North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › NTOS: Increasing Suggested Donation for Social Events at the Ranch

NTOS: Increasing Suggested Donation for Social Events at the Ranch

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Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
To all,

Julia and I are dedicated to building the North Texas Objectivist Society for all of us to share in mutual enjoyment and benefit. We hope you will join us whenever you can.

One of the things we do, of course, is host NTOS events in our home at "the Ranch." To help with our out-of-pocket expenses, we have been asking for a donation of $10/person ($5/child). But we will be asking for more help.

While this requested donation would seem to be enough to cover our expenses (it did to us), experience is showing that it is not. We are typically spending about $300 - $400 for the food, beverages, supplies and babysitting for each social event planning for 25 - 45 people. But we are only collecting about $200 - $300 in donations (including our own cash "donation" for our own family). We estimate we are running about $100 short for each event.

We speculate there are several reasons for this, each of which is probably only a small factor, but they add up. For example, sometimes people get busy talking and forget to help us with a donation. Perhaps sometimes people feel that if they don't eat any dinner or they BYOB, so they shouldn't need to put as much in the pot. Sometimes people RSVP that they plan to join us but something comes up at the last minute.

Regardless of the particular reasons, the bottom line is that we are still short. We would like some additional help with the costs of hosting the NTOS events.

From now on, we will be suggesting a donation of $15/adult ($7/child) for each of the social events at the Ranch. We hope this seems reasonable and fair to everyone who wants to join us, and it would help us keep going.

We hope to see you at our next event!

Your Organizer,
-- Todd
A former member
Post #: 5
Hi Todd, Julia, and everyone.

Todd, I think your request is more than reasonable, completely fair, and still a bargain. It would be a bargain at $20 a head for all the food and drink you provide, not to mention all the effort and cost of gas getting to and from Sam's.

My apologies again for canceling out Saturday afternoon; I didn't want to risk passing my sore throat around.

Rob
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 286
To all,

I've had a little bit of feedback on my increasing the "suggested donation" for the events Julia and I host in our home at "the Ranch."

I greatly appreciate Rob's response on our message board. But I have also had three other people privately express concerns that the suggested donation is too high and might keep people away, especially young people and families. They have suggested that we shouldn't spend so much on food or that we could go to "potluck" style and BYOB.

While this is only a little feedback, it does let me know that my last announcement did not explain adequately, and I hope this rather long follow-up helps.


Objectives for our NTOS Social Events:

As we state on our "About" page: For most of our social events, we select a venue and format where people can mingle freely. .. where the participants can break up into smaller, more comfortable sub-groups of 2 to 8 people so that each person is free to move among the sub-groups and interact with others as is mutually agreeable and enjoyable. ... at a venue that allows people to meet for at least 4 hours" (preferably much longer).

And we want to invite friends, families, and children. As stated on our "About" page: "We would prefer to have a person bring others to share in our social event rather than be forced to make a choice between joining us or being with family, a spouse, significant other, or friends. We also think that sharing our thinking and values with friends, spouses, and families is important for building a community."

In general, we want to be as welcoming and hospitable as possible to help us all meet others interested in Ayn Rand's works and Objectivism. We want have events that are as easy as we can make them for other people to attend.

With these objectives in mind, Julia and I operate NTOS and host events in a manner that we hope other people will find enjoyable and valuable. But we are both very busy people with our businesses and family, so it is also important that we operate NTOS and host events while keeping management as simple as possible.


Operating Costs NTOS:

Of course, food and beverages for the social events at "the Ranch" are a big part of our costs. But our events are not just dinner.

Remember that we start at 4:30 pm in the afternoon with the OPAR discussion group, and we segue from that into our social events starting at 6:00 pm, and we often have people here talking until about 2:30 am the next morning! Of course, not everyone stays for the whole time (except me and Julia), but these events are about 10 hours long.

In 10 hours, 30-40 people including about 10 kids, can devour a lot of food and snacks, guzzle a lot of beverages, and trash a lot of plastic and paper supplies.

