Community Meeting Notes – June 14, 2018
In 2017 our expenses totaled a little over $120,000. 70% of our expenses goes towards rent, primarily for our space at 550 Barneveld, but some for our special event facilities for Pride and NYE. We spend 14% on supplies and other support of our programs, only 2% for administration.
In 2017 our income totaled over $129,000. Surplus years and deficit years tend to balance themselves out. Over the past twenty years we have created a reserve cushion of about $100,000.
- 43% of our income is from admission to Sundance Saloon and other events.
- A roughly equal amount comes from financial contributions ($50,000 from membership donations, and another $8,000 from matching contributions and other sources).
- 12% comes from fundraising: we keep half the proceeds of the Country Dance-A-Thon, and one-third of the net proceeds from the Sundance Stompede.
In December the club expressed concern over the lack of bar sales on Thursdays, which had fallen to $100 to $125. (Several years ago, typical bar sales on Thursdays were about $400.) Thursday admissions at that time were about 60, so this represents about $2 per person, a very low figure considering a bottled water costs $3. We were given a vague ultimatum to fix this.
We began some effort to increase bar sales, and by April Thursdays were averaging about $200. But this was still not good enough, and now the club is asking for a $650 bar minimum on Thursdays, with us paying any difference, estimated to be $450 per week, for an annual total of $23,400.
In addition we can expect a rent increase on Sunday and Thursday starting this July, from $850 per night to $950 per night. With this rent increase the club is offering a reduced Thursday bar minimum to $550. So this effectively adds another $5,000 to our annual expenses. We expect this rent increase to continue annually.
So in sum, we are expecting in increase in expenses of about $30,000 for the coming year, and perhaps $10,000 annually after that.
Here's how we propose to make up this additional $30,000 in expenses:
- Raise admission to $7. We'll probably delay this until January. This will give us $15,000 annually. (Discussion about increasing it even further, up to $10. Discussion of a sliding scale.)
- Increase membership donations by 20%. We currently receive $50,000 annually. This would give us an additional $10,000.
- Increase Country Dance-A-Thon participation. Each of the last two years Sundance earned about $5,000 with 15 active participants. If we doubled participation, that could mean an additional $5,000. This is our best way to raise funds outside of our dance community! More info ...
Those three items alone would allow us to reach our $30,000 target.
- Grants. We need to show that we are more than just a place to go out and have fun. Sundance is so much more than that! We'd like to have your personal stories that tell the world what Sundance means to you, and what you think it means to the community. Send these to email@example.com.
- Matching grants. Many larger companies will match your donation. Last year we received several thousand dollars from such programs. Please check to see if your company matches! Some companies also "match" volunteer time and will pay Sundance for your volunteer work.
- Estate gifts. Consider making a gift to the Sundance Association in your will.
- Other fundraising. (e.g. Hamilton raffle, Bandits' bake sale)
- Use Amazon Smile if you shop on Amazon. It's the exact same website with the same products and same prices. Amazon will pay Sundance 0.5% of your purchase price.
- Use the coat-check on Sundays. The $2 goes directly to Sundance (and your coat stays clean and secure).
- Buy drinks at the bar on Thursdays. Every dollar you spend is a dollar Sundance doesn't have to. Any beverage counts -- bottled water and Gatorade included.
- Drop a dollar or two or five in the donation box at Sundance Saloon each time you visit. Many folks have suggested a sliding scale admission structure. Think of this as your sliding scale!
- Increase attendance. The second part of this meeting will be devoted to this concern.
This chart shows our income from financial contributions increasing from $30,000 in 2012 to nearly $60,000 in 2017. The orange section represents matching grant and similar contributions. The gray section is actual member donations.
In our early years Sundance Saloon attendance stayed mostly well under 200. In the first quarter of 2005, right after Brokeback Mountain came out, our attendance exploded, reaching 350 by March, and then settling down over the course of the year. This is when we added Thursdays, to take the pressure off of the Sunday crowds.
The fascinating thing is, in each of the next several years, the same pattern repeated -- explosive growth in the first quarter, and then a gradual decline, but always averaging well over 200. It appears that the surge was not related to Brokeback Mountain after all!
