I plan to attend BarCampBerlin2 (http://barcampberlin2.mixxt.de),
November 3/4. Browsing the wiki and not finding the information I was
looking for, I posted the following entry on the forum:
In the spirit of full openness, I'd like to suggest that we list in
detail all incoming donations as well as all outgoing expenses.
The sponsor list should include the Euro amount given and/or
a brief description of the respective in-kind donation. Same
goes for all costs.
This has sparked an interesting discussion across various channels
(Twitter, Skype) with some saying that due to cultural differences
this concept would not work in Germany (as opposed to Silicon Valley
or the US).
Some of the issues I am concerned about with regard to barcamp, and
which I believe are worth raising:
* Participation (are sponsors participating?)
* Transparency (are incoming and outgoing $$$ made public on the
* Diversity (a few big vs. many small sponsors)
* Accessibility (can anyone become a sponsor?)
* Costs (really how much sponsor funding is needed to run a decent
I've set up the following wiki page (please note this is still very
much a work in progress!):
The purpose of this page is to document how sponsorship issues are
being addressed across the Barcamp community worldwide. It is intended
to be a living, breathing guideline for all you *camp organizers out
there. Please add!
As a long-time barcamp attendee, organizer, and enthusiast, it should
go without saying that this is in no way intended to impose anything
on anybody. While I personally believe there is great value in the
items I have outlined under "best practices", I am well aware that
there will always be need for practical modifications of these
guidelines in order to fit different cultures and different contexts.
Nevertheless, I think this is an important discussion to have, and I
look forward to hearing your thoughts.
PS: I had offered to contribute EUR 100 on behalf of a project I am
currently working on, but was told there is a EUR 300 minimum to
Our deal was the following:
- The amount of donation was free
- All sponsors, big or small were treated the same
- The sponsors had no right to influence the event
- There was no minimum, but the average was between 500€ - 1000€
- We never touched money, like Crystal proposed it in her "Ten steps
to organizing a BarCamp". All bills were paid directly from a sponsor
to caterers, t-shirt printers, any rentals. None of our own company
books were ever involved.
As there is no "sponsoring culture" in Germany and as it was hard to
find sponsors in the beginning, some companies garantueed us a certain
amount, which we reduced with the donations of other sponsors. That
worked very well. It gave us the neccessary finacial security to order
shirts, food and what else is needed for a BarCamp.
Most of the sponsors, big or small, were participating with very
interesting sessions, none of them ever tried to make it a sales show
for their products and/or services.
Reasons why we didn't make it public to everyone are:
1. Most companies do not want that the amount of their donations are
2. We have been attacked by German bloggers for being sponsored by
companies that are blamed for making business in China. Not more than
allegations and unverified (the same companies sponsored in the USA
btw.) But these bloggers are loud and have a wide reach. They publish
incorrect details and they play the racist/human rights card. It is
impossible to debate with them. I tried and it resulted in deletion of
3. In Germany no one talks about money/income etc. It is a cultural
We never had problems to communicate the amount of the donations to
anybody, we just haven't made them public on a website. I have checked
the wikis of some countries (not all of course) and as far as I can
see, none of them exercises the financial openess as in the US. It is
just not common here.
We are quite comfortable with that system. I can of course only speak
for the BarCamps I was involved. But I exchanged experiences with
other organizers in Germany and as far as I know, others here used
that system too.
We have run bigger BarCamps here and as we were calculating top down,
we wouldn't have been able to finance them with the sponsors we had
and a 300 € limit.
We are having BarCampMilwaukee2 this weekend, I handled much of the work
finding sponsors. We list all the cash donations here:
We did it in reverse, making it a $200 minimum to be a sponsor. Again,
maybe it's a cultural thing, we don't have companies falling all over
themselves to sponsor. (For some it took a bit of discussion for them to
"get it" as far as what they were sponsoring.) I'm starting to think we
may need to change how it works for future *Camps, but we also need to
provide value to companies who pony up $200+ as opposed to individuals
who pitch in 5 bucks. Should they be on equal footing? As much as I am
worried about that, I'm proud to be listed as a sponsor for BarCampBlock
for tossing in $15.00
On our site we list all sponsors here:
along with logos on the sidebar. (Any people who donated anything
financially or otherwise will be thanked in some way.)
