Board Retreat 12/1/18

The SDCAP Board of Directors has a retreat coming up on 12/1/18.  Board Retreats are a standard shindig for non-profits, as they’re a way for Board members to bond while talking about the big picture for the organization. SDCAP has retreats 2-3 times per year for 1-2 full weekend days. No voting takes place at Board Retreats, which means we don’t make decisions about how to spend money. We use the time to hash out future-oriented ideas that don’t fall neatly under the business we conduct at regular Board Meetings.

Agenda topics for this upcoming retreat are related to YOUtopia and BOD governance. Agenda highlights include:

  • Possible changes to YOUtopia production model
  • Streamlining YOUtopia budget process
  • Implementing standardized process for YOUtopia Wrap-Up
  • Strategy to improve communications and collaboration between BOD, YOUtopia Production Team, and community at large

The biggest thing we’re covering is that first bullet point: whether to change the YOUtopia production model. This is something that’s been on our radar for a while and we’ve been reviewing alternate models used in other regions, with a focus on North American Regional Burns of a similar size to YOUtopia. We’re one of few Regional Burns that employs a Co-Producer Model; most comparable Regionals use small teams or committees to lead their events. Sometimes these teams overlap with the managing entity (be it a BOD or LLC), sometimes they don’t.

As part of our decision-making process, we’re asking the 2018 Production Team and anyone we can scrounge up from 2017 or prior to weigh in with their thoughts about whether we should try a different model in 2019. If you’ve volunteered for YOUtopia in the past as a Producer, Hub Lead, or Department Lead, we’d love to hear from you before 12/1/18. Please fill out this super-short survey to let us know what you think!

We’ll have a follow-up blog post in the week after the retreat so we can share outcomes.

Selection Process for the SDCAP Board of Directors

We’re about to begin selecting new members for the Board of Directors (BOD) to begin terms in March 2019. There’s been a lot of chatter about the BOD selection process, so we wanted to share some information about who we are, what we do, how we got here, and what to consider if you want to join us.

What is SDCAP?

The San Diego Collaborative Arts Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization founded in 2012. SDCAP’s Mission is to support collaborative arts in San Diego, particularly those aligned with the 10 Principles of Burning Man. Current SDCAP projects include YOUtopia, CoLab, and year-round grantmaking.

SDCAP is the legal entity. In the eyes of the law and the IRS, YOUtopia and CoLab don’t exist. They aren’t even DBAs. At the end of the day, SDCAP is the responsible party.

What is the BOD?

The BOD’s function is fiduciary, legal, and operational oversight. The BOD doesn’t initiate much (more on that below), and rather serves an administrative function in terms of protecting the organization and its assets. That’s what’s required by CA and federal law.

Legal requirements for non-profit governance fall into 3 categories: Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience. If you’re thinking about applying for the BOD, we recommend spending some time reading up on these terms and thinking about whether that’s truly the role you want to play in the organization. In practice, we spend a ton of time talking about budgets, accounting, liability, safety, and insurance. It’s not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

The BOD, per its bylaws and in accordance with the laws of CA, is comprised of anywhere from 7-15 Directors and is required to have a President/Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. Non-profit Boards are responsible for recruiting their own Directors.

All Directors:

  • Serve a 3-year term, working year-round.
  • Attend 2 BOD meetings per month, from 7-9pm on the 2nd and 4th Weds at CoLab.
  • Attend 2-3 weekend retreats per year.
  • Serve sober, on-call shifts at YOUtopia.
  • Spend anywhere from 10 to 40+ hours per week working via email/phone/ad hoc meetings to conduct SDCAP business.
  • Are volunteers.
  • Are still eligible to apply for and receive grant funding from SDCAP, but must recuse themselves from voting on these matters and disclose any potential conflicts of interest on an annual and ongoing basis.

The SDCAP BOD generally operates using a consensus model, as is considered a best-practice by many a non-profit governance guru. If you’re not familiar with consensus models, this is another thing we recommend reading up on before you throw your hat in the ring.

What does the BOD make happen for the San Diego Burning Man community?

