Pay-What-You-Can Attendance Model Catching On

By Kelsey Ogletree, June 7, 2017

If the thought of not being able to predict how much money you’ll earn from conference registrations gives you heart palpitations, the pay-what-you-can attendance model might not be for you. Groups like College Art Association are testing the waters with a new pay-as-you-wish day pass. Sold in addition to regular registrations, the pass was introduced at CAA’s annual conference at New York Hilton Midtown in February as a way to get more people to attend. The pass (suggested price: $25) gave both members and nonmembers access to the conference sessions, panels and book fair.

Attendee feedback was positive: About 1,250 of the 5,000 participants purchased the pay-as-you-wish pass, with an average contribution of about $20.

“People felt that CAA listened and worked to meet their needs and desires to attend the conference while being mindful of tight budgets,” says Director of Programs Tiffany Dugan.

The CAA may have taken a cue from museums such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or Seattle Art Museum, which also follow a pay-as-you-wish model. This trend has also been spotted at BECAUSE Conference, an annual meeting of the Bisexual Organizing Project, and at Tiny House Conference, which offers 15 pay-what-you-can tickets in exchange for volunteering during the event.

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