How much!? What does it really cost to run BiCon and why?

What does a bicon cost to run and why…?  
My answer: About £2500-5000 not including venue costs, which vary greatly across the country.   

Entertainments (equipment hire, materials, performers’ fees) may cost anything from £500 to £2000.  Printing and postage (booklets, booking forms, timetables, signage and correspondence) are a substantial cost of maybe £500.  Publicity (printing flyers, press advertisements, attending LGBT events) can be £200-1000.  The BM BiCon redirection service costs £100-150 for a typical year.  Liability insurance is about £200.  Team expenses (travel, phone bills, accommodation, etc) comes to £200-300.  There are another £200-300 of miscellaneous costs, largely registration and session materials.  BiCon 2008 chose to spend just over £200 on food, as there were limited on-site options for between-session snacks.  Assuming any subsidy of the lower bands is offsetting accommodation costs. Per attender – Ents are costing <£5 to £15, publicity and printing each £1-£5, BM and insurance each 30p-£1.50, misc and expenses 50p – £2.  Everything else is accommodation/venue costs.

BiCon’s income is very simple, surpluses from previous BiCons if available and money taken in for attenders’ registrations.  Typically, 80-90% of registration fees go directly towards venue costs.  As such, choice of venue is the primary means by which a team can control the cost of attending BiCon.  Organisers must compromise between desirable venue attributes (popular/accessible location, standard of accommodation, conference facilities and so on) and the venue’s cost.  Many potential venues do not meet our requirements in terms of self-catering, variety of session and social space, disabled access, not minding bisexuals and so on.  Organisers continue to investigate viable alternatives to the traditional university venues, for example hotels and holiday camps.

Financial planning for a BiCon is a guessing game.  The venue bill, number of attenders and income bands those attenders fall into cannot be known until all bookings have been made.  The availability of accurate booking data in recent years has assisted with estimating turnout and income band breakdown.

Venue bills, however, often leave the organisers wondering what substances the venue accounts staff were smoking while calculating the bill.  Quotes may not accurately reflect costs; VAT  may or may not be included, or may only apply to rooms with prime numbers…

The final surplus of running a BiCon is split and passed on to the organisers of the two subsequent BiCons.  This provides essential up-front cash for the venue deposits (usually £3000-5000), publicity, etc, which would historically have been funded personally by organisers.  Splitting the surplus between years prevents a team from having no starting funds in the event of the previous year have making a loss.  Some organising teams aim to break even, while others may plan to absorb some of the surplus (make a loss) to compensate for taking place in an expensive venue or part of the country such as London.  This flexibility is an important benefit of maintaining a surplus over multiple BiCons.  The new BiCon Asset Management Company will hopefully provide further protection for, and professional management of the surplus in future.

In last year’s decision-making plenary, an amendment to the guidelines was passed, encouraging organisers to price their BiCons to be accessible to people with low incomes without expected recourse to the Equality (Helping Hand) Fund.  The Equality Fund exists to enable people with financial or accessibility hardship to attend BiCon, where without support they would be unable to do so.  Historically this was a small post-BiCon refund, dependent on fundraising and contributions from the community.  The existence of a reliable surplus in recent years has made it possible for the Equality Fund to partially offset the cost of an attender’s BiCon registration.  This is important as it provides access to people who cannot afford the full up-front cost, or risk relying on an unquantified future refund.

There have been many generous donations to the Equality Fund by organisations and members of the community.  The majority of donations were between £5-20, as part of attenders’ registration payments – many people chose to round up to the nearest £10.  There have also been substantial contributions from the 2008 en-suite room refunds and activities that spontaneously raised funds at BiCon.  I think this reminds us of the importance of encouraging and promoting donation at every conceivable opportunity, and demonstrating that the Equality Fund is a prime example of the fuck-giving of the community, by the community, for the community.

BiCon 2008’s accounts are in the final proofing stage, and will be published on the website (www.bicon2008.org.uk) and in BCN shortly.