This year at PHP South Coast 2016, we decided to run a ticket scholarship programme with fundraising. Someone asked me to blog about how it went, so this is that blog post. I'm presenting my findings here only in note form really, but should give you an idea of how it went:

  • We had a total of 8 contributions to the fund, giving us a total of £543.29 (including VAT). Out of those contributors, five of them preferred to stay anonymous with only three (including me) being happy to have their name published.
  • The "value" of the scholarship award is a £70 (excluding VAT) ticket, so we added wording to the ticketing page to encourage contributions in multiples of £70 (excluding VAT).
  • The largest contribution was £140 (excluding VAT), and the smallest was £1 (excluding VAT). Note that the amount is not important as it goes into a "pot" anyway.
  • Out of the fund, we were able to award five scholarship tickets. We did not have a means to test eligability, we based the system on trust, asking only a handful of questions:
    • Where are you from? (this is important as we needed to advise those applying travelling from afar that we cannot cover travel and accomodation)
    • What is your occupation / are you a student?
    • Where did you hear about us?
  • We had six applicants for tickets. One person never claimed their ticket. Out of the five that did claim, three actually attended the conference.
  • This leaves us with a surplus of £123.29 (including VAT). If we decide to run the scholarship programme next year, this surplus will be used to seed the next programme. If not, we will find a worthy cause to donate the amount to (some ideas are Sustain, Code Club, Bletchley Park).
  • An interesting question was raised about charging VAT, which we investigated with our accountant. We discovered that contributors cannot reclaim VAT on the contributions because the supply is being made to the awardee rather than the contributor. We added this important wording to the Scholarship page on the website.
  • As the conference is not run by a charity (it is run by a not-for-profit social enterprise, PHP Hampshire CIC), unfortunately there are no tax benefits or gift aid available on any of the scheme. The overhead of running a charity is, in our opinion, not worth the additional effort at this stage.

I'm not sure how this measures up to other scholarship programmes, but I feel we operated this with moderate success on a small scale. We're quite a small conference relatively speaking anyway, but I'm mostly happy with the results. I'd like to have been able to award more scholarships, and I'm also a little disappointed that two of the people we awarded tickets to did not attend (as it still costs us for catering etc.). I'm undecided about running the scheme again next year, and instead we may defect to let Sustain or similar external organisation handle this.

The other issue discussed and debated was the means-testing problem; in the end we went down the "trust" route, making an assumption that the applicant "deserved" the ticket. However, this could leave us open to abuse in the future, with tickets being applied for going to those who would otherwise be able to afford or acquire a ticket. It's an interesting problem, because the other method means needing to pry into potentially highly sensitive information about the applicant which they may not feel comfortable revealing to us.