[Elfsea] Crown's desire to reduce the number of Kingdom Calendar events (long)

Richard Threlkeld rjt at softwareinnovation.com
Mon Oct 7 08:46:29 PDT 2002

I have thought long and hard about this issue. The following derives mainly from my previous existence as a Seneschal and my current and past position on the Elfsea financial committee, but others in those roles may well derive different conclusions.

I have not communicated directly with the Crown, but I understand they have asked groups to consider dropping one of their two Kingdom Calendar events. I hesitate to impute thoughts to TRM, but I have been told their motivation was primarily to stem the current drop in attendance at major events.

As an autocrat of a recent event that had about 30% fewer attend than expected, I am very interested in the causes of this decline and possible solutions. But I have a few problems with the current analysis. At this year's Elfsea Defender, the gate was down. We looked at who attended and who did not and compared that to previous years. This indicated people who live farther away from the event did not attend in the same numbers as in previous years. Talking with those who did attend from far away, we were told "the economy" was the culprit. Many of the people in the SCA are out of a job. Many are afraid of what may happen to their jobs. And they are conserving their resources. We had several people in Elfsea who had to save up by not attending other events to afford Defender even though it is a "local" event.

I am active in the Boy Scouts and we have seen an equivalent reduction in attendance at our district and council events. Our analysis shows this is primarily due to a bad economy.

Though a proliferation of events to choose between will reduce the attendance if our membership stays the same, it is also beneficial to us. Events are primary recruiting attractions. Once we get people interested we "set the hook" by taking them to local events. Events build group spirit. Events provide the training ground for new autocrats, Chirurgeons, Marshals, and every other function. And many events give us many more choices about the kind and style of events we would like to attend. More events combined with effective member recruitment yields a bigger SCA with many more choices.

I would argue that our reduction of attendance is not so much caused by too many events, but by a combination of a bad economy and a slowdown in membership growth. In a good economy and with good recruitment drives, we would need the extra events to provide sufficient venues to have fun, provide training, and have enough tournaments to encourage our new fighters.

Shifting gears, I would like to analyze the financial effect of dropping one of a group's two Kingdom Calendar events. Most Baronies depend on the profits (if any) from their Kingdom Calendar events to fund their group for the year. The argument is everyone dropping one of their two events will increase the attendance enough at the remaining events to make up for the lost income from the dropped event. Elfsea's Springfaire generally gets 350-400 people attending at a net of about $3/person. Elfsea's Defender generally gets about 500-550 people with a net of about $3/person. This yields $2550-2850/year. If we drop Springfaire, for instance, Defender must make an additional $1200 in profit to replace it. Since the costs have already been absorbed by the analysis above, this would require 120 additional people attending ($1200/$10 site fee). I am not confident we would get the additional 120 people.

Two events also provide a safety buffer. If your first event is a disaster (rained out, an external event like 9/11, or other uncontrollable disaster), you still have another chance to raise the money needed to run your group. This has happened with Elfsea a couple of years ago. Threatened heavy rains (which did not actually come) caused many people to stay home for Springfaire and we just barely broke even (it could have been worse - a major loss). We structured Defender to be a good event with minimal costs and recovered most of the deficit. Dropping to one event greatly increases our risk. If our one event has problems (either uncontrollable or due to our faults) we don't have another event to try to recover.

Note: the Kingdom's income comes from a combination of their percentages of Kingdom Events and tithes from some groups (including Elfsea). This additional risk would extend to the Kingdom's income also. If our yearly income was reduced our voluntary tithe would be reduced. If our income was sufficiently bad, we might find it difficult to make a voluntary tithe.

In summary, I am aware of the drop in attendance at most of our events, but I believe this is a combination of a bad economy and stagnation in our recruitment of new members. Dropping an event would not affect either of these issues, but would decrease venues for recruitment, training, and socialization. Dropping an event would also increase our financial risk by putting all our eggs in one basket. Finally, attendance would have to increase by 25-30% as a result of this change to allow the same income from the single remaining event as we had from the two events previously. I do not have confidence such an increase is probable.

In service to the Crown, Ansteorra, and the Barony of Elfsea,
HL Caelin on Andrede

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