Budget and Finances

tl;dr: Exemplary WordCamp budgets are lean and prioritize attendees’ needs. Running the money through the WordPress Community Support can protect you legally and financially. WordCamps are financially transparent.

Once you’ve identified a venue, it’s time to make your budget so you’ll know how much money you’ll need to raise. Your budget approval is the last required milestone before you can announce your event and start gathering speakers, sponsors, and volunteers.

Elect one member of your organizing team to be in charge of the budget and the money management. It’s important for this to be managed by one person so that there’s someone who knows how much money is available as you come to spending decisions. This person will be responsible for keeping track of actual expenses and incoming funds (including tickets and donations), and for updating WordCamp Central on changes to the budget.

Here is a G+ Hangout from 2014 in which we discussed building a budget for your WordCamp and how to managing/prioritize expenses

Prioritization Prioritization

There are a lot of things you *could* spend money on, but there are very few that you *need* to spend money on. You want your event to be special, but be cautious about how you budget your money, and don’t spend more money than you need. People will come for the content, the connections, and the community. Bells and whistles are usually not necessary, and in some cases they distract from the things people came for in the first place. When you have to make choices, think about which choice will support the goal of growing the local WordPress community. If you’re choosing between a catered lunch and an extra room that could be used for a hack room, a workshop, or just a place for people to talk, let people buy their own lunch. If you’re choosing between extra swag and extra video coverage, go for the video — WordCamp attendees without fail say the biggest bummer of multi-track WordCamps is that they feel like they miss so much from the sessions they didn’t attend. You get the picture.

Some things that WordCamps never include in their budgets: Some things that WordCamps never include in their budgets:

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

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Some things that WordCamps very, very, *very* rarely include in their budgets: Some things that WordCamps very, very, *very* rarely include in their budgets:

Most WordCamps are highly successful without spending money on the items below. While sometimes exceptions are made for unusual circumstances, you should plan *not* to include the following expenses in your budget, unless an experienced deputy approves the expense.

If the organizing team pays for one of the following expenses out of pocket, without getting an OK from an experienced deputy first, that expense might not be reimbursed.

If you’re not sure about an expense, please email support@wordcamp.org to ask.

  • 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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Handling the Money Handling the Money

It used to be that there was no central financial support for WordCamps, and each organizer had to handle the money for an event through a personal checking account, a business account, or by creating a DBA just for the event. All of these approaches were found wanting by the majority of organizers, who felt pressure about what would happen if they fell short of their budget or if handling the WordCamp funds would negatively affect them come tax time. Some WordCamps had the terrible experience getting the PayPal accounts they were using for ticketing suspended for a spike in activity, which took a long time to fix and held up registration. Now that the WordPress Community Support is a legal entity, dedicated to promoting WordPress and educational programs (like WordCamps), all WordCamp organizers can reap the benefits of the WordPress Community Support’s legal and financial protection. These days, all WordCamps in the US and Canada all run the money through WordPress Community Support, and WordCamps around the world can also request this benefit.

Ticket payments and donations can be made to WordPress Community Support PBC, and WordPress Community Support pays an event’s vendors directly, in advance. Should you run into last-minute situations that don’t lend themselves to pre-payment (“What do you mean, you forgot to order the coffee from Starbucks?!?!”), you can pay cash at the time and be reimbursed by WordPress Community Support when you submit the receipt. If you’ve reviewed the details on running the money through WordPress Community Support and you still have questions, ask via email to support@wordcamp.org.

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Transparency Transparency

Whether or not you choose to have the actual funds managed by WordPress Community Support, your event is still required to be transparent about the budget and funding. In the spirit of the original BarCamps, budgets should be posted for the community to see. In addition to this keeping the organization out in the open, it also provides an opportunity for community members to identify places where they could help defray expenses. The final budget will be archived by WordCamp Central.

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Sample Budgets Sample Budgets

Here are some budgets from past WordCamps.

WordCamp Nashville 2013

WordCamp Boston 2013

WordCamp Malaga 2013

WordCamp Sofia 2013

Past WordCamp Organizers: What expenses took you by surprise? Which things did you wish you’d budgeted for differently? Let us know in the comments.

Tip: Here is a quiz on this article. Read quizzes page if you have any questions about quizzes and how to navigate them.