HPL 501c3 Institute, the parent organization of the hosts of the Symposium (ASKLEPIOS and Taijiquan Enthusiasts Organization), is a 501c3 non-profit organization. As a result, their financials are open to the public. This differs from many events and symposiums which are run by private organizations who are not bound by public charity traditions of open financials. Even non-profits, however rarely publish the specific income and expenses of specific events, generally preferring to provide only organization-level balance sheet and income statements.
However; one year, CJ Rhoads (Managing Director of HPL Institute) attended a two-week course at Lehigh University taught by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. At the end of the course, the organizers published all of the financials, income and expenses, for the entire function. CJ was so taken by the openess and transparency, she resolved to do the same thing for the events in which she was involved.
Here, then, is the financial report from the 2017 Symposium. As always, as a non-profit, the goal was not to make money. Our goal was to ensure that the event was as affordable as possible. That isn't easy because we have to pay for the venue, the food, promotion, and administration expenses. We try very hard to cut costs wherever possible, and utilize volunteer staff as much as possible, but no matter what, there are significant costs to putting on these events. At the end of the 2018 Symposium, a similar report will be published so that everyone can see the surplus or loss of the event.
Publishing the financials may be a bit different, but it is not just an altruistic action. Often, attendees have no idea of the costs involved in trying to run events of this sort, and they make the assumption that someone is making a lot of money (and therefore, might complain about the price of registration of the event). Hopefully, armed with the actual information on how much the Symposium actually costs to run, they will temper their complaints about the price. They might even be grateful that we are able to gather enough volunteers that the cost is relatively reasonable. And perhaps they might even be amazed at the caliber of talent of workshop leaders who are willing to contribute their time, talent, and money to sharing their knowledge and experience. (I know we, the organizers, all are!)
Last year, at our inaugural event at a new location, the beautiful Maris Stella Retreat and Conference center, we had to spend quite a bit on advertising and promotion because we hadn't had an event like this in a couple of years, and most of the people involved in previous events were no longer around. Luckily, we attracted some top workshop leaders - very high quality instructors. If we had attracted enough participants (about 75 was break even) we could have covered their costs and they would not have had to take a loss on their travel. We were happy that they were willing to take a chance on us in our new location.
Alas, we only got 54 attendees. That was not enough to cover the travel costs of the workshop leaders, though we did cover more costs than we had in previous events. We all had a terrific time, and by all accounts the event was a smashing success, but we didn't get as many attendees as we had hoped.
This was not the first time this has happened. The Taijiquan Enthusiasts Organization, one of the hosts for the Symposium, has been holding Tai Chi Festivals and Health Events since 2002. They started with single day events at Christ Church in Philadelphia, PA. Then they moved on to multi-day events at universities and retreat centers. Some years were in the black (usually the smallest ones) and some years were in the red.
In the end, at the 2017 Symposium, we only lost $520 (and believe me, that was good. The closest to break-even we'd had since 2005.) Our expenses were $10,088 and our income was $9568. The average cost per participant was $186.82.
We are certainly hoping for break-even in 2018 (and maybe even some surplus so we can reimburse the travel, food, and lodging costs of our hard-working and dedicated esteemed workshop leaders!). To save costs, we are relying entirely on volunteers to promote the event. Additionally, we did not have a formal steering committee and won't be providing food for all the meals (only Saturday dinner - but we hope it will be superb!).
If you are wondering what you can do to help, there are many things:
Luckily, we have many friends who want to see this event continue. If we can't afford Maris Stella, we will just move to a less-expensive location. If we can't afford three days, we'll cut it down to one. If we can't run the event alone, we'll partner up with another organizer. Our enthusiasm for Tai Chi and Qigong is not easily squelched. And with Harvard Medical School sending out reports on how much Tai Chi helps people (to check out just a few: Newest one July 2018 general health benefits, cognitive function, prevents falls, and relieves pain) we are bound to grow.
As a matter of fact, the only thing we need to flourish into a growing, dynamic, financially successful (as well as our already-demonstrated educational and fun success) is time and promotion. So come to the Symposium, year after year, and watch us become huge. Then you can say that you were there, waaaay back at the beginning, the first year we held the event at Maris Stella.
See you soon!
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