Not much. Due to the nature of non-profit governance, we’re primarily about protecting the assets of the 501(c)(3), so we can keep having YOUtopia, keep the lights on at CoLab (and hopefully expand it in the coming years), and keep giving out art grants year-round, as those are the ways we advance our mission. It can often feel (to us and others) like we’re the fun police. We’re part of a system of checks and balances, and we’re the risk-averse side of the system. We’re more likely to prevent than to instigate or initiate. Again, not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

The BOD does select the YOUtopia Producers each year. And then we work with the Producers in developing, approving, and managing the YOUtopia budget – including oversight of the interdisciplinary Art Grants Committee. We also work with the Producers on anything within event operations that could have financial or safety or legal consequences, pose an existential threat to the event, or fall under one of the 3 Duties of non-profit governance.

If you’re primarily interested in joining the BOD in order to have a big impact on the look and feel of YOUtopia “on the ground,” you may be disappointed. The BOD doesn’t have anything to do with the soundscape, theme camp placement, volunteer SWAG, whether there’s enough grilled cheese in Commissary, or how many Kubotas are allocated to each department. The BOD does have oversight of things like Volunteer Ticket pricing, Commissary budget, total budget for Kubotas, and capital investments to Safety equipment; those are all areas the BOD and Producers collaborate on in the early stages of YOUtopia planning, as we hammer out a budget. Execution of the budget and overall operations for the event are entrusted to the Producers and their Leads Team… until/unless something gets escalated to the BOD because of – you guessed it – financial or legal reasons.

That’s not to say the BOD doesn’t ever get involved in Production matters. One example is that in 2018 we got a lot of feedback from our volunteers that the balance is off when it comes to hours worked vs ticket pricing and perks. Volunteers are working too much and feel under-appreciated and under-supported. This is the sort of issue the BOD can and will be involved in addressing, in collaboration with the 2019 Production Team. It’s a delicate balance, though: while the BOD will be a part of setting the big picture for 2019, the “on the ground,” volunteer experience is still going to be largely dictated by the Leads Team. It’s sort of like how your day-to-day life at your job is primarily determined by your immediate manager, not the CEO.

BOD Selection Process History (aka “real fake elections”)

Per SDCAP’s bylaws and the State of CA, non-profit boards are responsible for selecting their Directors. From 2012 to 2017, in addition to BOD members recruiting community members for service, there were also “Advisory Elections,” in order to take the pulse of the community. These Advisory Elections were never definitive (SDCAP is not a democracy or a co-op – that’s not how non-profit governance works), and the BOD always retained the right to make its own selections. The results of the Advisory Elections did historically align with the BOD’s selections. However, by 2017 participation in the Advisory Elections had dwindled to approx. 85 people total (out of a local community of many thousands of people), which is in no way representative. At the same time, the BOD realized we needed people with very specific non-profit management skills in order to continue to grow up as an organization. So we scrapped the Advisory Elections, while keeping a Community Feedback Form (which had 22 respondents), so community members could still weigh in on the folks running for BOD seats. In 2017, the sitting BOD attempted to fill 3 open seats for 2018, reached consensus about 2 candidates, and left 1 seat vacant.

BOD 2018 Mid-Cycle Appointments

As mentioned previously, SDCAP is required to have between 7-15 members on the BOD. Due to the 1 open seat from the 2017 selection and then 3 mid-cycle resignations, we suddenly found ourselves down to only 5 members. As it is the BOD’s right and responsibility to get back up to 7+ members as quickly as possible, we decided to do some mid-cycle appointments. And as is required and typical every selection cycle, current BOD members recruited from the community, specifically targeting people we know have the skills we want. That’s how we got our 2 Interim Directors. And we are damn lucky to have them. The Interim Directors’ terms end in March 2019, and they are both eligible to run in this upcoming cycle to begin full terms immediately.

Because we’ve gotten some feedback that the process wasn’t transparent enough: In addition to the 2 people we recruited, we also posted the open BOD member position to multiple Facebook pages and sent an email including information about mid-cycle selections to over 8,000 people – everyone who purchased a YOUtopia ticket in 2015, 2016, and 2017. EIGHT THOUSAND PEOPLE. We received one additional application.

