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How to Find Your Break Even Figure - open

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By Caterine - open for editing

"Break even number" is the minimum number of people you need to attend an event to ensure that the event doesn't make a loss.

In practice, it's an informed guess about minimum likely attendance, that you use to determine how much you need to charge people in order to be reasonably confident that you'll cover your fixed costs.

Fixed Costs are costs that don't change, no matter how many people come to the event. Sire hire is often a fixed cost: a given hall will cost $200 whether 20 people attend the event or 60.

For instance, if your hall costs $100, you expect 10-20 people to attend, you might budget $10/person to cover the site. That gives you a break-even of 10: if 10 people attend, you cover your fixed costs but don't make a profit.

Your best source of information is attendance at similar events. There are past event proposals and reports here; you can also talk to people who have run events over the last few years.

Factors that tend to increase attendance:

  • Royal visit
  • "traditional" event (e.g. St Catherine's Faire)
  • special occasion (e.g. Baronial investiture)
  • accommodation (makes it easier to travel from Cluain)
  • broad appeal (wide range of activities; suitable for variety of people)
  • no similar SCA events for a while
  • good advertising

Factors that tend to decrease attendance:

  • recent SCA events (especially larger, more expensive events; or very similar events)
  • appeals only to certain interests (e.g. aimed only at fighters, or dancers)
  • same weekend as other non-SCA event in same city, or SCA event in other city

It's harder to predict numbers accurately if we don't have a similar recent event. In that case, consider which members of the group it's likely to appeal to.

Settling on a Break Even Point

In practice, there's a bit of a balancing act:

  • choose a break-even number based on a guess at likely attendance
  • work out the price per person
  • consider whether the price is reasonable
  • consider whether your guess at attendance is reasonable, in the light of what you're intending to charge

If the numbers don't seem to stack up, either your break-even number is too low; or your event, as planned, isn't viable.

For instance: St Catherine's Faire often gets 40-70 people. If you try to budget with a break-even of 15, you'll probably find the cost-per-person too high. Adjust accordingly.

At the other end of the scale: if you expect only 10 people to a ball, you probably can't afford to hire a hall for $500, as you'd have to charge each person $50 to cover the site.