Loncon 3 Estimates Razor-Thin Surplus

An initial report shows the 2014 Worldcon with a very small surplus – around £1,000.

The financial review came during a Loncon 3 post-mortem held at Smofcon 32 in December with co-chair Steve Cooper, division heads Helen Montgomery and Eemeli Aro, deputy division head Theresa (TR) Renner, and adviser Vincent Docherty. They distributed a handout at the session that summarized total income at £939,393.77 and expenses at £938,475.33, leaving an estimated surplus of £918.44 (a little less than US$1500).

Vince Docherty says of the initial estimate –

In regard to the figures we provided, note that we made those available with a strong health warning, as they are interim at best, and in the case of the financial figures, still subject to receiving final income or expenses and some items where we suspect a review will result in a cost reduction. These will ideally be resolved in time for the official finance report for Loncon 3 which will be presented at next year’s WSFS Business Meeting.

Kevin Standlee had this to say about the narrow margin:

While the convention was certainly successful, it’s frightening to read the financial figures that currently show a projected surplus of less than £1,000 on a gross of more than £900,000. Basically, Loncon 3 needed every one of those members to hold a once-in-a-generation Worldcon in an incredibly expensive city, and we shouldn’t expect a quick return.

Vince Docherty commented for File 770

I think that Kevin’s point has some general merit: London is very expensive and we knew we needed additional income as compared to Glasgow, though we also knew we would get more members by being in London, as Eastercons there have shown, with their much increased attendance. In fact we had many more members than originally expected, and were able to adjust the budget accordingly, over time. US (and Canadian) Worldcons typically generate about $1m of income and have costs of about three-quarters of that, which means they can afford reimbursements (typically ~$100k), Pass-along-funds and still leave a generous surplus for other things (which sometimes doesn’t get disbursed for many years!) and therefore can have a lighter-touch approach to budgeting.

  • The Loncon 3 committee are still working on the numbers, but to help illustrate the discussion at SMOFcon we provided an informal snapshot of member and financial data for the SMOFcon discussion, which showed it was the largest Worldcon to date in terms of overall registrations (and one of the largest in warm bodies) and the largest in terms of budget in money-of-the-day;
  • We expect L3 will at least have broken-even and might have a small amount of surplus, though it will take some time to finalise the details;
  • This is normal for Worldcons outside North America, given the much higher facilities costs, and is consistent with the last two Glasgow Worldcons, which had final surpluses (before pass-along-funds, as a % of income) of about 3% and 7% respectively (*);
  • The final financial figures also represent the result of a careful approach to budgeting and release of resources over time, which should not be understood as meaning we always expected to only have a safety margin of less than 1% – in fact a contingency of much more than that was always built into the budget and approval to proceed with committing to new things was only done once we were confident we could do so. As mentioned above, we hope the final balance will be more than the snaphshot report shows, once the various outstanding items are closed.

Financial report by 1995 Worldcon;
Financial report by 2005 Worldcon

Loncon 3, economically, was a much larger project than the previous two UK Worldcons, both held in Glasgow (1995 and 2005).

That included some changes for the better: Loncon 3’s membership income was almost twice that of the 2005 Worldcon. The 2014 bid forwarded £77,830.20 of surplus funds to the con, compared with only £13,605 in 2005. And Loncon 3 received £50,396.75 in pass-along funds from recent Worldcons compared to £41,614 received by the 2005 con.

But Loncon 3 did not have the government help available to the Glasgow Worldcon in 2005, a £88,500 subvention grant provided by the Glasgow City Council to support large events.

That surely would have been welcome, considering the much higher facilities costs in London — Loncon 3’s facilities division estimates it spent £342,172 (about US$534,000). That is both a good deal more than the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon’s facilities expense –  £263,474 – and vastly more than the budget of the San Antonio (2013) Worldcon’s Facilities Division — $82,000.

Other data: Loncon 3 also shared its refined membership and attendance statistics at Smofcon:

The total warm body count (including dealers with passes) was 7,310. The total number of individuals who joined in any capacity was 11,125.

The no-show rate for all attending types was approximately 11.3% (Attending 12.2%, Other 5 Day 18.0% and Day Admissions & Hall Passes 6.4%).

5 thoughts on “Loncon 3 Estimates Razor-Thin Surplus

  1. Hopefully this will not adversely affect the next two worldcons which will get a significantly smaller amount in pass-along funds. I’m not criticizing the Loncon 3 budget since I suspect most people will agree that London is an expensive city and the lack of funds received from Glasgow was quite significant. And the lack of a larger surplus suggests that the attendees received what the con could afford and were not short-changed .

  2. Rick Katze: In a sense Loncon 3 has done the theoretical ideal for a Worldcon and left no money on the table. (A projected 0.1% surplus is effectively nothing; the corporation’s winding-up expenses will wipe that out.) In theory, we want every Worldcon to spend every penny they take in on the convention and not one bit more. Pass-Along Funds is merely a damping mechanism to deal with the fact that in most cases, you have a surplus.

    As we have more non-US Worldcons, we can expect fewer large surpluses. And surplus funds from US Worldcons (which for the most part have larger surpluses, with of course one spectacular exception) can be expected to help cross-subsidize non-US Worldcons.

    If Worldcon was a single legal entity, we’d almost certainly be doing something very similar and spending the surplus from relatively low-expense Worldcons on conventions in more-expensive places. I’m not troubled by this. Worldcons shouldn’t actually be banking on getting PAF from their predecessors. If it comes, that’s great and they can use it on enhancements or even just to increase their reserves, but if it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be a hardship to any given committee.

  3. Just a quick note to Rick – if all the expected, but still outstanding income comes in we will have enough to mail out the Souvenir Books.But we cannot do this till we actually have the income in hand, which may still be a couple on months.

    However we will be emailing all those that have not received their SB asking them if they would prefer an electronic version much sooner than this in place of receiving the paper copy.

    Any funds saved will then go into the pot and improve odds on us having at least some minimal pass along.

  4. Most conventions have gotten way too expensive. And sadly, affluent fans sneer at people who can’t afford them anymore. Read Harry Warner, Jr.’s ‘All Our Yesterdays” to see how Depression era and post WWII fans and pros back in the Golden Age of SF did this stuff on a shoe string, and probably had more fun and created better memories than anything done today.

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