2019 Selection Process

We’re still working on the details, so please don’t hold us to this 100% just yet. The process is likely to include:

  • Applications Open (December)
  • Applications will be ranked to determine the Best Qualified candidates per the Job Description
  • Best Qualified candidates will be invited to interview at an Open Candidate Forum held at CoLab (January)
  • Community Advisory Election, with option to cast votes either at the Open Candidate Forum or online (January)
  • Community narrative feedback via confidential/anonymous online form (January)
  • Optional Facebook Q&A in the existing Candidate Forum Group (for those who use Facebook – not a requirement for BOD service)
  • BOD finalizes selections (February)
  • New Directors begin their terms 2nd Wednesday in March

Open BOD Seats in 2019

BOD Members serve 3 year terms, with 3 positions turning over at once each March. Because of an unfilled seat and 3 resignations in 2018, things got pretty funky. We’re staggering the terms for the new Directors coming on in 2019 in order to get things back on track.

Our goal is to get back up to 9 members. There are 6 seats available, as follows:

  • 1 seat for term ending in 2020
  • 2 seats for term ending in 2021
  • 3 seats for term ending in 2022

BOD Member Job Description

Applications are not yet live, but the Job Description is. When applications go live in December, we’ll send out an email and there will be posts on Facebook. 

Got Questions?

If you’re considering joining the BOD, the first thing to do is start attending BOD meetings. Attendance at at least 2 meetings is required prior to being considered for an interview. Attending all BOD meetings between now and March is strongly encouraged.

Beyond that, feel free to reach out to current BOD members if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat. We’re all willing (individual schedules permitting) to talk with you about our personal experience serving on the BOD, if you want a 1:1 conversation in-person or by phone. You can reach out to any of us individually and all of us via

YOUtopia FAQs

You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. Actually, the vast majority of answers to the most common questions (about everything from Art Grants to Theme Camps to Parking Passes to Volunteering) can be found on the YOUtopia website. If you haven’t read or searched the site yet, we highly recommend you do so – there’s a ton of information there! And if you have a specific-to-you question, you can always email and some very nice people will reply to you within a day or so.

But you’ve still got questions! Maybe they have to do with ticket pricing, macro-level changes to the event, and why it was better next year. That’s the purpose of this FAQ! So without further delay…

Question 1:

What is SDCAP and what the heck does it have to do with YOUtopia?

Answer 1:

SDCAP is the San Diego Collaborative Arts Project. We’re a 501(c)(3) organization, which means we’re a not-for-profit bound to all the corresponding legalities and red tape associated with being this type of organization in California. We’re 100% volunteer run and are the legal entity that encompasses YOUtopia and CoLab, as well as a year-round grant-making organization supporting collaborative art.

With respect to YOUtopia specifically, the SDCAP Board of Directors selects YOUtopia’s team of Co-Producers each year, and works collaboratively with those Producers in facilitating the event. The Producers have a ton of discretion in what the event looks like from year to year, and the SDCAP Board provides legal and fiscal oversight, grantmaking stewardship, insurance, etc. It can often be difficult to tease out who makes which decisions. Which is part of why we invite you to join us! Our Board meetings are open to the public and held at CoLab on the 2nd and 4th Weds of every month from 7-9pm. Oh, and hey! We’re recruiting new Board members right meow!

Question 2:

Why is there only one ticket tier price this year?

Answer 2:

In the past several years, T1 and T2 tickets sold out very quickly. In fact, in 2017, Tier 1 sold out in several hours. Because of this, there has been an outcry in the community to do away with the tiered ticketing system. There are arguments both for and against tiers, but the YOUtopia Producers this year decided to give the one price ticket a shot and eliminate the tiers. SDCAP supported the Producers, as we believe we should listen to all segments of the SDBM community. So the YOUtopia Producers and Board of SDCAP decided on one ticket price, just like Burning Man. A participant won’t get penalized because they were working at noon the day tickets launched and couldn’t purchase. But that also means a participant doesn’t get a cheaper price because they could.

