The one in the middle just saw the convention’s bank account.(Editor's note: This article is an op-ed from a source that divulged this information to us on a condition of anonymity)
By now, we’ve all come to realize that the Golden Era of Pony is long behind us. The community’s interest in the fandom (and the show) has been slowly dwindling down for years, and we’re settling into a quieter long-term existence like the fandoms before us. In the beginning, bronies would travel halfway across the planet to attend a convention, but you can only hit up so many conventions before you run out of new things to do, new show staff and community guests to meet, and most importantly, the money to get there. With less money in play, the dozens of conventions that once peppered the globe are approaching the single digits, and many conventions have already held their last events ever.
Meet the leadership of Ponycon, once known as PoNYCon after their location in the greater New York City area, then renamed after they figured out the rent there was too damn high. They moved to a cheaper home, a place just across the river where any once-great thing goes to die (New Jersey) but even then, they can’t seem to keep the lights on.
According to their fundraiser, launched immediately after the conclusion of their 2017 convention last weekend, they ran this year’s event in the red, and they admit that in order to keep the convention running in future years, they’ll “need to adapt to survive”.
How are they planning on adapting? Budgeting more smartly? Adjusting their projections for attendance and scaling down guests accordingly? Pursuing cheaper venues?
Nope, they’re just hitting the fandom up for $35,000 in cold, hard, no-strings-attached cash.
Yeah, you heard right. This isn’t the typical crowdfunding you see for many prospective conventions, where the con uses a platform like Kickstarter to gauge interest in the con, sell registration and VIP-level tickets, and only ding everyone’s wallets if the entire event goes over successfully. This is, literally, a fundraiser to hand the runners of Ponycon $35,000 in exchange for nothing--no registration, no backstage passes, no VIP perks, nothing. Your money is going into a black hole that promises to give you another convention (that you’ll have to pay for again as a con-goer)...one last horrah before they close the doors. Maybe.
To allow this kind of fundraiser at all, the convention staff chose a very unconventional venue: YouCaring. The platform advertises itself as the home of “compassionate crowdfunding”, supporting causes from funeral expenses to cancer treatment and other humanitarian causes. Right alongside these stories of personal suffering and financial plight you will now find Ponycon’s fundraiser. There’s no doubt that it’s out of place, but the reason becomes clear once you look at YouCaring’s terms: money is donated with no fees added (except the payment processor), and all funds are directly added to the recipient’s PayPal/WePay/etc account at the moment of donation, not at the end of some stated time period or when the goal is reached.
Just to be clear, that means that, as of this writing, the Ponycon team is already walking away with almost $4,300 in their wallets, but because their overall goal hasn’t been reached, they can throw their hands up, say next year just won’t happen, and walk away having been bailed out for nothing at all.
The staff at Ponycon are heavily pushing this fundraiser under the hashtag “#SavePonycon”, as if it were an ‘80s movie where some angry trust fund kid threatens to buy out the ski resort and close it down. They’re tugging hard at your heartstrings, acting like some ominous external force is threatening Ponycon’s existence, when really the only threat is the same existential threat facing every Brony con that exists today. Well, that and the poor marketing and bookkeeping of the con itself.
You damn kids may be too new to this fandom to remember it, but there was once a time that we had to hold a fundraiser to “rescue” a convention. It was called Las Pegasus Unicon (an Earthly Adventure!) and it tanked so catastrophically that it scared (almost) everyone away from doing a convention in Vegas for the next 4 whole years. The fundraiser that happened immediately in its wake was called “LasPegassist”. Even then, though, the fandom wasn’t tasked with righting the sinking ship that was the con’s own finances. The sole objective of the fundraiser was to un-screw the show staff who hadn’t been paid for their time and travel expenses, in the (legitimate) fear that if this problem went unsolved, Hasbro/DHX would never step foot on convention soil again.
Let’s assume no such world-ending crisis exists in this case, because I think they would’ve mentioned it in that fundraiser if it did. That leaves us with a much shadier scenario: nothing is at stake here except the prospect of a convention that hasn’t happened yet, and could just as well not happen, and ta-da, crisis averted. Instead, the convention staff are betting that enough Bronies will so desperately want to fight the passage of time that they’ll throw their money into a black hole on the promise that maybe the good days can continue just a little longer.
Guys, as a fandom you’ve been hit up for money so many times now I don’t even have to tell you how this goes. Critical thinking is key. There are other conventions, and there will never not be opportunities for you to meet your horse friends.
But hey, while you’re over on YouCaring, there are a lot of really genuinely hurting people who could use that money instead. Help them bury their loved ones or fight off a deadly disease, and then drive a little farther for your next pony convention.