Another cost is that we usually have a babysitter not just for a couple of hours, but for at least six or seven hours of that time, and when we have a lot of kids, we try to have two babysitters. That really adds up, too. We typically spend $50 - $100 on babysitting, sometimes more depending on who we can get.

And we have other costs.

Ice, for example. Lots of it. I don't have a refrigerator large enough for all the beverages, so I have been icing them down. Typically, we ice down about 150 beverages kept in 2 giant coolers outside for over 10 hours. Last time, when it was 100F outside, we had to buy almost 200 pounds of ice. Even if we went to BYOB, where are we going to put it all? Who has room for an extra 150 beverages in their fridge? (Franco & JulieAnne have offered to donate a used full-size refrigerator to help us in the future with this issue.)

Another example is clean up. Our guests are great, but in 10 hours, 30-40 people including about 10 kids can leave some tracks. We spend about $100/event for extra maid service to help us get ready before and to put our house back together and clean up after.

We have had some extraordinary expenses, too, like making sure the parking area in the pasture is lighted for safety. When you put an electrician and a trenching machine together, it's not cheap.

We also have overhead expenses for our group. For example, we pay Meetup.com $9/month for its services. To help find new members, Julia and I also spend about $40/month advertising NTOS on Google.



Management Time for NTOS:

In considering the costs and how we could save money, please bear in mind that Julia and I need to keep things simple to manage.

Julia and I already spend hours and hours promoting and preparing for each of the events we host at the Ranch.

Regarding the potluck suggestion, that would be much more work for us to manage than simply making our list, checking it twice, and going to the store for what we need. Julia sets up a buffet and bakes something and I preside over burning the hamburgers and chicken. We try to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible while still having some good food, snacks, and beverages to serve. We also think that the risk is too great that for such a large number of people we would end up with chips but no dip, buns but no hamburger patties, forks but no plates, etc.

At the end of the day, we can't have people saying "I only ate one chicken leg and two bites of salad, drank only two sodas, and my child sat on my lap so we didn't need the babysitter." I can't send one-tenth of the babysitter home or easily adjust the charge for the parents of the other 9 children up 11% each. We could do such accounting, but it would be extremely time-consuming and tedious for me. Please, please don't ask me to spend my time that way.




"Suggested Donation":

Where else can we meet for up to 10 hours in a comfortable place for a "suggested donation" of $15/person ($7/child)? Dinner is just a part of it.

Partly to keep things simple for us, the donation is just a "suggested" amount, a guideline to let people know what would like to help us cover the expenses for having such a large group in our home.

Also, we know that some people are struggling financially. It is a suggested donation. Please join us and just donate what you are comfortable donating.

-- Todd
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 212
I meant to post earlier, but got too caught up with the we the living thread...and have multitask issues today. (or yesterday?)

Even if people want to bring something once in a while, I agree it would probably be a mistake to go potluck. It would be ackward if the main dish were stuck in a traffic jam, or if someone that was supposed to pick up the paper plates or spoons couldn't make it last minute. I think you hit the nail on the head with that one.

I think the request is reasonable, and appreciate you posting up some of these costs.

I don't know if this would create more work or confusion or not, but some other meetup groups have PayPal accounts for members to make donations. Perhaps you could look into that for people for the ones that may want to make a donation ahead of time, or once a month, or as a OOOPS rememdy for members that may forget about the bowl and then just throw in more the next time? They could just go online when they got home and make a donation.

That could be more work than it's worth, I am not sure. But it is just an idea at 1 AM so it may not be very good anyway.
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 16
I have not (yet) attended an NTOS event, so my opinion could very reasonably mean nil to everyone :). However, I am a self-supporting student and know how finances can get tight just as well as the next person, but I find $15 a person to be entirely reasonable. That is just about what I would spend on myself going out for dinner and a couple of drinks on Saturday night anyway (probably more).

I don't know how the process has normally gone for collecting donations, but I assume from Tom's original post that it is something passed around some time in the evening as things are already under way (since he said he assumes people sometimes forget.) So, why not just have the collection by the front door so that when people come in they see it and can give their donations. Then no one forgets, and everyone can contribute at least something.

