CHEA’s first and second conventions in the 1980s were at churches, but as the event grew it became necessary to find accommodations large enough for an expanding event. Colleges didn’t have the right mix of large exhibit and keynote spaces and larger rooms for workshops. Our only alternative was a city or regionally-owned convention center.

Convention Centers charge for everything, including water, emptying trash, audio visual equipment, and food and beverage–plus they don’t allow outside food and beverage (there are a few exceptions, but none we’ve been able to contract with). Costs mount quickly adding up to many thousands of dollars.

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A typical convention in a convention center costs $90,000 to $100,000, which includes a mandatory food and beverage expenditure of from $30,000 to $40,000. (We didn’t stay at the Disneyland® Hotel because they asked for a mandatory food and beverage of $131,000!) In addition there are the hotel costs for speakers and staff; equipment such as chairs, tables, pipe and drape for the Exhibit Hall, etc.; honoraria and travel costs for speakers, printing, shipping, etc. The breakdown looks something like this:

• $100,000 Facility
• $21,000 hotel
• $20,000 equipment
• $10,000 honoraria and travel

This totals $151,000, not including many other miscellaneous costs such as printing, shipping, etc. To cover this, CHEA needs adequate attendance, audio sales, exhibitor fees, etc.

In addition to these costs are the salaries paid to office staff to plan and execute the event over about a one-year period, plus the overhead during that year to provide a workspace, computer equipment, maintenance, wifi, and all the typical office expenses. CHEA pays staff about half of the going wage for similar work done elsewhere. And it still takes an army of volunteers on top of that.

Speaking of volunteers, CHEA provides about $14,200 in complimentary registrations to volunteers and preschool parents.