We also put all sponsor names on the back of the shirts:
We will definitely report on what money was spent. We're not sure of all
of that yet, since the real spending will start tomorrow.
We've also tried very hard to get all sponsors to participate. We're
lucky in that most of them were already participating before they
decided to sponsor. A few need an intro to BarCamp culture though.
We have been against levels of sponsorship, etc. And the order you see
them listed is the order they made a commitment to support
(BTW, cross-posting this to barcampmilwaukee list.)
* raising the individual sponsorship amount, i.e., >$300/sponsor
* increasing the number of sponsors/event
Finding a happy medium. We've tried to remain egalitarian with respect
to sponsors, i.e., if you're a big company and able to contribute
more, but you get the same "billing" as the little guys. We've also
had a large number of individuals support events with sponsorship.
The biggest challenges is around handling money. My advice is not to
take cash donations. Get in kind donations.
The other advice is that every sponsor MUST PARTICIPATE!
T-Shirts and the rest are fun, but not important. I'm mostly wondering
about food, with the concern being keeping the flow of the event going
even if everyone wanders offsite for lunch.
The recent Bar Camp Dallas didn't do a lunch sponsorship, and it
turned out fine: we just all went out and had burritos. I'm not sure
how well that would work with a larger group, though.
What's the absolute minimum you can get away with and still keep
the intensity of the event?
Christopher St. John
As the events have grown in attendance space is becoming more and more
DemoCampToronto14 was 275 people. I guess we provide food because the
event has held after work. Space costs and IT costs near $2500 + $1200
in food costs, cash bar. The Toronto Board of Trade covered the
facility and AV costs.
DemoCampToronto15 is happening at the UofT. Currently 250 registrants,
100 seats still available. UofT CS department is covering up to $1500
of space (this could be incorrect, they might be covering 100% of the
space costs). We're raising sponsorship to cover the remaining AV
I think FacebookCampToronto (FCT1 - 450+ attendees; FCT2 - 250
attendees) did the exact same. Only raise sponsorship to cover hard
Most of the venues to host 150+ people have a different costing
structure, you either pay for space rental or you guarantee a minimum
of food and drink. A/V costs have been separate. Each venue has
required us to use their A/V company which is usually expensive in
We've been forced to take sponsorship because of the size of the
audience. But if you're less than 100 people you should be able to do
this for next to nothing, i.e., space and a net connection.
I honestly think sponsorships are good for the event and the
community, because it brings local companies sound cool stuff into the
Sent from my iPhone - please excuse any typos.
On Oct 12, 2007, at 10:01 AM, "Christopher St John"
AFAIK the first Barcamp in Germany had only a venue sponsor and there
was coffee, juice and water, IIRC (I tend to be bad at remembering ;)
Tim will know, he was one of the organizers ;)
One of the 3? Organizers was an employee of the sponsor, but there
were zero pitches, advertising etc. (The sponsor also provided
There was no food at the venue (I seem to remember sweet rolls for
breakfast though) which led to people wandring off into the
surrounding Berlin and being back too late to catch sessions. On one
occasion we ordered pizza witch ended up in the pizza being 1.5++
hours late. (No, it was not free cause of that, there was some messup
in the org...).
This (AFAIK) led to the idea, that food should be provided on site.
"Bring your own food" might also not work really well for camps of
200+ people. (Has this worked elsewhere? How?)
I have been at all barcamps in Germany (except for Cologne1) and 1
MediaCamp in Hamburg (which charged 30 Euro and was sponsored by the
Hamburg BAKERS! Venue Sponsor was "Hamburg Handelskammer" (chamber of
commerce), oragizer was joonet.org and it hat 1.5-hr sessions so I
took a slot and made 2 sessions ;) ).
