Following a discussion at the 1987 Smofcon, Noreascon 3 began the Worldcon
Pass-Along Funds (PAF) scheme in 1989. With the exception of Chicon V, every
Worldcon since then has participated.
Since Worldcons are each stand-alone entities, they must budget very
conservatively in order to avoid any substantial likelihood of losing
money. Inevitably, this means that most Worldcons wind up with a
substantial surplus, and that surplus represents money paid by the members of
that Worldcon which is not being spent on it. The WSFS Constitution requires that
"2.9.3: Each Worldcon or NASFiC Committee should dispose of surplus funds
remaining after accounts are settled for its convention for the benefit of WSFS
as a whole."
The purpose of PAF is to return most of the profit made by one Worldcon
directly to the WSFS by giving it to future Worldcons early enough before the
convention that it can be effectively used. This not only guarantees that a
majority of each Worldcon's profit is automatically disposed of in compliance
with Section 2.9.3, but it also takes a small step towards smoothing the budget
fluctuations from one Worldcon to the next.
The Pass-Along Funds agreement is simple: Each Worldcon which agrees to
participate agrees to pass along at least half of its profit to the next three
Worldcons which agree to participate. The basic deal is
straight-forward, but there are subtleties which are discussed below. None
of them are particularly outré, however: They are all straight-forward
applications of the basic notion that the purpose of PAF is to pass along most
of a Worldcon's profit so that it is used in running future Worldcons.
- When should Worldcons sign on to PAF?
Worldcons are required to
sign on before they know what their profit is. The whole point of PAF is to
return Worldcon profits to WSFS, so there is no point at all in a Worldcon
joining PAF after the convention -- the PAF money would then just go into its
surplus which is not the point of PAF and which would not be what
section 2.9.3 is asking for. In every case the Worldcons to date have signed
on to PAF while they were still bidding.
- When should Worldcons pay PAF?
As soon as possible! The
purpose of PAF is to take one Worldcon's surplus money and pass it on to
Worldcons which can actually use it to make a better Worldcon, so it's
essential that PAF happen as early as possible. If a Worldcon is sure that it
made a profit, but not sure how big it is, it's better to pay partial PAF
now and the balance (if any) later than to wait for precise numbers and
not provide the funds in time to be of value.
- Must the money be split evenly between the three Worldcons?
not required by the agreement, but it is highly desirable, and Worldcons
should make a good-faith effort to split PAF evenly. A case where that would
not be possible might be if a Worldcon received a significant refund more than
a year after the convention so that the immediately succeeding convention had
already occurred (and was in the black) and had no use for PAF. The Worldcon
would still have an obligation to pass along at least 50% of that profit, but
there would be no way this could be done evenly.
- How is profit determined?
PAF is not interested in setting up
accounting rules for WSFS, and expects profit to be determined in the ordinary
and fannish way. Roughly: profit is what is left after a Worldcon pays
its bills, including customary reimbursements (memberships for program
participants and staff, and extraordinary committee expenses but not including
bidding expenses), but before any grants are made.
- How is PAF enforced?
There is no enforcement mechanism and PAF
is not part of the WSFS rules. It is an agreement freely entered into by
Worldcons and is enforced solely by fannish public opinion.
- What if one Worldcon opts out?
The obligation is to pass-along
funds to the next three Worldcons that participate in the scheme. So when
Chicon V in 1991 opted out, Noreascon 3 did PAF to the 1990, 1992, and 1993
Worldcons, which all had joined.
- Can a Worldcon pass along more than 50%?
- What about NASFiC?
The NASFiC, while a WSFS-sponsored
convention, is not a Worldcon and is not covered by the PAF agreement. Even if
a NASFiC wanted to participate, the terms of the PAF would not permit it. A
Worldcon which accepts PAF money must pass on to the next three
- What if the convention doesn't do reimbursements?
The issue of
membership reimbursements is separate. If the convention doesn't do them (it's
not customary for overseas Worldcons) then the profit which it must pass on is
still what's left over.