by Duchess Dorinda Courtenay
When we started the Shire, we had nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is no provision to give new groups "seed money" or anything like that, so we pretty much started with zero. (Cygnus, Matthew, Anna and I bankrolled the first event on our credit cards since there was no cash to advance). We did a few demos and turned in some supermarket tapes to gather a couple of hundred dollars, but that was it. So we turned to events for our fund raisers. The problem with this is that people warned us that many events lose money, and since we were a new group, it was likely that many people wouldn't even come to our events. Thus we tried to figure out how to not lose money on events (as other groups so often did) and how to get people to come to our events.
We decided to do several things.
1. We almost always budget to at least break even at conservative attendance (and thus make hopefully a little profit with reasonable attendance). This has allowed us to only lose money at one event ever - including the two that were held in snow storms. If we can not afford the site, we don't use it. We do not reimburse people for silly things (like $200 for site tokens for a regular event) as I have seen other groups do. We do not give out "comp" tickets to half the known world (like some other groups do). Even the autocrat and head cook has to pay at least the site fee. It is our yearly contribution to the Shire and it keeps us from needing to judge "who has worked hard enough to get in free". So please don't feel bad that we are asking you to pay the site fee to work. At least you know everyone else has paid as well.
2. We try to treat people well and make the event special - including providing a nice event for them and feeding them well. One thing that we (mostly Lord Ciaran) do is to provide as much of a medieval atmosphere as we can. This is where the mood items come in. By loaning Ciran and Lothin some candles and wall hangings and bringing your banner, we make people feel like they are actually at a medieval feast. This is important. We are one of few groups who does this, and we put more time and energy into it than any group I know. So please try to loan them what you can.
Also, we try to feed people well - without going broke. While sideboard lunches were certainly heard of long before we came along, they were not at every event - and sometimes they weren't free. But I think we were one of the first to provide breakfast - especially on two days. And coffee and tea Friday night. People feel they are visiting old friends when they come here - and they are. Some people make this the one event they would not miss because of our hospitality. But it is not easy to do this, and this is where we again ask for the help of the Shire. If everyone can donate some food to the breakfast or lunch sideboard, this reduces what we have to spend, and provides some variety for the buffet. But if we do not tell Felicity and Keinven what we are bringing, then they don't know if they have to buy more or ask for more budget or what. So if you can afford something, please do tell them what you can bring and then bring it. This is part of our hospitality as a Shire and it is important. If you prefer to spend less and bake something, they will happily accept it. If you prefer to spend more and cook less, they will happily accept food donations. If you don't think you can remember to bring something, I am certain they will accept cash ahead of time and then they can fill in the gaps. Obviously we don't wish to take from those who can't afford it, but if you can, please consider donating someting.
This is also why we make scrolls for the tourney winners. So they feel special and come back next year.
3. We try to make the Royalty so well pampered that they will tell the next set of Royalty that they simply must come to Heronter. Face it, they don't have to come here. We aren't the biggest event and there are no Pennsic negotiations and it isn't required in any way. They come because we will treat them like Royalty! But it is not only good for them, but also good for us. Not only do they do us great honor by attending our event, but Royal presense increases attendance. They give awards and hold championships and people will come. It is good for us to be good for them. So yes, we are asking for donations for a gift basket and I will be spending some money on special food for them (which is not reimbursable according to IRS rules) and we will be decorating the cabin etc. It is both the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. So if you have something that you think our next Queen might enjoy, please consider getting it to me for the gift basket. It doesn't have to cost a lot - it could be something that you made. Those are the most special gifts of all. And it would be nice if I knew about it ahead of time.
4. We do a fund raising auction. Our silent auction helps us every year, and we are having another. Something you may be sick of may be perfect for someone else. Put it in the auction!
Well, my fingers hurt, but that tells a bit of the history behind why we ask for things at Harvest Raid. This event has made our group very successful, and it has allowed us to buy loaner equipment for the martial arts and our Pennsic trialer and gates and first aid kits and lots of other stuff. Thanks to everyone who has been generous over the years and thanks for your help this year as well.