If sponsors participated they did so in an acceptable fashion
(sometimes they were too busy organizing everything ;) like in
Hamburg) and I have never seen them influence the agenda or anything.
I talked with Franz about the way he manages sponsoring and think that
he is correct in the way he sets policies: It works well.
Of course everybody can use whatever ruleset they feel appropriate for
their respective camps but it seems to be in the German spirit to
point to 'laid down stuff' in case of or even in search of conflict.
So I welcome it if there is a collection of "How To"'s.
But if they are labeled "best practises" or "rules" they might cause
an amount of extra conflict that diminishes the motivation of
organizers to chip in their time (and in consequence money) to be
active for the community.
I can see Tara's point, love it if things become possible that seemed
impossible and welcome change. But I guess as long as there is no real
and explicit reason (like cash getting lost or undue influence
exercised) the publishing of money changing hands is not necessary.
(Little irrelevant story: I once was turned down by a bank who I asked
to sponsor a literary magazine. The reason was they had tuned down the
Red Cross before and said they could now not sponsor us if they had
turned down a humanitarian cause before. This was about 100 EUR.)
Also depending on the site and (security) policies of the venue cost
tends to vary greatly as far as I hear. So publishing amounts might
also diminish the possibility to organize camps in some cities or with
I was astonished when I heard that some barcamps end with (?:)2000 $/€
in cash (?) being 'left over'. In the face of this it seems that
Franz' policy of 'I don't touch any money and just hand on the bills'
makes quite a lot of sense.
In the current discussion in German blogs (and on BC Munich) there
are/were even voices that said that they'd find it acceptable if the
key organizers GOT money (transport, hotel) - which was something the
organizers did not want....
In short: If you celebrate sharing you might also want to respect
differences. Barcamp organizers need support, not extra sources of
We've tried hard to provide food so that people didn't have to go out
and find a place to get food, and then get back. We want people to stay
at the venue and focus on sharing and learning while we take care of
their dining needs.
> I was astonished when I heard that some barcamps end with (?:)2000 $/€
> in cash (?) being 'left over'. In the face of this it seems that
> Franz' policy of 'I don't touch any money and just hand on the bills'
> makes quite a lot of sense.
We had about $400 left over last year for BarCampMilwaukee2, which the
organizers decided should go to the venue who hosted it. (They are a
non-profit and held BarCamp there at no cost to us, so we thought it was
right to repay them for that.)
We may have money left over this time, and if that is the case, it's
been decided that the money should go to the next BarCamp we have, or
for specific *Camps we may have (DrupalCamp, etc.) No one has objected
to these suggestions yet, and we've put it out in the open for people to
We're finding that people need a bank account, an entity to collect
the moneys, etc. Sometimes it makes sense to have the legal
protections necessary of a corporation and it's representatives when
hosting an event.
But this is all very against the "Un-" of the model.
It makes me feel like we're taking over for a local agency. In
Waterloo, there is Communitech http://www.communitech.ca/, in Ottawa
there is OCRI http://ocri.ca/. Or possibly something like SDForum.
But a lot of the reason that we started doing BarCamps was to get away
from the overhead required. But I know that our venues have required
either an individual or a company to sign a contract for services (or
at least to be accountable).
I've always believed that it's the derivatives that matter most. It's
not the BarCamp but what people do at the event and afterwards whether
that be connections, relationships, new events (FacebookCamp,
CaseCamp, EclipseDemoCamp), new companies, new ideas, new drinking
I'm find myself spending more and more time on the administrivia of
running an unorganization.
I hate to think that creating something like a BarCampFoundation, to
handle some of the risk and overhead including cash collection and
legal liability, is required. Because this opens a set of other
questions like "are certain BarCamps sanctioned by the Foundation?".
This really scares me because it kills the spirit of BarCamp.
Well The 'German model' adresses this, as the company/host who
provides the venue (often a larger one: Pixelpark, Cisco, QSC) covers
the event under their normal operation.
They sure have extra cost as far as security or cleaning is concerned.
