Minicon 5-year Not-a-plan

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A possibly useful set of information for Minicons 46-50, by:

  • The Minn-stf board: Dean Gahlon, Betsy Lundsten, Matt Strait, Scott Raun, Seven Anderson
  • Minicon 46 chairs: Joel Phillips, Kevin Austin

The web address of this page is: http://wiki.mnstf.org/index.php?title=Minicon_5-year_Not-a-plan

The 2010-01-16 version of this page was approved by the above seven authors. Opinions on later drafts may differ. The approved version is archived on the Minn-Stf records page. This document should still be used to keep track of department head commitments.

Preamble

This is the sort of document that gets lost very quickly and may or may not be paid attention to if it is not lost. So let's not make any pretense that anything written here will be considered official policy for very long, if at all, or that this is a good place to store information that absolutely needs to be known by any particular person. Nevertheless, by writing it, we hope to have organized our thoughts and therefore committed the contents (the same contents) in the minds of at least a group of centrally involved people. If other people read it and refer to it often, great.

A mission statement of sorts

Minicon is an ever-changing thing, but let's say what we think Minicon is now and what we would like it to be for the next 5 years.

  • Minicon is a general purpose science fiction convention that focuses on better-than-average food and pretty good diverse programming. We welcome people with an interest in science fiction and/or related genres -- including, but not limited to, fantasy, horror, and other types of speculative fiction -- in any form, including books, films, television, audio productions, etc. We welcome all forms of fannish interests and activities, including, but not limited to, gaming, costuming, partying and music, from all sorts of people..

Long-standing Minicon policies

Minicon currently has very few policies as such, and even fewer that are written down in an official-type way -- like none. Well, unless you count the weapons policy in the program book. I mean convention-running policies. Here are a few, which are generally only kept in the oral tradition:

  • Former Minicon guests of honor and toastmasters have lifetime memberships. "Guest of honor" means people who were labeled exactly "guest of honor", not to be confused with "honored guest". The first few Minicons' GoHs were sometimes referred to as "speakers". That's ok too. Toastmasters are an odd exception, applying only to a few older Minicons, but based on some discussions at Minicon 46, we have decided to include them too. A few times we've invited group GoHs, such as The Bigg House. Only the people who actually came to that Minicon count, not anyone who later belongs to the group. As an exception, when MTU's Permanent Floating Riot Club came as GoHs at Minicon 20, we specifically excluded them from getting lifetime memberships. Hardly any of these complications ever come up in practice.
  • Everyone who attends Minicon pays for their membership, with the exception of current and former guests of honor. This includes the committee and the chairs. We don't refund memberships for volunteer hours, however we may offer perks for volunteers.

Minicon financials

Minicon is a fundraiser for MNstf. Minn-stf's yearly operating budget is dominated by meeting stipends and the cost of our storage locker.

Minn-stf expenses

A $50 stipend is given bimonthly to Minnstf meeting (party) hosts. Additional to this, one of these meeting is replaced by a picnic, and another by the pool party, each of which costs about $200. So the total cost of meetings for a year is about $1500. Minn-StF also keeps a storage locker (mostly occupied by Minicon supplies), which currently costs about $1600/year. We have other minor expenses, such as our PO box, printing and mailing, and various one-time costs for miscellany.

Minnstf income

Minicon is currently the only significant income for MNStF. We take in a very small amount of money for paper Einblatt subscriptions which nets us less than $30/year. We run a fallcon, which is not expected to make a profit and, at least in recent years, hasn't. Our Minneapolis in 2073 Worldcon bid has so far run at a net gain of about $100 total in 4 months, but eventually the market for memberships will saturate. MNstf currently has no donors (although maybe we should think about whether we'd like to try to change that).

The club currently has a reasonably comfortable cushion of savings such that year-to-year fluctuations in income and spending can be handled. However -- summing the above numbers -- Minicon needs to raise an average of about $3500/year in order for the club as a whole to break even.

Desires

The above reflects current practice, not our ideal case. The $50 meeting stipend has been $50 for a very long time (decades?) and has clearly fallen well behind inflation. No one who runs a MNstf meeting spends as little as $50 on food. We would really like to raise this amount to reflect a more realistic minimum expense for hosting a party for 15-30 people, perhaps $75. MNstf would also like to offer (or continue to offer) financial support to a few charities, e.g., the Gordon Dickson Memorial Fund. However, clearly we can't do any of this unless Minicon begins turning a signifantly larger profit or the club finds some other significant source of income. Assuming the first case, our fantasy would be for Minicon to make more like $4500/year.

Recent actual Minicon expenses

In descending order:

  • The top expense of Minicon is food and drink. We spent about 40% of M43 money, and about 30% of M44 money on this.
  • In the last two years, we spent 20-25% on publications.
  • In the last two years, we spent 15-20% on hotel.
  • In the last two years, we spent about 15% on GoH.
  • For M43, we spent about 4% on external room parties, and about 8% for M44.
  • All other expenses have been under 2% each, with the total being under 5%. (Caveat: it is not clear what the balance of the art-show at M44 was.) (We approximately broke even on t-shirts both years.)

Prospects for expenses

Major categories, in ascending order of how much we would like to shake up the status quo:

Room parties

We feel that it is appropriate for Minicon to spend up to 8% of its budget on room parties. Parties are a backbone of fandom and very good advertising.

