Since most cons, especially new ones, and start-from-scratch efforts like Worldcons, require start-up funds, the typical fannish practice is that every person attending, except gohs, buys a membership, either in advance or at the door. This applies to pros, program participants, concom ... everyone.
Not only is this a large chunk of money, insuring a good financial cushion, it reinforces the fannish concepts of involvement and meritocracy. (The biggest downside — especially as membership fees rise — is that it adds to the challenges poorer fans face in attending; a few cons have instituted “scholarship” programs toward that end, and fan funds are a traditional means of supporting WKFs who couldn’t otherwise attend.)
While reimbursements are not a legal debt, they are a moral debt, and cons should budget to be able to pay them. Most cons require a minimum amount of participation to merit a refund. Refunds are never a given, however. (See Constellation Bankruptcy). And UK cons don’t do reimbursements (they issue Groats).
Surpluses are also used as pass-along funds or given to fannish good causes or charity. Books for the Blind was a common convention charity for years.
Some generous cons will grant refunds to members who paid in advance but find their plans to attend have changed, though a common practice for annual events is to roll the membership over to the following year.
If a con is cancelled, fans tend to be quite testy if advance membership fees aren’t refunded.
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