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Beantown Stomp: Sliding Scale

June 3rd, 2019
money, contra, beantownstomp  [html]
At our first Beantown Stomp this spring we tried a sliding scale for admission. The registration form read:

We want people to be able to come regardless of means, so we're offering a sliding scale of $50-$150. If you can't pay at least $50, we recommend volunteering (above). We're predicting our break-even figure will be about $90/person, and the more you're able to contribute the more we're able to let others attend below cost. We like the YDW payment guide as a way to think about how much to pay: https://youthdanceweekend.org/general-info/register-details/

Our regular dance is also sliding scale, at $5-$15, so we had some experience with "pay what you can" models already. The main alternative models are either a fixed cost for all attendees, or discounts for specific categories of attendees (child, student, senior, etc). [1] BIDA has preferred to go with a sliding scale primarily because we want to be financially accessible to as many people as possible and people's life circumstances are unpredictable. Age and student-status are rough predictors of how able to pay someone is, but there are always people for which it's going to be off. You could go full college-financial-aid-office and try to figure out exactly what someone is able to afford, but of course that's overkill for this sort of event. So we explain our financial situation, and ask people to pick something fair.

Looking back at the final numbers from our first event, most people either volunteered (paid $0), paid about $50, paid about $100, or paid about $150:

Specifically, lining up registrations from least paid to most paid, we had:

A few people could only come for part of the weekend, and I asked them to pay proportionately: if you would pay $100 for the whole weekend and will be attending one third of it, then I suggested $33. This is why there are some payments under $50.

Since we'd never done a weekend before, the initial prediction of $90/person was very rough. [2] Still, what we actually collected was very close, at $92 per paying dancer.

Beantown Stomp isn't the first weekend to use sliding-scale admission, but it worked out well for us. Would it be a good fit for you?


[1] For example NEFFA has 'child', 'youth', 'young adult', 'adult', and 'senior' categories, each with 'member' and 'non-member' prices.

[2] It was based on dividing budgeted expenses ($10,110) by a conservative estimate of attendance (115 paying dancers). We ended up with slightly higher expenses ($11,432) and substantially more dancers (170 paid, 183 including volunteers) and collected $92/person. Our cost was then $67/person, and the remaining money went half to performers ($116/each), and then a quarter each to JP and BIDA ($1,128/each) which is mostly covering the deposit for next year's dance.

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