A Little Background
Conferences, conventions, meetups, seminars, and other events are a great way to drum up new interest in a Stack Exchange community. It’s an ideal opportunity to attract high-quality users who love this stuff as much as we do! However, we haven’t provided the best guidance on how a user should ask for support, or what Stack Exchange requires of the user. Even less helpfully, we haven’t ever stated just what we’re looking for in a proposal. It’s high time we revamped this process by making it closer to a grant application.
The following enumerates how a user can request Stack Exchange sponsor him or her to attend a conference, convention, meetup, seminar, or other such event. Some of you may recognize this as our “speakers bureau” sponsorship.
What to Do
If you’re already going to an event and would like stuff to hand out to the other attendees, just contact us and we’ll do our best to get stuff to you in time. Be sure to contact us at least a month in advance.
If you would like to attend a conference and promote Stack Exchange, however, then things get a bit more involved. Obtaining a sponsorship is basically a four-step process.
Step One: Make a Meta Post.
We love meta posts. You know this already. (You’re on Meta Stack Exchange, after all.) So make a meta post titled in the fashion
$ConferenceName - Sponsorship Proposal. In this meta post, be sure to cover your five Ws:
Who is going?
What conference is it, and what will you be doing there, besides attending?
When is the conference running? We need at least a month’s lead time to help you get your approval. If you’re under or near that before posting, you might want to think about next year instead.
Where is the conference located and how do you intend to get there?
Why should the community approve you to go to this sponsorship? More importantly, why should the community approve going to this specific conference? Basically, what will you do to bring this learning back to the community?
The “why” can be commitments to write meta posts, ask questions, contribute to the community blog (assuming the site has one), live-tweet the event, take questions for a panel discussion via the site chat, and so forth. This is where you sell the community on your sponsorship. Whatever you commit to here is what we’ll expect to see written before issuing reimbursement.
Finally, be sure to tag your post with discussion and speakers-bureau, along with any other tags that your site’s meta would find appropriate.
Step Two: Email Stack Exchange Inc.
Give your community a week to show their support for sending you to the conference, then (assuming support materializes) email
community[at]stackexchange[dot]com and send us the following:
A link to the aforementioned meta post.
A link to your site account.
A reiteration of the “why” portion, explaining why sponsoring you and your attendance to this conference is the right choice. Make the best argument you can! Include artifacts you’d leave for the community, value you feel your presence at the conference would bring to your site, and so forth.
A line-item budget detailing any and all expenses you’d need us to cover. (Typically, we reimburse: the full value of the attendance fee, travel, accommodation, internet fees if applicable, and a standard US$75 per diem. Make sure these items are listed in your budget!) If you are not in the United States, please include your budget in both your home currency and US dollars.
Any swag you’ll need from us. (This includes stickers, shirts, pens, etc.)
Disclosure of any/all other sources of funding that you are receiving for the trip.
Step 3: Save Your Receipts!
Upon approval, we will send you a form for reimbursement. For the duration of the conference, save all of your receipts! Upon filing your reimbursement form, you must include scans, copies, or screenshots of your receipts along with the form itself. Failure to do so will result in your reimbursement not being processed.
In addition, you must provide links to any/all artifacts that you’ve left from the conference. These should be the artifacts you promised the other users that you would leave -- blog posts, meta posts, etc.
Artifacts must appear within 30 days from the end of your conference date. Reimbursement forms must be filed within 45 days of attendance and after at least one artifact has been posted.
Step 4: We Process Your Reimbursement
This one should be easy - we review your expense report, verify that you’ve stayed reasonably close to your proposal estimates, and make sure you’ve left the promised artifacts on the site or blog.
Note that if your reimbursement request totals more than your approved line-item budget, we may not pay the difference. If there is a large discrepancy, please explain why in your email to us.
Once everything is in order, we will send you a check. Users living outside of the United States must include their bank information with their submission; we will perform a wire transfer to reimburse your expenses.
Improving Your Chances
We’ve done a trial run of this process on WordPress and Physics, and we noticed that a few qualities improve a sponsorship proposal’s chance of approval. None of these are guarantees that your proposal will get the green light, but they certainly don’t hurt your chances.
Minimized travel: The closer the conference/convention is to you, the more likely we are to sponsor you. We like users who work to increase their local Stack Exchange presence, in part because a local community is easier to organize and mobilize.
Track record: Are you an active, engaged member of the community? Have you organized the community around events like contests or important meta posts in the past? Do you leave guiding comments on newbies’ posts with great regularity? Have you attended an event before and told everyone far and wide about Stack Exchange and its awesomeness? Have you been sponsored by us before? The more you can show us that you’re a deeply committed user and an engaged member of the community, the better your chances of approval.
Lead time: We need at least a month to process your request and to get your swag to you in time. This means you must post in your site’s meta at least five weeks in advance in order to work with you on approving your proposal.
Be a speaker: If you’re going to be attending the conference anyway as a speaker (Stefan Kottwitz from (La)TeX.SE spoke at a TeX conference recently, for example) we are way more likely to support you however we can.