The Browncoat Ball Steering Committee

I want to send a big thank you to Matt Black from the  Browncoat Ball Steering Committee for having taken the time to write to us and answer some of the questions we asked in our latest podcast.

As I thought his information may be of interest to some of the people following us Matt has agreed that I could share it with you! so… here it is! 🙂

Hi Wendy and Odile,

I just finished listening to the September Episode (68?) of “Sending a Wave”.  I’m a long-time listener and very much enjoy the programme. I was especially tickled to hear you interview Audrey about the 2010 Browncoat Ball and to promote the call for bids for the 2011 Browncoat Ball.  Thank you for also posting that call for bids on your blog.

I wanted to take a quick moment to answer some of the questions you had about the Browncoat Ball Steering Committee.  I’d also like to answer a few questions you didn’t ask, if you’ll indulge me.

Who is the mysterious “Browncoat Ball Steering Committee”?

The BCB Steering Committee was initially composed of the organizers of the original Browncoat Ball which took place in Chicago in 2004.  They had an idea that became the Ball and they wanted the idea to live on and be accessible to others, so they placed a call for bids for future years.  A Ball didn’t happen in 2005, but a group of Browncoats were able to hold one in San Francisco in 2006.  Two members of that organizing committee were invited to join the BCB Steering Committee.  Another call for bids led to a Ball in Philadelphia in 2007.  Two more members were added to the BCB Steering Committee.  2008, Austin, two more committee members.  2009, Portland, two more committee members.  Each location selected from bids.  Each set of organizers earning seats on the BCB Steering Committee by hosting a successful event.

What great powers do members of the “Browncoat Ball Steering Committee” possess?

Nothing special.  We call for bids.  We review them.  We select the proposal we think has the best chance of success for next year.  We let that organizing committee use the name “Browncoat Ball” and the URL “”.  We forward any budget left over from the previous year, which there usually isn’t (more on that later).  We make ourselves available to the organizing committee to answer questions and give advice.  We invite the chair and another member of the organizing committee to join us on the Browncoat Ball Steering Committee.  That’s all, really.

Why have all the Browncoat Balls been in the US?  Why not Europe?  Asia?  Australia?

Don’t ask me.  We just review the bids that are submitted.  If a group in the UK or somewhere else in the world would like submit a proposal, we’ll evaluate it.  Personally, I’d love the opportunity to go to a Browncoat Ball in China or Australia.  But someone has to volunteer to make it happen.

How are the proposals evaluated?  Why did it take Charlotte, NC three years of bidding to get selected?

There is no formula for selecting the winning bid.  There are many factors that are considered.  Relative geography to previous Browncoat Balls is considered, but isn’t as significant a consideration as others.  We look for a strong chairperson supported by a committee of dedicated Browncoats.  Charlotte, Portland and Austin all had active Browncoat groups with track records of successful events, such as CSTS screenings and other activities.  Location is important.  Would people want to visit that destination.  Is it relatively easy to get to?  Programming.  What activities do you have planned?  One of the things that we consider the most is budget.  Are the ticket prices and hotel rates reasonable?  Will attendees be getting value for those prices?  Does the math look like it works so that the event will be successful.

Each year several wonderful Browncoat groups pour their energy into proposals.  It is sometimes heartbreaking to only be able to tell one of them “Yes”.  We always encourage the groups that weren’t selected to bid again.  We even offer input on their proposals.  Let them know how we think they can improve upon it.  We were thrilled each time Charlotte revised and re-submitted their bid.  We were truly excited when we were able to turn to them and tell them with confidence that we thought they had the best plan for a Ball in 2010.

What makes you so special that you get to decide where the Ball will be?

Nothing.  We originated the name “Browncoat Ball” and own the website “”.  Our only qualifications are that each of the BCB Steering Committee members has played a key role in running one of the previous Browncoat Balls.  Many of us have also organized CSTS screenings, other fandom events and, in some cases, have professional experience hospitality or event planning.  But really, it’s all about the Ball.  We evaluate bids and award the name “Browncoat Ball” only because we ran one ourselves.

Is this for Charity?  Does anyone make a profit of this?

No.  And no.  Browncoats have many charities.  Can’t Stop The Serenity to support Equality Now is the major one.  The Browncoat Ball is just a fancy shindig for fans of Firefly and Serenity.  It is one time a year that you can act out the Firefly episode “Shindig” with 150 friends you never new you had.  There are a few financial rules the BCB Steering Committee asks each organizing committee to follow.  We ask that the budget be structured so that every dollar that goes into the Ball be planned to come out as value to the attendees.  There is no mark-up for charity or profit.  The goal is break even.  We ask everyone to pay their own way.  The chairperson, organizing committee and steering committee members all pay full price.  No discounts or complimentary admissions for volunteers.  Attendees don’t pay for the organizers to come for free.  The Browncoat Ball is its own reward.

The Browncoat Ball is not a convention.  No vendors are permitted.  No celebrities are invited.  (They would be welcome if they pay their own way, but would get no special treatment.)  The Browncoat Ball is by fans for fans to spend time with other fans.  Should any Browncoat Ball happen to accidentally come out ahead rather than break even, we ask the organizing committee to “pay it forward” as seed money for the next Browncoat Ball.

Who are you and why are you telling us all this?

My name is Matt Black.  I am a Pennsylvania Browncoat.  I was the chairperson of the organizing committee that hosted the 2007 Browncoat Ball in Philadelphia, PA.  Since then, I have served on the BCB Steering Committee calling for bids, evaluating proposals, offering advice and encouraging Browncoat groups to bid and bid again to host the Browncoat Ball.  I plan to attend the 2010 Browncoat Ball in Charlotte, NC on October 22-24.  I hope to be able to help them announce the location for the 2011 Browncoat Ball.

If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me.  I’d be happy to answer them if I can, or direct you to someone else who might know.

Warmest regards,

Matt Black

Philadephia, PA

Pennsylvania Browncoats


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