Though WordCamp organizers try to keep events as inclusive as possible, the truth of the matter is, not everyone can afford to travel to attend one. Unless you have one right in your city, you’re looking at paying for travel, food, and accommodations. For a freelancer or small business owner, this can be a lot to ask. That’s why Happiness Engineer at Automattic, Ines van Essen created DonateWC. The initiative looks to utilize the most important part of WordPress, the community, to send those who can’t afford such an event to a WordCamp.
According to the website, “All donations will go into a global fund. From that fund, we create sponsorships that are tailored to the recipient’s situation.” The fund will pay for travel, accommodations, Wifi, and food for the weekend.
We talked with van Essen about how the initiative came to be, and where it will go in the future.
Who can be sponsored
Applicants will be reviewed on a case by case basis, however, there are a few prerequisites. A chosen applicant must either be volunteering or speaking at the WordCamp they wish to attend, they cannot work for a company that has sponsored attendees in the past, and they must be active participants in the community. This ensures that the sponsorship brings value to the community as a whole.
All applications will be reviewed and one will be chosen.
“I’m working on putting together a diverse team of people who will function as an application committee. We will review future sponsorship applications together, ensuring that the awarding of these grants remain fair,” van Essen said.
As of writing this article, the team has received donations from 40 people adding up to $1405.68.
The idea came to van Essen when she had to spend “an arm and a leg” to get to the Community Summit. “That bugged me; if someone from a First World Country (I’m from The Netherlands) finds a trip like this expensive, how impossible is it for someone from a Third (or even a Second) World Country? It was a thought that kind of simmered in the back of my head for two years – I could maybe do something about it, but how?” she said.
The idea took about two years to come to fruition, but it finally has.
When she finally wrote the About page to the initiative, donations began pouring in. “I think that says something about how sorely this is needed, and how willing the community is to participate,” she said.
WordCamps are a way to connect with people you’ve met online and get your name and brand out there. If you can’t do this, you may be at a disadvantage.
Ideally, the initiative would like to fund 20 people in 2018. “My hope is that as the foundation grows, we get to help out more people and really make a difference. I’m already talking to some of the WordCamp organizers to see if we can collaborate,” van Essen said.
While that’s a lofty goal, van Essen is optimistic and is even hoping to send someone to WordCamp US this year.
“It’s a privileged and idealistic thought that everyone has a WordPress community close at hand,” van Essen said. “Even if your local WordCamp is ‘only’ a few hours away, you still need to travel there and most likely stay overnight. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, are currently unemployed, or live in a country that has very low minimum wages, how are you going to afford such a trip? Some people have mentioned that going to WordCamp US would cost them upwards of $5000 – something they’re not able to afford in a lifetime.”
DonateWC is looking to bring new points of view to WordCamps around the world.
“When people are not able to add their voice to a WordCamp in their area due to lack of financial means, we’re potentially missing out on a huge talent pool. WordCamp tickets are kept at a low fee for precisely this reason: to keep the events accessible regardless of financial status,” van Essen said. “If we can crowdsource the money it takes to set up something like WordCamp US, we should be able to source help for people who are in need.”
Donate at DonateWC.org.
Emily Schiola is the Editor of Torque. She loves good beer, bad movies, and cats.