But the camp itself operates 100% cash free.
And as no cash is changing hands (all the bills are sent from e.g. a
caterer directly to the sponsor) there is no tax issue involved (and
no surplus money around in the end).
> But this is all very against the "Un-" of the model.
> But a lot of the reason that we started doing BarCamps was to get away
> from the overhead required. But I know that our venues have required
> either an individual or a company to sign a contract for services (or
> at least to be accountable).
I am not sure this was the case up to now in Germany as the 'boss' of
the comany/venue was legally the host. (I guess ;) )
> ... new drinking
Ah, here the continents meet ;)
> I'm find myself spending more and more time on the administrivia of
> running an unorganization.
Yep, this needs to be avoided, I guess. Just maybe the homeland of the
camp can learn from "Old Europe" ;)
> I hate to think that creating something like a BarCampFoundation, to...
Yep, we had a brief discussion about this regarding BarcampStuttgart
which is to be in spring. But we decided an 'eingetragener Verein'
(registred non-profit) was too much overhead.
OTOH it would be cool to have some 'entity' that 'owns' sposored WiFi
equipment and 'lends' it to barcamps.
But AFAIK lack of WiFi eq. has not been a problem in Germany.
Maybe we could found a church instead? *duck * cover*
We don't need an entity for this. I started a project back during the
last SXSWi that asked for BarCampers to list leftover equipment on a
If there is a closeby BarCamp with leftover items, we could contact
them to borrow the equipment (there are enough in US & Europe now that
we could start sharing pretty simply). If we ask far enough ahead of
time, shipping costs shouldn't be ridiculous for things like
powerstrips or modems.
We have also always asked local wifi peeps to chip in. Here, we have
Meraki. There is Fon in Europe. Both have good contacts around setting
up wifi, etc.
We could also start a sheet within the BarCamp Assets file that could
list the name, number and what they supply (potential stuff sponsors)
for different regions. The trick is to call them enough ahead of time
that they can help put it together.
Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences, everybody!
I especially liked the case studies (Dallas, Milwaukee, Toronto etc.).
I'm putting bits and pieces on the wiki also: http://barcamp.pbwiki.com/Sponsoring
Google Doc and this idea sound great.
At re-publica.de (which was not a barcamp) they bought quite some
equipment (from sponsoring cash?) and then donated it to the
'freifunker' who are somewhat in the region of Chaos Computer-Club
(CCC) and propagating free wireless net access since the 90ies.
> We could also start a sheet within the BarCamp Assets file that could
> list the name, number and what they supply (potential stuff sponsors)
> for different regions. The trick is to call them enough ahead of time
> that they can help put it together.
Sounds great. Would it make sense to have a separate sheet for Europe
or Germany? Postage ist quite ecessive here... Transatlantic wuld make
little sense I guess ;)
Or organize it whichever way one sees fit.
On 10/12/07, Oliver Gassner <oliver....@gmail.com> wrote:
It's an invaluable resource for other barcampers to learn from and get
a better understanding of what items they need to factor in when
organizing their own *camp. Or what some of the trade-offs are. Or
where there might be room for saving money. Or for making shifts in
the budget. Or how to best raise the necessary funds. Etc.
Just from the few responses on this thread alone, it's obvious that
there's already a great deal of experience and knowledge out there.
The more these things are shared publicly, the greater the opportunity
for others to come up with their own great little event.
The "local sponsors who participate" thing is really pretty core
to the whole idea. It's not an US thing, it follows directly from
the basic ideas of a Bar Camp: "Individuals not companies"
and "Everybody participates"
That doesn't mean it's totally inflexible. Microsoft has been a
sponsor at several Bar Camps, and MS isn't really local to
anywhere at this point. But their participation has been
because there were interested individuals working at a local
MS office who participated in the event.
What if there are _no_ local sponsors? I've gotten frustrated
enough with the sponsorship process to encourage people
to go without whenever possible. As was pointed out, that
only really works for camps of a limited size (100-150?), but
if that's OK for your situation I think it's an option worth
That said, it's a big tent, and it's very interesting to hear about
how the principles get adapted to difference cultures and
Thanks for engaging in this conversation.
