North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › NTOS: How to finance our speaker events?

NTOS: How to finance our speaker events?

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Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
To all,

The North Texas Objectivist Society is proud to have hosted two speaker events, first Craig Biddle, who spoke on "Living Purposefully" in November, 2006, and second, Dr. Andrew Bernstein, who spoke on "Global Capitalism" in March, 2007. Both Craig Biddle and Dr. Andrew Bernstein were wonderful speaker events for NTOS, and all of us who participated thoroughly enjoyed them.

We would like to bring in two or three speakers per year, but we must address the financing.

Based on our experience so far, the budget for bringing in an Objectivist speaker to speak to NTOS will normally be at least $1,700, including:

$650 Speaking Fee
$350 Air Travel
$100 Speaker's Overnight Hotel Stay & Dinner
$100 Advertising via Google, Dallas Observer, and Ft. Worth Observer
$500 Hosting Expense, e.g., Hotel Conference Center

For our first speaker event (Craig Biddle) we asked $30 per person ($20 for students), we had 36 people attend (including a few students), and we raised about $1,050. The event drew several people from out of town, including as far away as Indiana! Plus Chuck donated an extra $100, too, for a total of about $1,150.

For our second speaker (Dr. Andrew Bernstein), we asked $40 per person ($25 for students), we had 32 people attend (including about five students), and we raised about $1,100. We did not have as many out-of-town people join us this time. For this event, we did save the airfare, however, because Dr. Bernstein was able to "piggy-back" on travel to Texas for another speaking engagement.

Unless we can restructure somehow, it seems we need higher participation from our 150+ members OR to charge a higher fee. Do you have any suggestions for how to increase participation by our members? If we can't do that, would you be willing to pay $55 per person ($35 for students) for such a speaker event? Do you have any other suggestions for how to finance our speaker events? Or do we need to wait until our group grows substantially larger before trying to host another speaker event?

-- Todd
David V.
HeroicLife
Shanghai, CN
Post #: 104
Do we need to have the talk at a hotel? For the number of people we had, it could be done in a private room of a restaurant, or (excuse me if I'm being presumptuous) your school. Also, I think there might be better deals at slightly less fancy and centrally-located hotels than Doubletree.

I wonder if we can get ARI to send an announcement to their list, or post the event on their calendar. If they won't do it for us, maybe they will if we cooperate with SMU. This may be a long shot, but if we work with a school, the event might be much cheaper. When I hosted speakers at A&M, all I had to pay for was dinner and fliers.
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 471
Hi David,

Thanks for your response!


Regarding the cost of a hotel conference room, my parents (Franco & JulieAnne) shopped around quite a bit and I made a few inquiries, too. One criterion we had for selecting a hotel was having a comfortable lounge for a social hour. The hotel where we hosted Dr. Bernstein was quite economical compared to other hotel or country club options. But we can keep looking for other options, and that criteria may not be critical.

I don't mind you asking about our hosting at the school (or my parents might be willing to host at their business). Based on our experience hosting Craig Biddle, however, I can say it was a LOT of work for us personally. It took many hours for me and Julia (plus the help of some of her staff) in planning, shopping, set up, take down, clean up, etc. Furthermore, the costs for the rental of chairs, podium, and speaker system cost as much as the hotel!

I had contacted ARI regarding its "Speaker's Bureau," thinking that appeared to be a central place to arrange for speakers. I was told, however, that ARI does not support, arrange for, coordinate with, or advertise speaker events at community clubs, and I was directed to contact the speakers directly. (Actually, this is mutually understandable, as NTOS does not support ARI or any other organization, either.)

Regarding a campus club like the one you ran at A&M, I believe that a recognized university club does not have to pay to use an appropriate lecture room available at the university. Further, ARI uses some of its donations to support its campus clubs, paying for virtually all the expenses involved.

The SMU club is brand new (and as far as I am aware, the only one in the DFW area). We would be glad to try to coordinate with it, and I believe its campus advisor is Mark Frost, who is a member of NTOS.

In any case, while we certainly have and welcome students (and help support their interest in Objectivism by offering student discounts to our speaker events), in general NTOS is not a student club and we should be able to carry our own weight.

I am intrigued by your restaurant idea. I had called a few country clubs for use of their restaurant facilities, but the obstacle I encountered was that we could reserve a private restaurant room there if our group committed to buy at least $4,000 dollars in food and beverages, guaranteed with a credit card. Still, I had not thought of restaurants in general, and there are thousands of restaurants in the Dallas area. I would be optimistic that we could find and negotiate better terms than I did by just making a few calls.

Until we can build NTOS and draw a larger audience, would you be willing to invest by paying $55/person to bring in an Objectivist speaker (on a topic you had not heard before)? A "no" answer is OK, I just need some feedback on what our members are willing (or not willing) to do.

-- Todd
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 442
I can only speak for myself, but as long as the event is planned enough in advance (a few months), than $55 is probably doable most of the time.

