[Board] Very concerned: FOSS4G 2008 Budget

Paul Ramsey pramsey at cleverelephant.ca
Fri Apr 11 09:44:57 PDT 2008

Jeroen, all:

On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 2:44 AM, Jeroen Ticheler
<Jeroen.Ticheler at fao.org> wrote:
> But as member of the board I think I should give my reaction
> on this as I am getting quite worried.

Don't be. The worst case scenario is not bad, and the likelihood of
actually entering that scenario is low.

> Indeed I have the impression that Frank made a good observation in point 4.
> If in fact the sponsor revenue has an error, that would make for a surplus
> per attendee of only 135 Rand with 700 attendees, but worse, it would make
> for a loss with anything more than that.

There was an error, and Gavin I hope you'll review. It made a material
difference, but not an out-the-window one.

>  My biggest concerns in the run up to the conference are:
>  - 600 paying attendees is a large number to begin with as a minimum to base
> the budget on. I would be much more careful and start with an estimated
> 450-500 paying attendees, making sure cost/revenue is balanced on that.

The 600 number is based on a formula of about 200 Europeans, 100 North
Americans, a handful of Elsewheres and 250 or so Africans.  Given the
pattern of international attendance at the past two conferences, it is
not unreasonable.  It is not highly conservative, but it is not wildly
extravagant either.

>  - We should be less dependent on revenue from exhibitors. The estimate of
> 67.500 USD (sorry in Rand it is hard for me to get a feeling with the actaul
> value) is not a moderate number. It comes to over 100 USD per attendee with
> 600 paying attendees.

The GeoAfrica conference had a fairly full exhibition floor two years
ago. Because this event is being held with a traditional GIS
conference, we reasonably expect a larger number of traditional
vendors to exhibit.  This is an untestable theory from a FOSS4G
point-of-view, but the GISSA committee members have been comfortable
with the estimates for exhibition.

>  - The registration cost is not a moderate one. Just grabbing some numbers
> from the registration page I see 630USD for early bird full registration,
> 760USD for normal registration and 500USD for conference only registration.
> Add to that the travel and hotel costs that many participants will have to
> cover and many of us will decide they can't afford it this year... It really
> makes me worry very much!!!

We chose South Africa. If we wanted FOSS4G to have a larger attendance
with easier access for the usual NA/EUR attendees we should have
chosen a venue in NA or EUR.  If we want to re-visit our RFP process
and siting policies, we should do that (we *should* do that), but we
can't choose places that are out-of-the-way and them complain that
they are out-of-the-way.

On pricing, it is basically the same as '07.  I know that '07 was
*also* considered "too expensive", and this leads to the generic
debate over what FOSS4G "should be", but with respect to this
particular budget and particular conference the prices are not out of

>  I have seen quite a number of emails from people indicating they will not
> be able to attend this year's conference because of the total cost. There
> was a question from Jody on the Africa-SDI mailing list to try to get
> feedback from the African community on the conference. There was only one(!)
> reaction to that. I rephrased the same question and send it again but
> nothing... This is not a good sign for what concerns the Africa
> participation I think.

The LoC is kicking up the marketing effort a bit recently, I hope this
changes things somewhat.

>  I've done a little more math on the spreadsheet, using 550 attendees of
> whom 450 actually pay. Otherwise I left the variable and fixed cost
> calculations to the spreadsheet. I end up with a 30.000 USD deficit.
> Consider that this still assumes we get all exhibitors and sponsors as
> budgeted.

Right. And we split that deficit 50/50 with GISSA, and we have over
$100K in the bank from '07.  It's not great, but it's not a cataclysm.
 Also note that if things are looking very bad 6 weeks out, LoC has
the ability to compress costs a reasonable amount.  They still would
probably run a deficit, but it would not be as bad as a simple twiddle
of the spreadsheet might indicate.

>  I would like to ask for a cleaned up budget that clearly puts fixed costs
> and variable costs next to each other and also includes attendee numbers
> that are in the order of 450 paying attendees.

Fair enough. Gavin, if you can confirm that this budget is still the
working draft I would like to clean it up, remove the old stuff from
previous revisions, and make it a little easier to read and run game
scenarios with.

>  Maybe I am too pessimistic, but I'd better be now than after the conference
> :-) My feeling is that we should cut significantly on fixed costs to make
> the conference more viable. I would even like to see registration costs cut,
> but I guess that's set in stone by now.

It's very unlikely that the conference will again make $100K, such is
life. However, it is equally unlikely that it will be able to lose
that much and truly cause us problems (bearing in mind that even if it
*did* we would still have $50K left over in our safety fund).

>  Greetings from Rome,

Lucky bugger, have a gelato for me. :)

>  On Apr 11, 2008, at 3:23 AM, Frank Warmerdam wrote:
> > 1) revenue is set based on the assumption of 600 paid attendies (despite
> >  having 3 columns for number of attendies)?

Yes, this is an archaeological remains from one of Gavin's earlier,
more optimistic drafts.

> > 2) costs are actually priced out based on 700/800/1000 attendies,
> explaining
> >  the perverse situation of making more money with less attendies?

Yes, optimism (we'll do so well we can bring in 100s of students for free).

> > 3) Based on 600 paid attendies, 700 actual attendies and
> >  sponsorship/exibitor income of 1.44 million rand it is anticipated to
> >  make a profit of about 525000 rand?

Apparently not, due to the error you found. 600 paid implies breakeven.

> > 4) the spreadsheet has been reviewed and approved by the finance
> committee?

Yes, but not quite as closely as it should have been apparently, since
it had an error in it. My bad.

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