To answer some of your points:
Why did I bring this up? Simple. I care about Barcamp -- a lot. To be
a little more specific, I follow the barcamp scene mainly in Germany
(where I am from originally) and here in the US (where I now live).
And while I can't attend every barcamp in Germany, I read up on almost
all the follow-up reporting on the web and also hear a lot of feedback
from people directly. A few recent developments in Germany made me
realize there might be a slight disconnect between how things are run
there and what I see are the core grassroots values of Barcamp.
Nothing catastrophic, really, but since I plan to attend the next
barcamp in Berlin in person, I thought this might be a good
opportunity to raise some of the concerns I have.
Again, this is not about imposing anything on anybody. Much rather,
it's about trying to make things better for future campers (which,
btw, I assume is the main reason people hang out on this list in the
first place -- to help make things better).
1. Best practices: I've added a few lines to the "best practices"
section. I hope it's more clear now that these rules are guidelines
at best and that they often need to be modified to fit people's
needs. As more people share their experiences on the wiki, my hope is
we can identify more of the commonalities as well as the differences.
2. In-kind donations: I've added a new section "criticisms" and added
your concern regarding the hidden cash value of in-kind donations.
3. BarCampBlock: I have to strongly disagree with you here. Yes, no
list is perfect. Yes, there could always be more detail. Yes, there is
always room for cheating (theoretically, at least). Yes, some of the
information may only apply to a specific location. But that's not the
point. The point is, this is much better than not listing anything at
all. It gives other barcamp planners a plethora of useful information
(e.g. cash expenses per active participant, order in which funds were
raised, major cost factors etc.), and given that most edits are signed
by name and come from the organizers or other trusted members of the
community, I don't see how this process could be any *more*
transparent. And of course: These numbers do not apply to other
events 100 percent. But I trust that people are smart enough to make
sense of it and pick and choose the parts that they *do* find helpful.
Making this information public at least gives them the opportunity to
judge for themselves.
And about poor Pete, the "cheap ass" who only gave $15 (that's Pete
Prodoehl, btw, a long-time barcamp volunteer and organizer from
Milwaukee, who didn't even *attend* BarCampBlock in person but still
cared enough to give)? Quite frankly, he's no cheap ass to me. To me,
he's someone whom I respect a great deal because he made a valuable
contribution which -- along with the other 100+ sponsors -- helped
make BarCampBlock possible. Thanks, Pete!
4. Cultural limitations, bureaucratic hindrances in Germany: Agreed,
Germany has a different culture when it comes to sponsoring, and you
may be right about the problems posed by our tax laws. But to me,
Barcamp is a lot about empowerment and changing the things that we see
don't work. As Tara pointed out, it's a cultural shift. I have always
found it amazing to watch when people realize that they don't need big
sponsors to run an unconference. All it takes is a number of
motivated people who chip in together and make it happen. And with
more web-savvy lawyers joining the German barcamp community, I'd be
surprised if these legal issues can't be figured out (tax fraud, money
laundering, the impossibility of handling cash -- c'mon, there's gotta
be ways around that, even in the country that produces 70% of the
world's publications on tax legislation).
5. Minimum sponsorship amount: I'm not an ideologue by any means. In
the end, it's entirely up to the planners how they organize sponsoring
at their event. It's just that setting a minimum sponsorship amount
of, say, EUR 300 *does" undoubtedly pose a big barrier of entry for
potential sponsors. In my case, I wasn't allowed to get in (at least
not on behalf of the project I work on). Which is fine if you want to
do it that way, I guess. It's just that I probably never would (I'd
prefer Pete's $15 any time of the day).
On Oct 13, 6:10 am, "Nicole Simon" <nee...@gmail.com> wrote:
> While it is nice to state that "there is a limit what we accept
> as sponsoring!" and therefor drawing a line at 300 dollars,
> it is window dressing if you at the same time accept in-kind
> sponsoring above this limit but just not declare it as sponsoring
> All of that is contributions which do have a cash value.