In 2011 the "January surge" was essentially lost, however, and Sundance Saloon attendance has been in a gradual decline.
This chart shows Sunday attendance figures from 2013 to 2018. You can see the decline from about 210 to the present 140. You can also see that there is still usually a slight bump upwards in the first part of the year. (The red lines mark 100 and 200 attendance.)
Thursdays show a decline from 110 in 2013 to about 60 in early 2018. We began to focus on Thursday attendance this year, adding events like Throwback Thursday along with other ideas, and admissions increased, now averaging about 75 since April. (The red line marks 100 attendance.)
If we still had our 2013 admission levels, that would be a difference of 35 on Thursdays and 70 on Sundays. And if those Thursday admissions each bought a $3 drink, our total weekly revenue would be higher by $630. This alone would cover our $30,000 increase in expenses! We don't think it's realistic to expect such an increase in attendance, at least not in the near term, but still the concept is an interesting one.
You'll also note that 25-30% of our admissions are comps. Now, many of these are Platinum members who have essentially pre-paid their admissions, so those are not really comps. The actual comps include volunteers, managers, DJs, instructors, and passes.
Here are ways you can help to promote Sundance Saloon and increase admissions:
- Like and follow us on Facebook. And like and share our posts. Facebook is stingy about sending posts from a business page such as Sundance's. Liking and following us on Facebook increases your chance of receiving our posts. Liking and sharing the post spreads it to your friends. (Discussion also about creating Facebook groups and events.)
- Help us propagate Facebook ads. Similarly, if you like and share one of our "sponsored ads," they will go out to your friends. Even better, up to 50 people can post a Sundance ad directly on their newsfeed at no cost to Sundance! If you're willing to do this, let us know and we'll send you each ad as it appears (about 1-2 times a month.)
- Word-of-mouth. This has always been our primary source of promotion. Tell your friends! Bring your friends!
- Visibility. We depend on events like SF Pride, the Castro Street Fair, and Jane Warner Plaza dances to show the greater LGBT community what we're about. Support us by coming to these events, and by helping to pass out flyers and engaging interested passersby.
- Invite a Meetup.com group to Sundance Saloon. Meetup.com has many groups organized under "LGBT" and "San Francisco" filters. Find a group to join and invite them to have an outing at Sundance Saloon! We'd love to get a dozen or more Sundancers involved with this project. See the Group Invitation section that explains what to do, lists a number of candidates, and includes a sample invitation.
- Corporate outings. If you work for a large company that has an LGBT social group, invite a group outing to Sundance Saloon! See the Group Invitation section for more info.
- Nonprofit organizations. We would love to host a nonprofit organization -- could be donors, volunteers, staff, and/or clients. For nonprofits we will extend special deal: all of the members of this group will receive free admission if they come on a Thursday. (We expect to partially offset the loss with beverage sales.)
- Other groups. Do you have a connection to a group you think might enjoy a night out at Sundance Saloon?
We don't want multiple groups all coming at the same time, and there may be certain nights that are not as appropriate as others (e.g. underweat night). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org before committing to a date. See the Group Invitation section for more info.
Retaining new admissions is a tricky problem. Why do new folks not return, even if they have a great time?
Sundance Saloon is terribly intimidating. 90% of the dancers are tearing up the dance floor having a blast. And lessons can be terribly frustrating. Even if you performed well during the beginning lessons, that really does little to prepare you for the onslaught of music and dance styles during open dancing.
Without having any outright answers, we need to focus on the retention of newcomers. Some general ideas:
- Use beginning lesson time to set up realistic expectations for new dancers, and encourage them to return again and again.
- Make an effort to welcome strangers to the dance floor. You don't have to wait for the "Dance With A Stranger."
- When dancing with new dancers, focus on the basics, i.e. slow-slow-quick-quick. Please don't torture them with all of your fancy turns!
Interestingly we have not found that offering free admissions is generally useful. There may be certain situations when it is helpful. But when we give out free passes to strangers, we don't see many of those coming back. And in April, 2018, when our entire month was free, we didn't see this making much difference.
What Can I Do?
