v. Comp - to give a complementary membership to someone.
Most regional conventions comp program participants in some way. Some also comp companions of program participants. The criterion for a comp varies: Albacon comps any SFWA member, whereas Arisia and MileHiCon comp anyone participating in at least three panel items.
When comping for participation in panel items, it soon becomes necessary to consider different kinds and lengths of items. Is a three-hour game-mastering session equal to three one-hour panels, one panel, or do you comp game masters at all? What about on-stage participants in headline events? Off-stage participants? Where is the line between programming and staff?
Giving out comps is a subject fraught with some controversy (what part of convention running isn't?). If comps are given to the concom or some set of the volunteers then a divide can grow up between the convention staff and the rest of the membership. On the other hand how many people are willing to volunteer their time to help setup or run a convention and pay for the privilage of doing so?
If comps are given out to volunteers some sort of control needs to be exercised to make sure that a person doesn't half heartedly do a job and then flake out as soon as he/she gets a comp. Likewise if they are given to program participants it needs to be made sure that if they don't show up to the program item they volunteered for they don't get comped the next year at the very least.
Anime Los Angeles (and possibly Boskone) give volunteer comps for the year after the convention where the volunteer work was done reducing the possibility of having lots of help at the start of the convention and none later or shoddy work. This may reduce the number of people volunteering but the consensus is that the sorts it keeps away are for the most part not wanted. If you do this, define whether the comps must be taken the next year or if they can be rolled over (and for how long) if the volunteer can't make it.
MileHiCon comps "staff", volunteers who are picked out by the department heads as reliable and specifically wanted, while regular volunteers get raffle tickets for swag at the end of the convention. Members of concom are also comped. This mix seems to work for MileHiCon, though other conventions, such as WorldCon have reported problems with the membership suspecting that the membership price is high because it supports the concom having parties and getting in free, even though this is not the case. MileHiCon may experience less trouble in this regard due to their low at the door price, $40 as of 2006.
Arisia uses a mix of same-year and next-year comps; volunteers may earn both simultaneously and are not eligible for more than one consecutive same-year comp.
Other Categories of Comps
You might find yourself comping press, contest winners, donors to your organization, or paid staff such as babysitters.
Day or Event Comps
Comps don't have to be for the whole weekend. Many of the above types of comps can be given out only for that portion of the convention that the person in question is expected to attend. If you do this, it's best to define upgrade rates to a full weekend membership.
Some organizations give refunds in situations that would otherwise warrant giving same-year comps. This allows confirming that the activities justifying the comp are actually performed, or making the comp conditional on the convention meeting certain financial goals. It may discourage those in financial distress from volunteering, particularly if the registration price is high.
If you don't use the refund mechanism, you may find yourself providing a comp to someone who has already paid. It's good to have a policy as to whether the original membership is refundable in this case, or to consider other provisions such as enhanced transferability or rollover ability.