to organize. The more you spend money on, the more tasks you have to manage. Everyone on the team is a volunteer and you never know when life might get in the way of their commitment to WordCamp work. You can still meet all the goals of a WordCamp without spending lots of money on “nice to have” items; in fact some of the most simple events get the most positive feedback.
  3. Simpler events are more easily replicable. Setting up the precedent of holding a highly complex, expensive event with lots of moving parts in a certain community can make it difficult for community leaders to pass the baton and open up leadership opportunities to new community members. We frequently find that the organizers of more complex events have a harder time recruiting new organizers, because the learning curve is so challenging or intimidating.
  4. Higher costs bring higher risks. Typically our community leaders are not professional event organizers, and every event carries a certain amount of risk. We love trying new things, but we prefer to iterate in small measurable ways.
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