For all events I help to plan, I strive to make them accessible for everyone, and that has usually meant they’re free or ultra low cost.
I’ve been rethinking offering free access to Subculture at Creative Coworkers for a while now, recommending that hosts who receive sponsored space ask their attendees to give a small donation. And here’s the reason.
Space is not free, for someone. Space is really, really expensive.
Things that are free sometimes seem less valuable, too.
There was a meme going around this week about how to support small business without spending any money. As a small business owner, I’m totally grateful to you for sharing content and inviting people, I am.
But here’s the thing, accompanied by a personal experience from today, as per my usual style.
I went and bought my contact lenses today at Mount Pleasant Optometry Centre because a couple of years back, they invited me to the Imperial for an anniversary event and gave me (and every one of their clients who attended) drinks and treated us to a performance by Stars. And it reminded me that it’s more important to support local than to save $10 ordering online.
And so I now only buy contacts there. It was promotional dollars well spent, because it also reminded me that I’m part of a variety of local communities that I sometimes am not even explicitly aware of. And so it earned them a customer for life.
The only real way to support small business, or keep cultural spaces alive, or sustain community in any meaningful, long term way is to PRIORITIZE IT WITH YOUR SPENDING DOLLARS!
So I rarely do completely free events anymore. Partly to cover hard, unavoidable costs – especially time, which is finite and a non renewable resource. But partly to remind people that free for you is not free for the organizer or the venue owner. Our organizations and venues can’t continue to offer value if there isn’t a financial exchange.
And if you don’t have it to donate, I 150% want you to be there anyway. Do not feel awkward or ashamed to not make a donation. But maybe consider giving it an extra share, or inviting a couple of friends to go with you. If it’s valuable to you.
And if you do have it, please support the events you care about, and the spaces they’re held in. WE NEED YOU!!!