Update: Clarified a few points after Facebook discussion with Alison.
Today's episode might quite possibly be the last in this series (I was going to call it "part several of several" but then I'd be guaranteed to think of something else), and differs slightly from the others in that it's dealing with a slightly more subjective topic.
The main reason fan funds were set up has to do with the cost of international travel. With air fares a fraction of what they were in the 1950s, this argument certainly holds less weight. But if somebody's main reason for standing for a fan fund was because they couldn't afford to get to a worldcon, I'd be inclined to say "let them save up like everyone else." Let's face it, if anyone on even a modest income really wanted to, and planned far enough ahead, they could go to a worldcon.
I'm sure that remark has a lot of people saying, "there's no way I could ever afford a Worldcon." That may be true for . But for a lot of us, if we really wanted to, and we prioritised it over some of the other things we spend our money on, we could find £10 a week to put into a savings account. After a couple of years we'd have a grand that would get you most of the way to a US Worldcon. The trouble is that life gets in the way, and something happens that means we can't save for a few weeks, and then something else happens that causes unavoidable expense, and we find ourselves dipping into our savings just a little. And pretty soon we're having to put off that Worldcon trip just for a year.
So, yes, for someone who has struggled to save to go to Worldcons, the fan fund may be a real boon.
But I don't think that's what fan funds were ever really about. The financial support is certainly important, but being a GUFF representative is about a representing European fandom, about serving the convention, and most importantly, about forging a bond of friendship with fans across the world. And once that's over, it's about passing on the torch, and making sure the fund is in good shape for the next delegate.
I've heard it suggested that we should stop having fan funds now that we're being discouraged from flying to save the planet. In my opinion, this could make the funds more important than they are now, partly because carbon taxes could push the price of travel back up, but more importantly, because it allows fandom to choose a symbolic representative. Fans can say "I would have gone to the worldcon, but I'm choosing to send the fan fund delegate instead." (Mind you, another part of me secretly hopes we're about to discover a new mode of air travel that doesn't pollute the planet and will allow us all to have the personal jet-packs we were promised).
So I believe that fan funds are as relevant as they ever were, and possibly more so.
If you think there's something I haven't covered so far, please let me know and maybe there will be several more parts to this series.