WordPress Community Support Program Recommends Cautious Spending Until In-Person Events Can Renew Revenue Stream

WordPress Community Support (WPCS), the subsidiary of the WordPress Foundation that handles financial and legal support for official WordPress events, has published an overview of the program’s current finances and a summary of 2020.

Harmony Romo, a financial wrangler at Automattic, reported that WPCS ended the year with approximately $1.2M of cash on hand. $293,000 of the total represents unused Global Sponsorship funds that were rolled over from 2020. Current estimated operating expenses are $276,000. The total cash also includes $216,374 in prepaid expenses that were allocated in 2020 for WordCamps Asia, Atlanta, and US.

Newly published WordPress Foundation financials for 2020 show the WPCS program ended with a net loss, which has qualified for a refund of $50,708.

The WordPress Foundation itself has a lean operating budget, with 2020 expenses totaling $3,438 and donations totaling $10,787. As the subsidiary handling events, WPCS ‘s primary expenses are Meetup.com fees, which total $55,000 per quarter or $220,000 per year. The program will be carefully auditing Meetup groups later in the year to remove those that are inactive, as WPCS is billed for each group.

The main takeaway from the recently published financials is that WPCS’ finances are heavily dependent on corporate sponsorships. With the exception of a handful of in-person WordCamps and meetups, WordPress events have largely been on ice since March 2020. Sponsorship revenue dries up when most events are held virtually, as these types of events tend to offer a less meaningful return for companies and WPCS cannot justify the same sponsorship tiers offered in previous years.

The proposal for the 2022 Global Community Sponsorship program did not include funding for WordCamps again this year, due to the unpredictability of hosting in-person events. The program was also significantly pared back from multiple tiers (ranging from $40,000 – $160,000) to a single package billed at $10,000 USD per quarter, due to lower volunteer engagement among those who administrate sponsorships.

“WPCS does have an adequate amount of cash on hand to meet the current needs of the program, so as we proceed, we should do so cautiously until there is a solid return to in-person events and thus a reliable revenue stream,” Romo said. “Responsible expense decisions have allowed the program to endure and stay flexible as in-person events slowly return from hiatus.”

There are six upcoming in-person WordCamps are on the schedule for 2022 so far. In the absence of Global Sponsorship Program funding for WordCamps, organizers have been told they need to be prepared to raise 100% of the funds for their events. While I don’t think lack of finances is fueling the controversial drive to restart in-person events while pandemic deaths are still high in many areas of the world, getting camps on the books for 2022 is undoubtedly critical to recapturing corporate sponsorship funds. The Global Sponsorship Program changes that were proposed in November 2021 are currently being finalized and the 2022 version of the program should be published soon.

6 responses to “WordPress Community Support Program Recommends Cautious Spending Until In-Person Events Can Renew Revenue Stream”

  1. irrelevant comment here, but . . .as this is the second place in which I have seen this in the past few days. . . when did “administer” become “administrate”? Can we change it back?
    (signed, grumpy old copy editor)

  2. So they get some funding….plus what we pay for tickets………plus sponsorships…………Yet WordCamp/Meetup organizers will fight tooth and nail to not have a stream ticket. For a internet/technology based event.

    By WordCamp I mean the annual events, by Meetup I mean the local monthly get togethers.

    What organizers can do…like cheap flights airlines do. If you want headphones, blanket, meal…you pay extra.

    So, there are two tickets….in-person and stream.

    The in-person….let’s say $20….gets you a ticket, that is it.
    If you want a t-shirt/hat/socks/whatever else then $30.
    If you want a meal included —- $40. With choices for vegan, halal, kosher and things like that.
    Yes I know, not all “upgrades” are $10 extra.

    I would also like some full transparency on where the money is spent for WordCamps.

    I have seen some “help with costs of running the meetups”, for $10 let’s say. Now, there is nothing wrong with that but when you check the room being rented…$50, but with donations of let’s say $150…where is the extra $100 going towards?.

    Yes I know WordCamps are relatively cheap comparing to other conferences.

    • They definitely are, and I can see a case for levels of ticket prices—but I also see that as potentially problematic for those at the lower end of the income, particularly students and starting freelancers, who are probably the folks we most need to attract.
      Maybe we should be considering ticket costs as “minimum admission; if you can do more to help support, please do” with an explanation of the needs both at the low-income individual level and at the organizers’ event-planning level.

      • I respectfully disagree. We, as a Community, should be attracting everyone. I wouldn’t want to receive an invitation to attend or even speak at a WordCamp because I am Latino or Slavic. I am Croatian/Peruvian living in Canada. One parent is Croatian, the other is Peruvian. I would want to receive an invitation to attend/speak because the people inviting me think and contribute to the event. Not because one side of my ancestors are from South America or the other from Eastern Europe. I do not want to receive an invitation because of my gender identity, gender orientation, religion, colour of my eyes, etc…
        Same for when I was a starting freelancer or a student.

        If I would of received an invitation when my income was a lot lower than it is today, I would of found it insulting. I would feel like a token charity case.

        Hence why I said in-person at $20. You get no lunch, t-shirt or whatever other swag. That is it. You attend the event.
        I have boxes upon boxes of over 500+ t-shirts from WordCamps and other events. I might of wore them once during each event. When I got home, I washed them, then put them in boxes upon boxes in my basement closet.

        Lowering the expenses WordCamps have to go through can mean lowering ticket prices.

        In the example above where $20 is the price for in-person tickets.
        $10 for the streaming ticket.

        Streaming ticket means a lot of savings, specially if you are attending a WordCamp outside your city. No hotel costs, no meals costs, no coffee costs, no transportation to the city costs, no within the city and back to your hotel transportation costs.

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