Part of our thought process was that we would like to welcome new people into our community (just as we all were new once), and what if someone goes to their first burn, loves it and says, “Hey, let me check out that awesome San Diego regional Burning Man event someone told me about while we watched the sunrise in deep playa”? With the one-price structure, people don’t get “penalized” by paying more than someone who’s been going for years, while receiving exactly the same experience as someone who paid less. That’s not how our community should work. In effect, the people who bought the later tiers were subsidizing the lower tiers. They get EXACTLY the same festival experience, but pay more. Newbie or vet, we are all equal in our community. There shouldn’t be an extra charge to join our family. We consider this Radical Inclusion and it’s part of our thought process when we agreed to pilot a one-price system.

Question 3:

Why did ticket prices go up?

Answer 3:

Unfortunately, inflation is real. Bummer, huh?! Among other items, the costs of renting the campground, security, medical and fire safety have all increased. We’ve worked hard to keep YOUtopia’s budget in check to maximize the event while being financially responsible and keeping the event and participants safe.

This year, the YOUtopia Producers and the SDCAP Board elected to place pricing in the middle of last year’s tiered pricing structure. In 2017, the three general admission tiers were $120, $155 and $180. The average ticket price for 2017 was $154, which is only $11 less than this year’s price of $165. And, as ticket prices go up most years, a direct comparison to last year’s tier prices isn’t exactly fair. Had we elected to continue using the tiered system, the tiers would have had to gone up as well.

To be specific, the costs of tickets this year compared to last year are:

2018 Single Tier Pricing

$165 Ticket Price

$11.74 (Eventbrite Service Fee)

$12.50 Parking (assuming two people per car)

$189.24 Total

2017 Averages

$154.14 Average Ticket Price

$11.39 (Eventbrite Service Fee)

$7.50 Parking (assuming two people per car)

$173.03 Total


Difference: $16.21, which is an 9.4% increase in the average general admission tickets.

Question 4:

Why were artists tickets removed?

Answer 4:

There was a tremendous amount of discussion around this subject and it got rather contentious at times. In the end, the outcome was that the YOUtopia Producers and the SDCAP Board agreed that what is granted is the art, not the artist. In addition, as only 1 artist ticket was available per granted art piece in 2017, we believed the overall impact would not be that large, as the number of artists tickets were very low in 2017 (approximately 120 tickets).

Question 5:

Why were build tickets removed?

Answer 5:

YOUtopia has not had a “build team” ticket in years. As such, we’re not sure where this misconception comes from.

That said, this year we increased the number of Low Income Program tickets partly to help counterbalance the removal of the artists tickets. The thought process was that if one cannot afford a regular general admission ticket, we still want you to be a part of the magic. So, we really encourage you to pursue the Low Income Ticket Program. The deadline to apply is midnight, September 14, 2018.

Question 6:

How much money does SDCAP make from YOUtopia?

Answer 6:

Last year YOUtopia had $466,182 in ticket sales and expenses in the amount of $336,621. So, in 2017 YOUtopia netted income of $129,561.

For YOUtopia 2018, a 100% sell-out would mean $554,385 in revenue. However, if past history is any indication, it is extremely unlikely YOUtopia 2018 will sell out. YOUtopia 2017 came close, but did not sell out. Nor did YOUtopia sell out in 2016. As such, SDCAP is using projections of a 90% sell out of general admission tickets to base the budget numbers on, which would net $498,947 in revenue. Currently, the revised budget expenses for 2018 are projected to be $392,160, which will provide a net income of $106,787. This is a 17.6% decrease in income from YOUtopia 2017. For reference, please see the YOUtopia 2018 budget here.

Question 7:

How does SDCAP use the proceeds from YOUtopia?

Answer 7:

YOUtopia proceeds fund the year-round use of COLAB, art grants, new and replacement tools at COLAB, producing next year’s YOUtopia, and general overhead (accounting, legal, utilities, training, insurance, office supplies, stamps, blah, blah, blah).

