Friday, October 23, 2015 - 06:49
Written by
I'm excited to provide a final report from the CiviCRM User Summit, which was held in Washington, DC, September 24-25.
The Summit expanded to two days this year, allowing us to increase the number of sessions offered and add an unconference track.  Attendees proposed and voted on unconference sessions at the beginning of the User Summit, and we had a wonderful variety of topics.
The vast majority of attendees rated their experience at the conference "great" or "outstanding", and all but one survey respondent would recommend the User Summit to their colleagues for next year.
In particular, User Summit attendees valued the PURLs session presented by Peter Petrik, the keynote by Amy Sample Ward, and the Ask Us Anything session with a panel from the CiviCRM core team.
Some unconference sessions were proposed with great interest--by people looking to learn rather than to present.  We are grateful to Jon Goldberg and Tommy Bobo for stepping in to lead those sessions, which were highly-rated by those who attended.
The sessions team--Linda Wu Pagano, Roshani Kothari, and Jane Hanley--took reviews from last year's User Summit to heart and planned an agenda that prioritized solid speakers and topics that CiviCRM users can apply when they get back to the office.  Rather than being a CiviCon East (or West, depending upon your perspective), this is not a developers' conference.  The CiviCRM User Summit is targeted toward nonprofit staff and volunteers who use CiviCRM day-to-day.
We had some site adminstrators and professional developers who reported that they wanted more technical sessions.  My feeling is that those are outside the core target of this conference (and should encourage them to attend CiviCon), but we will need to make sure the User Summit continues to avoid repetition of sessions from year to year: today's new users are the experts of tomorrow.
I was disappointed to see a low level of partner engagement in the User Summit.  While attendee revenue was below budget, it was an increase over last year, and with the back-to-back visits of the Pope and President of China during the User Summit, hotel rooms were more expensive than normal, making the User Summit a bigger commitment for nonprofits.
In fact, we had to scramble to get the core team booked at the hotel: the room block for the conference sold out!
On the other hand, we had half the number of sponsors as compared to the budget.  The partners who did step up were quite generous, however: iATS made the commitment to sponsor at the Silver level, and BackOffice Thinking, Skvare, and AGH Strategies each supported the User Summit at the highest level, Platinum.
With fewer attendees, User Summit expenses were also below budget, so the conference yielded a net revenue of $588.20.
Registrations $7,425.00
Sponsorships $7,218.20
Total Revenue $14,613.20
Meals & Breaks $5,945.70
Reception $3,037.48
Event Assistant $3,536.32
Payment Processing $383.36
A/V $100.00
Printing $351.91
Supplies $100.24
Keynote Travel $468.20
Advertising $131.79
Total Expenses $14,055.00
After the User Summit, we held a code sprint in the foothills outside of Jefferson, MD.  The venue--same as last year at the Fox Haven Learning Center[]--is a fabulous spot for a sprint with a full array of contradictions: an 18th-century farmhouse with high-speed internet surrounded by farmland an hour from DC.
We worked on a variety of areas, including the normal array of bugs and tests, plus handling WordPress installations in non-standard locations, standardizing icons and buttons in preparation for future design changes, and completing the new CiviCRM system status page.  Participants came from the CiviCRM core team, the National Urban League, Tadpole Collective, Freeform Solutions, and AGH Strategies.
While quite successful, code sprints cost money.  We ask participants to cover much of the cost of attending, but we expect the User Summit to subsidize the remaining cost of the sprint, and CiviCRM core team members attend free of charge.  With high participation from the core team and lower participation from other developers, the sprint lost a net of $1,427.76.
Revenue $1,250.00
Venue $1,705.00
Mileage $194.36
Food $748.20
Total Expenses $2,677.76
Under an agreement from 2013, the CiviCRM User Summit and its predecessor, CiviCamp DC, are produced independently from the CiviCRM core team.  AGH Strategies acts as producer, covering everything from hotel contracts to insurance, and collaborates with other sponsors, especially BackOffice Thinking, to organize the event.
The 2014 CiviCRM User Summit and 2013 CiviCamp DC each yielded significant surpluses, and--aside from seed money that will cover the overall net loss from this year--the bulk of net revenue was sent to fund improvements in CiviCRM: soft credit types in 2013, and CiviMail A/B testing in 2014.
I'm committed to seeing this tradition continue even as we have no surplus for 2015.  To that end, I joined with two other CiviCRM users to found CiviFund, a nonprofit to help nonprofits connect with their supporters using free software.  CiviFund recently received its 501(c)3 designation, so we'll also be able to accept tax-deductible contributions to support our mission.
Net revenue from the 2016 CiviCRM User Summit will go to CiviFund, and the revenue will be used to commission improvements in free software--notably CiviCRM and its extensions--for nonprofits to connect with their supporters.  (And to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, those hired to do the work will be CiviCRM LLC or other qualified shops; my company, AGH Strategies, will not be hired for this work for at least the first two years.)
I'm confident the CiviCRM User Summit will be a success for 2016.  We're already planning the details, with tentative dates of September 22-23.  Having started with CiviCRM as an end user, I wish I could have attended a conference like the User Summit when I was working at a nonprofit, and as a CiviCRM partner, I know the User Summit is the best opportunity to meet users and connect with our clients.  Consequently, I'm sure that we'll have continued solid attendance and an increased investment from partners.
Thanks to everyone who made the User Summit a success, and see you again in September!


Thanks for all the work you do Andrew!  I'm curious to see what happens for CiviFund, thanks for taking this step.