The big items
- Sign up as a participant in the Country Dance-A-Thon. Less than 20 Sundancers typically participate. Let’s make it 50!
- Increase membership donations (goal = 20% increase)
- Write down your personal story about what Sundance means to you, and the role it plays in our community. Send it to email@example.com.
- Check with your employer about matching grants, both for monetary donations and volunteer time
- Consider the Sundance Association in your estate planning
- Add a small donation with your entry.
- Use the coat-check on Sundays – the $2 goes directly to Sundance. We may add a paid coat-check to Thursdays.
- Encourage drink sales on Thursdays.
- If you shop on Amazon, use Amazon Smile
- Like and Follow the Sundance Saloon Facebook page
- Like and Share appropriate Sundance Saloon posts and ads
- Sign up to help with Facebook ad distribution. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Word-of-mouth – Spread the word, drag your friends to Sundance
- Visibility – Come on out to Jane Warner Plaza and SF Pride. Help distribute flyers to the onlookers.
- Meetup.com – Host a Meetup group at Sundance Saloon. See the
Group Invitation section.
- Other groups
- Does your company have a social LGBT group?
- Nonprofit organizations
- Other groups?
CONTACT US WITH YOUR IDEAS: email@example.com
Inviting groups to an outing at Sundance Saloon is great new way we've discovered to get new folks in the door. We have had luck with offers to corporate LGBT groups (e.g. Apple night at Sundance), nonprofit organizations (e.g. Gay Men's Chorus night at Sundance), and various Meetup.com groups. This is a nice opportunity for groups to socialize and build rapport outside of their usual environment.
We have identified over 20 potential LGBT Meetup.com groups in San Francisco that could possible consider holding an event at Sundance Saloon. We would love for several Sundancers to identify one or two Meetup.com groups they would consider joining and extending an invitation.
If you have a potential group you'd like to invite to Sundance Saloon:
- Check our Google Docs spreadsheet we're using to track group invitations. This includes:
- Calendar of group invitations
- List of Meetup.com groups
- List of other groups
- See if anyone else has already invited the group. If not – for Meetup.com groups, enter your name to claim the group. For other groups, enter the group name and your name.
- Check the calendar for possible dates. We'd prefer not to have multiple groups on one night, unless they are very small. We also advise avoiding special event nights.
- Check out the Meetup.com sample invitation for details about what groups can expect. Other groups can still used this invitation as a starting point when composing your own invitation.
- If you arrange a date for your group, enter it into the spreadsheet calendar.
- Please also contact firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm, and/or to enter information into the spreadsheet.
MEETUP.COM – MORE INFORMATION
Meetup.com is a web portal that allows people to organize meet-ups over the internet. Some of the groups are based purely around having people meet and mingle, while others are centered around hobbies, careers, or business networking.
We have found some groups are compatible with holding a meet-up at Sundance Saloon, and that this has been an excellent way to get new folks in the door.
We have listed a number of potential groups from Meetup.com. These have been filtered by location (“San Francisco”) and category (“LGBT”). Please consider joining one or more groups and inviting them to a night at Sundance Saloon. The groups listed here are rated as A = excellent fit, B = possible fit, C = doubtful fit ... but we have had surprising success with groups that you wouldn’t think were a good fit. You may also find other groups not in this list.
Check first to see if anyone else in our group has joined a group with the intention of proposing a Sundance Saloon meet-up event. We are keeping track of Meet-Up project in this Google Docs spreadsheet. https://tinyurl.com/y9qphz7d. Fill in your name if you take on a group.
Read everything you can about the group, including the About section, and the Upcoming and Past meet-ups. Are there other events similar to a night out at Sundance Saloon? (If not, that doesn’t necessarily exclude us as a possibility, but it would certainly affect how you approach it.) You may not have to actually join a group to contact the organizer, but it’s probably helpful. Some groups will require that you join.
The group will need to understand that they are attending an event open to the general public. While there will be plenty of opportunity to socialize and mix with each other (especially during the reception and lessons), open dance time will also be an opportunity to socialize and mix with everyone at the club.
Check out our sample invitation you can use as a starting point.