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Choose Your Own Admission

November 21st, 2011
money, bida, organizing  [html]

Many events ask you to choose how much you want to pay for admission. It can be "pay what you can", "sliding scale", or "financial aid and scholarships available", but in all of them it's at least partially up to you how much to contribute. You usually see this for events that are mostly fixed cost and not near capacity: an additional person costs little or nothing and where the organizers don't want to keep people away just because they can't afford admission.

The bida contra dance, which I help run, asks people to pay $5-$10, and we average a little under $8 per person. From a dance organizer's perspective this works well, allowing people on limited budgets to attend while also encouraging those that can afford it to give $10. From a dancer's perspective, however, it's harder; I never know how much to pay in situations like this.

Some events have scholarship money. I considered going to the dance organizers' conference this fall, but decided not to because things like this are expensive. One of the conference organizers suggested I go, and said something like "scholarships are for people who otherwise wouldn't go because of the money" [1]. I could find the money if I wanted to go badly enough, but instead it's just that I don't want to go enough to justify the price. So money was keeping me away, yes, but in a very different way than it would keep away someone with less discretionary spending.

An even harder situation for me is my quaker meeting. Some churches take collection each week, but instead we ask people to donate [2] at the end of each year. If you divide up the costs of by the number of people who usually come, you get about $50/month. I tend to go 1-3 times a month, so this comes to about $25 each week I go. At this price I wouldn't go, but if I decide it's too expensive and stop going, that doesn't actually help anything. If I only give $5 per week I attend, that seems unfair to the rest of the community, where other people have to give much more than that if we're not to lose money.

I don't know how to approach this.

[1] By this point the free raisins were booked to play the worcester contra opposite the workshop, so it ended up being moot.

[2] While both giving to my meeting and giving to an effective charity are called "donating", they come out of different budgets for me. Meeting would come out of the 'allowance' category instead of 'donations' because it's really us paying user fees.

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