> The so called Transparency
> As Tim is so eager to point towards the so called intransparency
> of the German Barcamps - again the question, btw: why just de
> and now and not others? - and pointing to the 'good' example
> of Barcampblock, I am astonished up to shaking my head about this.
> If this so called Transparency is about finding people who do
> 'black' things around this I have news for you: If I want to cheat
> I am usually clever enough to cover my tracks even with such
> list. Or better especially with such a list.
> Onto the 'good example' of Barcampblock - did anyone shouting
> for this actually look at that list?http://barcamp.org/BarCampBlockCosts
> I would very much encourage ...
> read more »
I am wondering what you are referring to
a) the no-show rate in Munich (which is within the rate experienced
elsewhere, I am told)
b) the complaints about too many unnerving (sponsoring and
non-sponsoring) startuppers in Hamburg [this *was* a camp that *had*
many small sponsors... and some people *had* an issue with that.
(Many) German startuppers hav a geekiness of -237 on a scale of 1 to
10. Some are cool ;) ]
As I have been to all camps in Germany (but not Switzerland and
Austria) I have seen the one or the other minor problem - but no
relevant issues that I could pinpoint to
a) lack of transparency
b) too many big sponsors (or just one)
c) too few small sponsors
I at least get the creeps when I hear that I'd be meant to handle
donations of 15 EUR or $ or whatever.
"I am a barcamper and not a cashier." (Bones, TOS, Lost Episode)
(And if transparency is really wanted for I'll just list the sessions
I give at 400 EUR in kind donations a gig, ok? *g*)
No seriously: "Please state the nature of the emergency." (Doc, "Voyager" Pilot)
PS: If lawyers could make German tax issues go away they'd be the
heroes of the country ;)
My main concerns around sponsoring at BarCampBerlin2 (some I already
* No public budget
* EUR 300 minimum sponsorship amount required
* Sponsoring rules not public on the wiki
* Little to no information available on who the sponsors are (in some
cases I have never heard of the company name, and there is no website
available but a splash page -- quite opposite to BarCampBlock where
you knew many of the sponsors by name)
* Sponsors not listed as participants (when I checked, the sponsor
names couldn't be found among the attendees, which is odd)
There are other things, but those belong in a different thread maybe:
The problem isn't the no-shows, in my view (as inconvenient as it may
be, there will always be people who quickly sign up for a free event
but never show up). What I found a little bit disturbing were some of
the discussions around how to best deal with the issue (a few -- not
all -- people suggested things like public shaming, internal
blacklists to be shared among planning teams in different cities, or
banning no-shows from signing up at future events). I can understand
the frustration, I just don't think that's a good way to fix the
Another issue is the fact that German barcamps tend to "sell out"
within minutes of their announcement (you'd better be on Twitter or
else you miss out). I'm aware it's not always possible to avoid these
limits to the number of attendees, but it makes it less open, more
Another one is using a closed system for registration and event
planning. Again, I can understand the need for better, richer tools
(in addition to just a wiki). But it comes at a price (in this case,
you can't sign up anymore without giving a valid email address and
providing at least some information about yourself). Not a big deal
for me personally, but for others it might be.
On Oct 13, 12:34 pm, "Oliver Gassner" <oliver.gass...@gmail.com>
But that is not what this is about. Nor is it about listing how much anyone
contributed. Do I really need to know that Pete is a cheap ass and "only"
provided 15$? Of course not.
Tim, it would be good if you could be more specific about that. Then
we would know what you are talking about.
Sorry, if I was being too ominous here.
I've listed pretty much everything that I had on my mind in my
previous post: http://groups.google.com/group/barcamp/msg/b555e90d7fd70fcc
That's all there is to it, really. Had I not been thinking about
coming to Berlin and attending BarCampBerlin2 in person (which btw
isn't gonna happen, unfortunately), I probably wouldn't have felt a
need to bring it up.