Maybe we need an Objectivist carwash-or Cookies of Reason to sell. (sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

One option (gasp) is a public library. Some public libraries in the area will rent out a room to use pretty cheaply, as long as it is for an organization that isn't a business (and maybe some that are; I only remember what my local library had posted.) Or, perhaps renting a room at one of the community colleges? Without the food-perhaps forgo a place that has bar/lounge if need be and just arrange to meet up after at another location (bar or resturant in the area).

Just a thought. I do like the social aspect of it, but I am willing to forgo that part if it came down to it.
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 475
Hi Sherry,

Thank you, too, for your feedback and supportive comments.

Maybe we need an Objectivist carwash-or Cookies of Reason to sell. (sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

Fundraising is an idea we should consider. But it also raises another set of questions.

So far, my thinking has been to associate any requested donation or charge as directly as possible to funding the particular event. We roughly estimate our out-of-pocket expenses and roughly divide it based on head count. Not perfect, but I think it is reasonably fair.

General donations or fundraisers would be helpful to pay for general expenses, such as the monthly costs of Meetup, general advertising, etc.

But I question whether it would be a good fundraising model to use general donations to help pay for a particular event that everyone does not directly participate in. So far, my thinking has been that we should have each particular event be supported as much as possible directly by the participants in that event.

What do you think?



One option (gasp) is a public library. ... Or, perhaps renting a room at one of the community colleges?

Another good suggestion. It won't be free or as comfortable as the hotel, but it would likely be much cheaper. We should explore it.



... Without the food-perhaps forgo a place that has bar/lounge if need be and just arrange to meet up after at another location (bar or restaurant in the area).

Just a thought. I do like the social aspect of it, but I am willing to forgo that part if it came down to it.

To me, I think the extended social component is very important to making our speaker events something truly special for us. Making a caravan to another location would likely be disruptive, and I guesstimate about one-third of the audience would probably not participate in the social part if we did that. But we could try it and see.

Any more ideas out there?

-- Todd
A former member
Post #: 213
If the goal is to raise more funds, then I would recommend opening up the special events to non-NTOS members and non-Objectivists; and advertise somewhere other than the Internet a few weeks before the event. Otherwise, the same (or roughly the same) 30 people will wind up paying for all of the special events at $40-$50 each.

I also think it is possible, though it would require some checking, that alums from the various local colleges might be able to get a room to present one of the special speakers, perhaps by making it open to the students currently attending that school. At my alma matter, I was able to get an unused room to present a lecture I gave, so fame and fortune are certainly not prerequisite. I only charged $5, but that was about 15 years ago, and I think about 30-60 people showed up (roughly half from the local Objectivist club at the time and half were walk-ins). And keep in mind that we didn't have a mailing list of 150 people nor 30 regular attendees to our meetings back then. Actually, it might be interesting for me to give that a try again; since I could use a few extra bucks smile

I think we also have to keep in mind that Craig Biddle was not well-known yet and Dr. Bernstein was making the rounds in, what?, four different places in Texas that week; which drew down our out-of-town possible attendance.

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Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

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Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

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All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 475
If the goal is to raise more funds, then I would recommend opening up the special events to non-NTOS members and non-Objectivists ...

Sometimes, Tom, I just can't help but wonder if you have an axe to grind. I have addressed with you numerous times about non-NTOS members and non-Objectivists. I just don't know where we are having a miscommunication on this. Forgive me for sounding frustrated, but I just do not understand.

We invite both Objectivists and non-Objectivists to join NTOS and to participate in any of our events.

Signing up as an NTOS "member" is free, easy, and open to virtually any member of the public.

How can I be any clearer on this? I yet again refer you to our "About" page regarding our minimal standards for membership and participation. What standard for participation -- for a member or any member's welcome guest -- do you think we should lower? Respect for NTOS? Socially-acceptable behavior? Civility?

What is the huge obstacle to any "non-member" signing up to become a "member," paying the event fee, and coming to one of our lecture events?

My parents and my family are underwriting the cost of $1,700 - $2,000 when we organize a speaker event, and we have been glad to cover the shortfalls to help get NTOS started (but I don't want to do so indefinitely). This is serious to us, and it is important that we have successful events with people who respect NTOS and who our members are likely to enjoy for their time and money, too. I do not want to risk any member's time and money on walk-ins who won't bother to give us any indicia of trustworthiness.

The only thing I can figure is that you wish your friend Dean could come to the lectures. If so, all I ask of him is the same as I ask of any other member or welcome guest at any NTOS event. If he wants to join us as a member or a welcome guest, he is welcome to, and if he does I would gladly assume he would honor our standards for participation. Whether he finds our standards for participation too low or too high for him to participate is up to him.




... and advertise somewhere other than the Internet a few weeks before the event.

That is what most of the advertising budget is for. For Dr. Bernstein's lecture event, we advertised for five consecutive weeks beforehand in both the online and print editions of both the Dallas Observer and the Ft. Worth Observer. The print is what cost most of the money.

We picked up quite a few new members during that period, too, but it did not seem to translate into greater attendance for Dr. Bernstein's event.