Guests of Honor

Guest of Honor expenses are in large part determined by the choice of (1) how many to have (2) how far away they are coming from. We feel that an expense of 15% of the budget is acceptable, but that Minicon chairs in the next 5 years should seriously consider having only two GoHs to hold down expenses. We do not feel that we should restrict ourselves to local GoHs, as bringing in authors from afar is one of the things that distinguishes us from Marscon and CONvergence.

Publications

We have recently acquired a laser printer which should be practical for printing the program book. This should reduce the cost considerably. However, one major driver of the cost is the color cover that we have been in the habit of doing. We have already promised M45's artist GoH this color cover, however, we recommend printing the cover on our laser printer in black and white for M46-M49 and beyond if it will save more than $200. (If we want to be extravagant for Minicon 50, that seems reasonable.)

Hotel

This is the killer.

The single most volatile expense is hotel. In fact, both of the last two years, we have been contractually obligated to pay several thousand more dollars to the hotel than we actually paid. Our contracts have been written such that we could theoretically be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars if our number of room-nights came in low enough. Because we have not been selling nearly as many room-nights as are required for free function space, nor have our members been good about reserving their rooms in advance, we have had, going into Minicon weekend, an ignorance of the final state of our finances to the tune of, in realistic terms, something like $5000.

Our experience at M43 and M44 is that our members purchase about 225 room-nights, or slightly over half a room-night each on average. (So, perhaps, the average room has 2 people and half of the membership sleeps in the hotel for 2 nights while the other half commutes.) We feel that it is very important that we get a contract in the future that reflects this reality. If we cannot get this at the Sheraton, then we need to look at other hotels. No matter how much we love the Sheraton, it is a very large hotel for our size convention, and reasonably fancy. It may not be tenable to stay there.

Minicon positions

What do we know about people's commitment to staff various Minicon positions in the next 5 years? This list does not attempt to cover every single task that is done in the running of Minicon (note that driving the truck isn't on here, for instance), but rather to hit the high points. Maybe the medium points too.

Chair

Kevin Austin and Joel Phillips have agreed to run Minicon 46. The chairs are chosen by the MNstf board on a year-to-year basis, but it doesn't hurt to make some guesses about the farther future.

Generally people do not run many Minicons in a row, and we have generally considered turnover of the chair to be a good thing so that people don't burn out. But we don't have any particular limit and in the absence of a competing bids, we'll probably take whoever is interested.

Programming

For M45, Sharon Kahn and Rachel Kronick are heading programming. Programming head tends to have fairly high turnover.

Children's programming

Marian Turner has been doing this for many years.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Gaming

Open gaming, organized gaming, computer gaming.

Matt McMillan has just taken over gaming, and he has committed to running it for Minicons 45-47.

Consuite/Bar

Consuite, bar, possible providing food to other con functions.

Hershey Lima has just taken over consuite and Aliera Brust has just taken over bar.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Music

Concerts, music circles, music programming.

Chas Somdahl has been handling all three for a while now.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Volunteers

Before con volunteer organization, at-con volunteer wrangling.

Matt Strait has just taken over both of these functions. He is not volunteering for the future.

Publications

Progress reports, program book, pocket program.

Seven [Jennifer Anderson] has been doing progress reports and the program book for the last two years.

Matt Strait and Rachel Kronick have been doing the pocket program for a while now.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Webmaster

The website. E-mail publications. Social networking.

Dorf [David Waldorf] is doing the website for M45. DDB [David Dyer-Bennett] sends out e-mails. Social networking is handled ad hoc.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Badges

Bill Christ has been doing this for a while now.

As of a few months before Minicon 45, he said that he's willing to continue "for the next few years".

Costuming

Bonnie Somdahl and Seven [Jennifer Anderson] are doing this for Minicon 45.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Treasurer

Andra Malgren has done this for a few years.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Green room

Karen Cooper and/or Bruce Schneier have been doing this for a while now. We have (I think...?) cut funding for the green room for this year. Will there still be the room at all?

Medallion Hunt

Thorin Tatge has committed to do the Medallion hunt for at least Minicons 45-47.

Bozo Bus Tribune / Medallion Hunt Newsletter, or, more generally, at-con publications

Sharon Kahn had been doing this for a while. Thorin Tatge took over last year; he might do it for Minicon 45.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Guest liaison

This is currently being done by a largish number of people.

T-shirts

Keith Malgren has been doing this for a number of years. Pat S. took over a large amount of the work last year.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Registration

Preregistration (including database management), at-con registration.

Matt Strait has been doing preregistration for a few years. He has volunteered to do a bad job of it for M46 if necessary (bad only because he will probably not be in the Twin Cities from September through Minicon).

Carol Kennedy has been doing at-con registration for a while now. Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown. Matt Strait has volunteered to start doing this at M45. He has committed to doing this also for M46-M50 provided he can attend at all (which is not totally clear, because he doesn't know where he will be living).

Parties

Matt Weiser has just taken over parties from Kelly.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Art show

David Wilford has been doing this for a while now (now with the explicit understanding that while he is head, he will NOT be sitting there all weekend), but will not be doing it for Minicon 45.

Dealer's room

Lisa Freitag has been doing this for a while now and has committed to doing it at least through Minicon 47.

Science room

Ben Huset has been doing this for a while now. The way he does it, it is only marginally a department and more of an invited feature.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

Films

Greg Larson has taken over for this year.

Commitment past Minicon 45 is unknown.

At-con sales

Marilee Layman had been doing this, but for M44 we folded this into art show. Plans at and past Minicon 45 unknown.

Hotel

Keith Malgren has been doing this for a while now.

He has at least tentatively agreed to continue for Minicon 46.

Commitment past Minicon 46 is unknown.

More...?