TED Conversations

Henry Woeltjen


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Is TED a scam?

Who attends these meetings or whatever it is you guys call them? How does this organization qualify as a non-profit?

Just wanted to clarify...maybe I am wrong. Some input would be great.

1. How can you charge people 75 dollars (knowing certain people cannot afford that) and then claim its a non-profit trying to help the planet?

2. If I am wrong...and TED does do something amazing...what is it?


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    Dec 20 2012: Implying that TED is a "scam" seems a bit harsh to me.

    Non-profit organizations are allowed to collect revenue, so long as all proceeds are used to further the cause of the organization. However, they are prohibited from distributing profits to owners or shareholders in the same capacity that a for-profit corporation does. Non-profit organizations that do not have tax exempt status are not required to operate solely for charitable purposes and can conduct business more freely as long as all profits are used to further the organization's objective.

    I don't think it's necessarily accurate (or fair) to assume that an organization which collects money or isn't strictly philanthropic doesn't have a valid, positive purpose.

    Collecting $7,500 from conference attendees might seem unjustifiable, but if you consider the costs involved in organizing an event, recruiting speakers, maintaining a high volume website without ads, and making thousands of TED talks available to stream/download online for free, that figure begins to seem more reasonable.

    Although I'm sure there are a number of very productive, ingenious people who would like to attend TED conferences but cannot afford to, the $7,500 fee facilitates a demographic of individuals who have applied their ingenuity to earning money. That's not to say that individuals with lucrative ideas are better or more legitimate than individuals whose ideas are not profitable, but it does make for a particular conference dynamic that is conducive to matching good ideas with the resources to perpetuate them.
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      Dec 20 2012: Different live or simulcast TED events cost different amounts to participate, but listening to the talks and discussing them online are free. Many TEDx events are offered at modest price or sponsored by organizations for their employees or membership.
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      Dec 20 2012: It facilitates a demographic? So you don't want poor people at these things...yeah I can see how that's not pig headed at all.
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        Dec 20 2012: I'm stating it as a fact, not expressing the opinion that *I* don't want poor people there.

        I would imagine that the $7,500 is less about specifically excluding poor people and more about attracting a demographic that has the financial resources to support TED or invest in the ideas being presented at the conference. As Fritzie pointed out, there are many other TED events/forums that cost a lot less (or are completely free) and things like that (including this discussion) are subsidized by the more expensive events and private donations.

        The typical attendee of the TED conference not only has $7,500 of disposable funds, but chooses to spend those funds on attending the conference. That reflects the sort of values held by such a person. By catering to THAT specific demographic for certain events, TED statistically increases its chances of earning the patronage of like-minded, financially successful individuals. I don't think they should be vilified for wanting to create an environment conducive to that once or twice per year.

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