Financial update on WordPress community programs

Because so many WordCamps have been cancelled or moved online due to the global pandemic, it seems smart to share some information about the financial position of WordPress Community Support PBC (WPCS). (WPCS is the wholly-owned subsidiary of WordPress Foundation that serves as the fiscal entity for official WordPress events like WordCamps and meetups.)

The following people collaborated on this update and these projections: @kcristiano, @andreamiddleton, @courtneypk, and @harmonyromo

WPCS has two sources of income: ticket sales and event sponsorship. In the event sponsorship categoryCategory The 'category' taxonomy lets you group posts / content together that share a common bond. Categories are pre-defined and broad ranging., there are two types: local sponsorship income, which originates with local organizers on a per-WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. basis, and global community sponsorship, which is managed by Global Community Team deputies. 

Here’s where to find the financial statements for WordPress Foundation and WPCS for previous years, for your reference. 

Summary:  WPCS entered this crisis with just over 2 million cash (USD)  on hand.  It’s expected that we will burn through 1.9 million of that in 2020, between event refunds, cancellation costs, and expenses related to online event production. The details are as follows:

Ticket sales: Of the total $242,000 received in revenue related to ticket sales for 2020 WordCamps, approximately $160,000 has been refunded.

Local sponsorship: $1,350,000 has been collected for 2020 WordCamps from local sponsors, and approximately $611,000 has been refunded to date. WPCS has issued sponsorship refunds for those WordCamps that have been cancelled or that have been postponed until 2021. More refunds are expected to be issued in the coming weeks, related to WordCamp Europe.

Global sponsorship: We also have received $642,500 this year in sponsorship income from WordPress Global Community Sponsors.  Because we have only had a handful of in-person events this year and expect a majority of WordCamps to be held online for 2020, deputies are actively discussing how to move forward with the Global Community sponsors. 

Sunken costs: In addition, deputies are reviewing the signed agreements for all the WordCamps that were cancelled and are working with vendors to reclaim prepaid expenses totaling approximately $164,000. We are attempting to recover as much of that as possible, by asking vendors to hold the deposit until the date the WordCamp reschedules. This will not always be possible due to contracts in place, so some of this will be a loss.

Expenses: We have an estimated $200,000 in remaining fixed expenses that must be paid in 2020, for meetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. fees, insurance, and other general expenses. In addition, $440,000 has been budgeted to cover production and captioning services for an estimated 20 online WordCamps, to facilitate our community organizers moving events online. 

For the organization’s largest conferences (WordCamp US & WordCamp Europe), WPCS will need to cover any net costs related to cancelling the in-person components and converting to online conferences. 

If WordCamps are able to cover some costs through fundraising (which is still under discussion), this would alleviate some of the pressure on the organization from a cash flow perspective. However, there is no guarantee that online event sponsorship will be a reliable source of income for this program in 2020 or beyond, which means the online event production budget should be treated as a cost that may not be recovered. 

Where does this put us?  

The WordPress community program is very fortunate, as this will not bankrupt us. WPCS entered this crisis with just over 2 million cash on hand. This may seem like a great deal of money, but once refunds and expenses related to those WordCamps at the beginning of the year, the online WordCamps, and general overhead are paid, it leaves little wiggle room for unexpected expenses. Total cash on hand at year end could be as low as $100,000, so being mindful of spending will be crucial. 

In the unknown column at this point are:

  1. How much of the prepaid money to vendors will we get back?
  2. How much, if any, will we need to refund Global Sponsors in 2020?

All that said, there is no way to avoid that this program will burn through substantial amounts of cash due to COVID-19.  

What does this mean to all of us, now and for the future?

WPCS and organizers need to continue asking the questions “Is this expense a wise use of funds? Will spending this money benefit WordPress event attendees and the broader community?”

Your Thoughts?

If you have any comments or questions about the data in this post, or thoughts on the possibility of WordCamps covering most of their respective expenses, please comment below!