I also think it is possible, though it would require some checking, that alums from the various local colleges might be able to get a room to present one of the special speakers, perhaps by making it open to the students currently attending that school.

I think this is a good suggestion to consider. However, one of our major purposes for a lecture event is not just to put on the lecture, but to have a comfortable environment for socializing after. Caravanning over to a restaurant afterwards is a possibility, but I am optimistic that David's suggestion of finding a restaurant with a private room would work better. I think some restaurants would likely give us a private room for nothing or a nominal fee in the expectation that our members would spend some money on food and drink.

-- Todd
A former member
Post #: 215
Todd, I am not decrying your efforts. However, I do owe you an apology. For some reason the fact that you advertised in The Dallas Observer and the Fort Worth Observer didn't register with me. We tried them in the past with another Objectivist group and didn't get much results then either, so maybe that is not the best place to advertise.

And I am not in any way asking you to lower your standards for NTOS. What I'm suggesting, if you want more people to attend the special events as an introduction to NTOS, then perhaps you shouldn't make it a requirement of joining NTOS before one can attend. It can be sponsored by NTOS and made as an advertisement for what we are interested in, but I sure wouldn't attend a lecture put on by a group that I didn't know much about, if it required me to become a member before attending.

Perhaps it is a difference in focus that we have going on here. I want to get the Objectivist message out there to the public. If they then decide to become more interested and attend the NTOS meetings for rational conversation, then that is secondary. In other words, the spreading of Objectivism is paramount to me. If I never see them again, but they take some rational aspect of Objectivism home with them and read more on their own, I will still benefit in the long run.

And that is the attitude I have about my website, which is slowly moving up in the search engine rankings. I don't hear much from my readers, but I know the message is getting out there and that it will have a positive influence. They don't have to meet with me nor sign up for anything. I may eventually start a subscription service, which they will have to sign up and pay for, but I am not going to make my entire website subscription only, because it is advertising who I am and what my ideas are that I can then build up a subscription service around.

I think we have a lot of members in NTOS, far more than we have had interested in Objectivism over the past 25 years that I have lived in Dallas. I wish the members were more intellectually active, but that is their decision to make. So, I can certainly see the benefits of having Objectivism being well-known, especially when compared to how things were thirty years ago when I couldn't find another person to discuss Objectivism with.

What I am trying to indicate to you and others is that it is earlier than you think. Spreading a philosophy is a slow process, and they have to be interested in the philosophy before becoming members of NTOS. In other words, the membership of NTOS is simply not going to grow by leaps and bounds; and that is the cold hard fact about our culture, which doesn't take ideas seriously.

I think you are doing a good job, but I think your expectations about membership of NTOS increasing to the thousands locally is too high of an expectation for the reality of the cultural situation.

Keep your standards, just don't jump the gun.

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Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Chris Jones
gearjammer351
Dallas, TX
Post #: 58
I am willing to pay the estimated $55 fee to attend a speaker event. However, I cannot be counted on to attend due to my busy schedule and social life. As a direct answer to the original inquiry- yes it is worth it to me.

Regarding 'members/non-members' Todd rightly points out that membership requires only a few minutes to fill in an online form and requires no money. I joined originally as a 'fan' or casual admirer, and have become a student of Objectivism. I am evidence that one may become more closely associated with Objectivism through participation in the group, so requiring that one already be a bona fide Objectivist before joining is not necessary.
Members are self selecting; if the group or philosophy is not for them, why would they even want to participate?
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 478
What I'm suggesting, if you want more people to attend the special events as an introduction to NTOS, then perhaps you shouldn't make it a requirement of joining NTOS before one can attend. It can be sponsored by NTOS and made as an advertisement for what we are interested in, but I sure wouldn't attend a lecture put on by a group that I didn't know much about, if it required me to become a member before attending.

Perhaps it is a difference in focus that we have going on here. I want to get the Objectivist message out there to the public. If they then decide to become more interested and attend the NTOS meetings for rational conversation, then that is secondary. In other words, the spreading of Objectivism is paramount to me. If I never see them again, but they take some rational aspect of Objectivism home with them and read more on their own, I will still benefit in the long run.



Tom,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been working.

I think I understand what you are saying here. Thanks for the clarification.

The purpose you are suggesting is that of ARI, its campus clubs, etc. When a person donates money or time to these efforts, he is, as you note, primarily concerned with the long run, and not particularly concerned with whether or not he ever sees the audience again.

But my family's purpose is somewhat different. NTOS is a community or social club. Its events are to support that short-run purpose. NTOS is available for virtually anyone who is already sufficiently interested in Objectivism to be willing to join, but, as Chris Jones said, people do self-select on that basis. For our purpose, that is both to be expected and desirable. I think this effort is directed to important things: (1) to be mutually enjoyable and beneficial for our members, right now, in our lives, in the present; and (2) it will also help spread Objectivism around us, in both the short run and the long run, to people who are sufficiently interested, like Chris Jones.

As to how long it takes to build our "chosen" society, we will see.


Again, thanks for the clarification and for your support.

-- Todd
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