To: The HavenCon Family
From: Shane Brown, Founder of HavenCon
Before I start, I have to express how important it is that you share this letter. It impacts everyone attending or considering attending HavenCon 4. Like and share on FB, and be sure to retweet it on Twitter.
I also want to apologize for the length of this post, we have A LOT to cover. TLDR: Registration and Sponsorships are down, we have not met our goal, we may have to make major changes to HavenCon going forward.
HavenCon is about our LGBTQ+ family and our allies. It’s about finding like minded people that enjoy similar things across a wide variety of fandoms. We don’t pander to politics or sexualize our community (these things are welcome at HavenCon in the form of panels, we just don’t make them our focus as an event). We run an honest show based on what you, the community, wants and we work hard to accommodate everyone to the best of our abilities so that you feel safe to express yourselves in a constructive manner on a wide variety of topics. We want you to feel free to be your best self knowing others will embrace you and not judge you.
When I first started HavenCon, it was really only meant to be a 1 year event. I didn’t plan for multiple years, there wasn’t a road map. It was something I wanted to do for the community that I had been involved with for some time, but frankly, I didn’t know I would be able to do more than 1 year due to health concerns.
The first year of HavenCon we had roughly 1,200 attendees, and this inspired me to focus on my health and to continue to run HavenCon for awhile longer. And so, we had a second HavenCon which had around 1,400 attendees.
By year 3 I could tell that this was an event that people enjoyed and wanted to see continue, and so myself and the team worked hard to try and make the event self-sustaining, however, we don’t have any form of “rainy day” funds available as we are still growing. And with this, there have been PLENTY of growing pains.
We’re not a typical convention, we don’t have 5,000-25,000 attendees. We’re a small-ish community event built to embrace the other sides of LGBTQ+ culture with a focus on pop-culture and fandoms. ALL fandoms. And so we are a niche of a niche of a niche.
So far crowdfunding has been our standard go-to when gauging interest as well as raising funds for the next year’s event, and this year was no exception. Crowdfunding, to date, has been our #1 area for ticket sales and exposure. We get seen more during our crowdfunding campaigns than any other time combined, which is great as we don’t have a large extravagant marketing budget or campaign.
Our social media presence has also taken a hit. Likes, shares, and retweets of content are drastically down over previous years. We’re not sure if it’s an algorithm or the content itself, but even things like guest announcements, contests and other event specific information are not being seen like it used to be. So it is always important that if you see something from HavenCon/The Foundation it is liked and shared to help drive up views and get the messages out.
While we may raise enough funds to cover the venue (we did it! thank you!), there are other expenses that need to be covered such as; Guests and their travel, AV Equipment, Gaming space equipment, signage, volunteer needs (we try to at least feed our people, we’re not monsters!), and the list goes on and on.
What we are finding is that we have a handful of truly AMAZING supporters that provide the funds needed to create the next years show, but the majority of attendees do not register until closer to the date.
Typically the extra funds needed can be raised via our vendors and sponsors allowing us to fill the gaps until the remaining attendees register either just before or day of the convention.
However, this year, we’ve had a bit of a cascading effect happen. HavenCon 3 saw lower attendance, we dropped back to the 1200 range for attendance, and while still impressive, it had an impact on us moving forward. For year 4 we budgeted for roughly 1000 people to give us some wiggle room.
Now, it’s very important here for me to reiterate that NOBODY gets paid to work at HavenCon. I know how the rumor mill works, and I can assure you that nobody has benefitted financially from the show. It is a goal, however, for us to create jobs for our community and to compensate the hard work that everyone puts in in some way down the line. We just are not at that point yet.
Simply put, as of right now, we don’t have enough pre-registrations, in fact, looking at the historical registration data, we are performing at around 40% of previous years attendance. Ouch.
Sponsors and vendors are half of what we usually have around this time and so we are stumbling a little bit while we work on ways to recoup these needed funds, and this is why we created the current fundraiser and attempted our live stream this past weekend..
We also created the It’s Your Haven Foundation in the hopes that we can tap into other sources of revenue for the show to help us grow, market, and expand. In order to do that though, we had to pay out over $6,000 in legal fees and loan repayments so as to be able to start with a clean slate going forward.
We did this with the belief that we would see more registrations from attendees and vendors and (we hoped) more donations to the foundation itself from those wishing to take advantage of the tax deductible status we now provide.
We had also hoped to be able to get more savings and potential large sponsors, grants and other sources of revenue lined up in time but, as you can see, this has not happened.
Because we were not able to meet our goal during the Building A Foundation campaign, we are going to have to make some changes to ensure we have a show this year. And while the show may not be up to the standard I think we have all come to expect, we WILL have a show.
Some of the options we are currently exploring include but are not limited to:
- Reducing HavenCon to a 2 day show
- Cut some guests traveling in so as to save funds on travel and lodging
- Reduce our A/V budget and work with equipment readily available to us
- Rework the VIP Dinner Show and use those funds for other VIP Exclusive events throughout the weekend. The reason being, this dinner usually exceeds our Food and Beverage allowance thus costing the show more out of pocket. We can minimize that by hosting smaller events that still provide food and drinks, but not a sit down dinner. This would not impact the VIP Lounge at all as that is a sponsored space with Hops and Heroes providing the snacks and beverages there.
These are just some of the options we are considering at this time. I know that it is disappointing, but with our current number of registered attendees, these are our options.
I’m happy to spend time with even a few hundred of our family (because let’s be honest, that’s what we are), but sadly, we can’t carry this ourselves right now and the handful that have shown so much support early should not be expected to do so either, when we still have a lot of registration slots to fill.
I’ve always said the best way to support HavenCon is to buy your passes early and to invite your friends to do the same, and this still holds true. We have limited reach given the very small advertising budget we have, and so we rely on our community to talk to each other, invite and encourage each other to attend.
I know we threw some wrenches in the works with the conversion to non-profit, but it was something that was going to happen eventually, and we decided to “rip the band-aid off” once our early bird pricing ended in November.
For all of you that have shown your support for our very “we aren’t a NORMAL con” unorthodox ways of promoting, fundraising, and producing this show, thank you. Sincerely. We learn new things every day and this helps us in our growth as an organization and as individuals.
We have until December 16th to make any decisions and will be exploring more options. If you haven’t gotten your passes yet and still want to help, please do so at ItsYourHaven.org. Passes are included in our new Membership system and a portion may be tax deductible (consult your tax person to find out more).
Finally, I know a lot of people will ask why I think we have less registrations this year. And to be honest…if people out there are feeling what I am feeling in our current political environment, I understand. March seems like a long time away and with everything happening, we are scared, frustrated, and we want to do more for ourselves and others just to make sure we get through one more day.
We’re all fighting a lot of battles out there, and I know for some, including myself on especially rough days, it has exacted a harsh toll. I wish I could be more of a beacon in the light, but I as a person feel the weight just as much as anyone. But, there is a light for all of us, and that light is HavenCon. I do what I do, and I work through my experiences because I know soon enough I will be surrounded by some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life.
So please remember, you have people here that love you. HavenCon will be here before you know it and you’re going to be dancing, and cosplaying and running around the hotel together again in no time. And know that we are trying hard to do more to bring us together more often. YOU and YOUR happiness are our real goal.
Thank you for allowing me the absolute privilege of doing this for all of you. To say that this event has been life changing would be a gross understatement. Your stories, the way the event has impacted you all and the things I have learned as an organizer and especially as a person are something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Sincerely, thank you.
And of course if you have questions, comments, cute animal pictures to brighten my day, please email them to Shane@HavenConTx.com