This post is long overdue. After the previous two in this little series (Part 1: context, total costs and donations, Part 2: attendees-donators ratio, donations break down and average donation) I meant to write a third post about costs per attendee and their break down plus some hints at how to improve the situation but I'm here going to concentrate on the latter: simple ways to improve the situation.

Transparency

Let's start from the single most effective action that can be done to increase the number of donations: transparency! I was hoping on this and it did happen: being transparent and publishing all the numbers gently invited more people to donate :-)

In fact since my first post and because of it I got 14 more donations for a total of €313.73 (as usual this is net, subtracting PayPal charges). This brings the donators/attendees ratio up from 14% to 17%:

but it also brings the average donation down from €43 to €38

That is lower than the 2007 edition average but I believe it's fine: I prefer lots of small amount donations rather than just a few high amount ones because losing donators wouldn't have a big impact, it's not like the conference depends on a very small group of people (which is the main reason why I decided to stop looking for commercial sponsors in the first place).

Visibility

The second most effective thing it's something so simple it's easy to forget (and indeed I didn't pay enough attention to it): the fact that you believe everyone knows the conference is funded by donations doesn't make it true! :-D

I think I slacked a bit on this because it was the third edition funded by donations and I just assumed everyone knew about it by now or, if they didn't, they couldn't possibly miss it. I was wrong and even though:

  • it's clearly stated on the conference homepage
  • it's repeated on almost every page of the website
  • when someone registers to the conference the confirmation page presents the PayPal button
  • the confirmation email includes a link to the PayPal page
  • during the opening of the day I thank the donators and project their names on the wall

no matter all this I shouldn't just assume everyone reads everything. Most of the people are probably filing out the form as quickly as they can and then forget about it. Will need to think about new strategies for next year to make sure everyone knows about the donation without annoying and spamming (too much at least....). There is lots to be learnt in the field of fundraising and luckily I have a few friends who do this for a living.

Pay-for activities

I want the conference to be free going forward and I don't want to consider registration fees no matter are low. At the same time I don't want this position of mine to constrain the conference knowing that there are things that need more money to be done properly.

An example are the workshops we organised this year: they were hugely successful and because I limited the number of attendees to keep them effective they sold out in the first 3 hours (yes, you read it right: we organised 6 workshops with a maximum of 14 people each and they sold out in the first 3 hours!).

One thing I'm considering is to charge a low fee for the workshops only. It would allow me to reimburse the workshops speakers a little and use some of that money to fund the conference. This would also make it possible to organise them better, with more time and facilities.

Conclusions

What started as a way to gather a bunch of people who shared an interest (a hub!) has become a major effort and it would be easy to give up and just start charging for the conference, afterall I keep getting emails saying this is the best conference of the year in comparison to both free and non-free ones :-)

But the main goal of the Italian Agile Day is to allow as many people as possible to spend a day together sharing knowledge and experience and I still feel it must be free.