What Conference Scholarships Can Do For Your Meeting

Conference organizers are well aware that cost can be a major factor in a person's decision whether to attend. That’s why many are offering scholarships to keep expenses down.

One barrier that may keep attendees from your conference is cost. Registration fees, airline or train tickets, and hotel stays can add up—depending not only on the meeting’s location but also on where the prospective attendee is traveling from. Cost may be even more of an issue for younger attendees or those who are new to the industry, who may lack both the budget and supervisor buy-in to attend.

And, ultimately, the cost issue could become a diversity issue, if your attendee list lacks particular groups of individuals as a result.

That last point was important to organizers of the Women’s Convention. When announcing the conference last week—a follow-up to January’s Women’s March on Washington—they said they didn’t want the $295 registration fee to keep people away.

“The Women’s Convention must be accessible to women and allies regardless of economic barriers,” says the event’s website. To help with that, Women’s March launched a crowdfunding campaign via Crowdrise to provide discounted admission and scholarships to the convention.

“It is our hope to be able to provide financial access to the convention to as many people as possible,” organizers said. As of August 24, more than $123,000 had been raised—almost a quarter of the $500,000 goal.

While raising a half million dollars to cover attendee registration fees may be out of the question for most associations, a good number of them are doing what they can to ensure more people get access to their conferences.

For example, just last week, I took a look at the International Association of Forensic Sciences’ 21st Triennial Meeting. To increase forensic science capabilities in lower-income countries, IAFS helped their promising forensic scientists, doctors, and practitioners travel to Toronto by offering a lower registration fee for these delegates. The Travel Assistance Fund was made possible thanks to donations from corporate sponsors and fellow attendees who sponsored delegates.

Similar to IAFS’s approach, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science has a Developing Nations Training Fund to help attendees and presenters from developing countries come to the ACBS World Conference.

Then there are associations that like to help out their conference first-timers. Back in June, the American Psychoanalytic Association offered a handful of first-time attendees scholarships to go to its annual meeting in Austin, Texas. The organization provided up to $500 for travel costs, and it waived the $200 registration fee.

Some groups even make it easier for parents to attend their meetings. The American Physical Society, through its Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, offers childcare grants of up to $400 to attendees who are bringing small children to a meeting or who incur extra expenses in leaving their children at home. Similar opportunities are available to parents attending the Joint Mathematics Meetings and for those heading to the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting.

What is your organization doing to help attendees reduce their conference-related costs or to encourage a more diverse group of members to attend? Let us know in the comments.

(Poba/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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