There is no universal definition of what it means to be financially accessible. What is accessible for one person might be very different from what is accessible for another.
I’ve talked to sex-positive event organizers who see a sliding scale ticket price that starts at $15 as being very financially accessible. My feeling is that even a scale that starts at $1 can be exclusionary for some people. If you’re broke and you’re figuring out where you’re going to spend money in a day, you might have $3 to spend on lunch, and if $1 of that is required for admission to an event that you are really interested in attending, then you're forced to decide between having some crackers (or whatever you can find for $2) and going to the event, or having a bagel (or another $3 lunch) and skipping it.
Many event organizers make the assumption that people who are struggling to afford food would be too concerned with meeting their immediate needs to want to attend social justice-y events. But people of all financial statuses are passionate about causes, want to learn, can benefit from community connections, and have a lot more going on than just their financial struggles. Maybe they’re getting paid tomorrow, so their mind isn’t on how to get more money (it’s on its way), or maybe they have various ways of dealing with income issues, but it’s not an all-encompassing struggle (though for some, it might be).
It's important to think outside of your own financial situation/background when considering accessibility.
Ask yourself: Who do I want to be able to attend my event?
If your answer is “Anyone who wants to,” then it probably makes sense to either make your event completely free to attend, or create options that allow people to attend your event for free (suggestions below!).
If your answer is something more specific, like “People who work at universities doing wellness programming,” then you can think about ways that the institutions that people are involved with might be able to cover the cost of admission.
What about my financial needs?
It’s okay to want (and/or need) to be paid for the work you’re doing to create an event/workshop/etc.! If you’re offering something of value, you deserve to be compensated for it. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to strive for your income from the event to just cover the costs of having the event (rental costs, food, etc.), or if you also want or need to pay yourself for the work you put into it. Either way is OKAY!
Financial accessibility options
Here are some options for making sure that your events are accessible to people of all financial situations.
How it works: Create an application where people explain why the event matters to them, why they would benefit from being a part of the event, what they would contribute by being a part of the event, or anything else you’d like to know about them in order to decide if they seem like a good candidate for free admission to your event.
2. Optional donation
How it works: Have a donation bowl at the event, or ticket prices starting at $0 online. If you’re doing a donation bowl, I recommend telling people where it is once or twice during the event, rather than passing the bowl around, because there can be a lot of pressure to give money when a bowl is passed around.
How it works: Allow a certain number of people to sign up to volunteer before, during, and/or after the event in exchange for free admission.
4. Have a contest (or giveaway) for free tickets
How it works: There are so many options! You could have an event flyer design contest, sticker design contest, social media giveaway, etc. Choose something relevant to the topic so people can show that the topic is something they care about.
How it works: Have free admission (or optional donation / sliding scale), and cover the costs of the event (and possibly pay yourself and any other organizers for their time) through corporate sponsorship.
How it works: Make the event free or sliding scale to attend, but require that attendees raise money for your cause. This works well for a fundraising-based event, like a “walk for hunger,” where raising money for a good cause is a central purpose of the event.
Good luck with your event planning!
This article was written by Pleasure Pie founder Nicole Mazzeo. Nicole is a sex educator and zine maker with a passion for sex-positivity.