The complete FY 2018 SDCAP budget can be found at: FY 18 Budget

The FY 2019 budget will be on the website soon. We are in the process of revising it due to a recent YOUtopia budget update.

Also to note, SDCAP is a 501(c)(3) ‘not for profit’ entity, so we are not trying to make a profit and are legally prohibited from being a profit-based entity. We are committed to supporting local community art through year round grants, CoLab and YOUtopia. In addition to supporting CoLab and YOUtopia, we granted over $27,000 for art in fiscal year 2018.

Question 8:

What is the fire suppression unit that was purchased for YOUtopia this year?

Answer 8:

Under the Principle of Civic Responsibility, the Board and Production Team (as an “event organizer”) is specifically charged with assuming responsibility for public welfare. Ensuring reasonable standards of public safety at YOUtopia may be the single greatest responsibility we have and we take it seriously. We asses major public safety risks and create and implement risk mitigation plans accordingly.

Fire is the number one public safety risk at YOUtopia and it represents a real and present danger to the lives of all 3500 participants. YOUtopia is held in a very high wildfire-risk area during the peak of wildfire season. Our dense population, equipment (generators, RVs, heaters, cook stoves etc.) and activities (smoking, fire spinning, fire art, cooking etc.) dramatically increase the already high risk of fire. Additionally, considering the narrow roads and the fact that most of our population is camped at quite some distance from their vehicles, rapid evacuation from the area is a serious challenge.

This is not new information and we have worked hard for years to reduce our fire risk through mitigation (e.g. brush clearing and implementation and enforcement of safe use policies for all heat sources and generators) but the bottom line is there is nothing we can do to eliminate this risk and the average response time for the fire department to the campground is 12 minutes. We need to be prepared to immediately contain and control a fire on the mountain.

Last year a senior member of the Burning Man Emergency Services department (who was mentoring one of our Safety Hub Leads) performed an event safety audit at YOUtopia. In general we received good marks in most areas, but it was their strong recommendation that we hire or acquire a type 6 fire engine (Brush truck) to stage on site throughout the event. In their words “RV’s and generators have proven to be the source of a number of fires, being able to knock them down in the first few minutes rather than hitting them with water cans and waiting for a 12 minute FD response could be the difference between a burned out RV and a burned out valley. It only takes one.”

After extensive research we determined that it was materially less expensive for us to acquire the resource and form the team with the skills to use it than it would be to hire one and a team even this year. Moreover, now the unit is available to us year after year and we’ll be able to share it with other local events facing the same risk.

Note: per the published YOUtopia Budget, we allocated $20k for this expense but it is currently tracking closer to $15k, and the final expense will be reflected in the actuals once the event is over.

Get in Touch!

If you have additional questions pertaining to CoLab, YOUtopia (or anything else) we want to hear from you! Please come to SDCAP Board meetings which are held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month at 7pm @ CoLab. Note, however, due to Burning Man, the August 22, 2018 meeting is cancelled so the next meeting will be on September 12, 2018. You are also welcome to email your questions anytime to We’ll answer as soon as we can, and please be patient. We are all busy working on art, preparing for Burning Man, and pouring our souls into YOUtopia.



Drumroll please! YOUtopia 2018 Producers Have Been Selected!

SDCAP is excited to announce the Producers for YOUtopia 2018 are Meg King and Raul Barajas! When you see them, please give them big, consensual hugs!

Both Meg and Raul bring multi-year experience as YOUtopia Hub Leads, as well as a wealth of burnerverse and default world leadership experience. We’re excited to have them at the helm for our little Regional, and look forward to seeing what they can do to make a great thing even greater.

The ink is barely dry on the YOUtopia 2017 Afterburn Report, which means it’s about time to get 2018 planning into full swing. Our new Producers are already conspiring with each other and have plans in the works to start interviewing candidates for Hub Leads and then Department Leads in January. If you’re a returning lead or someone who’s ready to take on a bigger role in the community, keep an eye out for announcements in your email and on social media.