I am a bit of a party thrower, too, and as any girl living with four boys could testify, I typically wind up footing the bill and the preparation. When that happens too often it makes you want to stop having people over all together and just make dinner for yourself. I don't think anyone wants Tom and Julia to feel that way and as everyone gains something from these meetings, everyone should contribute.

Two cents from that girl that doesn't even show,
Taryn
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 287
Hi Sherry,

Thanks for your comments. We are looking for ideas and ways to help with supporting and building NTOS, and some people are stepping up to offer to help.

For example, Dan is helping us quite a bit now with managing and moderating the "OPAR" discussion group and e-mail correspondence for NTOS, especially helping with new members.

Travis (aka "Lathanar") is offering to help us with a formal website that we could use to help promote NTOS more prominently outside of Meetup.

I probably will soon set up a PayPal account via Meetup to help with some of the donation issues like you mention.

As we build our community, more and more people will be looking for ways to help, and we are looking forward to that.

Perhaps when we have a larger group of core participants, you and some other people would have the specific interest in putting a "potluck" together, and that would be great. We're just not there yet.

-- Todd




Hi Taryn,

Thanks for your comments and "virtual" support, too. We hope you can visit us sometime, but I know that you are at least a four-hour drive away.

Regarding collections, at our events we simply have a sign-in sheet and a collection jar for donations. People come and go, so there is not a specific time we "pass the hat."

As NTOS grows, we expect our format and management will evolve. How we do things today is not necessarily how it will be in a year from now. For example, over time we expect NTOS to grow to the point where we will need to have a more formal management committee, and the nature of the planning and how participants want to financially support and manage NTOS will be revisited.

-- Todd


Edited to move one sentence regarding a potluck that should have been in response to Sherry instead of Taryn. I wouldn't expect someone from so far away to try to organize a potluck.
A former member
Post #: 57
I think $15 is reasonable. I'd contribute more to the overall financial success of NTOS, if I could afford it.

Regarding web advertising, I see the NTOS ad showing up all over Google, though I'd say $40 per month is rather high; but that all depends on how many people find out about NTOS via the web -- four extra people showing up per month would pay for itself (provided they paid the entry fee).

By the way, I just went to ask.com, that new search engine, and put in the following search: philosophy +"ayn rand". NTOS was one of about five entries that showed up (it said 10 out of 144,000; but only those five showed up, so maybe they are having growing pains or something). It displayed the URL for our meetup.com message board.
Taryn
TarynCC
Lubbock, TX
Post #: 17
Actually, that's how I found this group in the first place, just a general search about Ayn Rand. I was really trying to find a listing of her philosophical works, but I joined up instead.
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 295
Sherry wrote:

I don't know if this would create more work or confusion or not, but some other meetup groups have PayPal accounts for members to make donations. Perhaps you could look into that for people for the ones that may want to make a donation ahead of time, or once a month, or as a OOOPS rememdy for members that may forget about the bowl and then just throw in more the next time? They could just go online when they got home and make a donation.

That could be more work than it's worth, I am not sure. But it is just an idea at 1 AM so it may not be very good anyway.


I have been meaning to do this for some time, but thanks to your prodding, I just now got around to setting up a PayPal account to help me collect the "suggestion donation" for our NTOS events at the Ranch and for future purposes, too.

-- Todd
Chuck
SmithChuck
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 31
I have been meaning to do this for some time, but thanks to your prodding, I just now got around to setting up a PayPal account to help me collect the "suggestion donation" for our NTOS events at the Ranch and for future purposes, too.

-- Todd


This will help me to contribute to NTOS despite the fact that I seldom make it to the meetings these days. I can pitch in to the effort from afar.....in 'trade' for the edification of knowing I'm helping advance the popularity and exposure of Objectivism, meanwhile enjoying the message board even when I can't make it to the ranch.

I really appreciate the things NTOS is doing, and this enables me to more readily express my appreciation.

Is there a button to click for connecting to the PayPal page?
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