Atlanta Magazine’s recent article about Ed Kramer notes Dragon*Con’s reliance on volunteers, with a stinger:
By all accounts, the event has always had a small payroll, instead relying on up to 2,000 volunteers, with first-timers paying $20 a head for the privilege.
“Paying…for the privilege” misrepresents these deeply-discounted memberships for first-time volunteers. They’re a perk, not exploitation. Volunteer memberships, says the FAQ, have “exactly the same privileges as any other convention attendee.” And volunteers who work 25 hours qualify for comp memberships the next time they volunteer at Dragon*Con.
Unlike the Atlanta Magazine reporter, conrunners shouldn’t be shocked that volunteers have to purchase memberships: that’s what conrunners are used to doing.
Some conventions also will refund volunteer memberships afterwards if the con has a surplus. Dragon*Con’s economic model evidently doesn’t require the experienced volunteers’ memberships as a hedge against insolvency.
If you’re turned off that part of Dragon*Con’s profits go to Ed Kramer – which is completely understandable – you still should be pleased with Dragon*Con’s policy to give free or heavily-discounted memberships to volunteers, since that means there’s less money going into their coffers.