I have been going to PASS Summit since 2012. When I wasn't making a higher salary, I was fortunate that my employer paid for it. I did make it clear to them though that it was an integral part to keeping me happy at that job.
I have since become very involved with the local user group, helping out at our SQL Saturday, speaking at some SQL Saturdays. I volunteer because I like helping people, I believe in our community, and I think reaching out a hand to people to welcome them, help them and teach them means a whole lot to uncounted people. If not for the people I met through PASS and at Summit, my career would be in a very different place.
That being said, I don't expect other "reward" for leading a user group. I put some of my own money into the user group. Do I have to? No. But, it's something worth investing a little money and some more time in. I'm going to state this very clearly: If you are volunteering to run a local user group or SQL Saturday to get some reward out of it (such as a free Summit registration), then you. Are. Doing. It. For. The. Wrong. Reason.
The amount that PASS is asking user group leaders to pay is negligible. If you look at what you pay out-of-pocket to attend PASS even with the free registration, you should still be well below that amount of money (unless work covers all of it for you, and if that's the case, um, ...?)
If you are a user group leader and are: out of work because of current times, or have a significantly reduced salary because of current times - reach out to your local folks. Local folks in the same situation - reach out to your user group. If people need help to be able to see the content because they legitimately can't afford it, maybe we can locally help them. But, what is "legitimately can't afford it?" That is different for everyone depending on needs and responsibilities - family, family needing health care, work status, cuts, whatever - vs wanting to spend money instead on other "fun" stuff.
I do agree that PASS needs to look to other sources of revenue than just Summit. They have started doing so, and we have all received surveys where our input was requested. I hope all of you took the time to fill those out, and did so thoughtfully.
Also the C&C issue - I'll post about that on that thread, because I think that's most of the source of the contention.
As for the "free" events referenced - if you were involved with any of those, could you share how you covered the cost of the event please (even generalities would help?) I'm assuming sponsorships are pretty solid in these answers.
There are a few possibilities that no one's mentioned. Most of the virtual events that have been free were initially planned as virtual events. Most of the physical events that offered post-event virtual content had physical attendees that paid.
Summit was planned to be physical this year - there may be deposits or other costs that could not be completely recouped due to cancelling the physical facilities, etc. Also, as it has never been virtual, there would be added costs for infrastructure to support this, both on setup and working out issues pre-conference. Would it be different if it had been planned as virtual from the start? Quite possibly. The decision to go all virtual was relatively recent. Would it be possible to pivot to a company that has virtual conference experience at this late date? I'm assuming there already was a lot of work put into the physical Summit that wouldn't happen, and those costs for peoples' time would have to be covered as well.
Do we need more transparency from PASS/C&C? Yes. Do I personally have a problem with, as the leader of a local UG, paying what is IMO a negligible cost for Summit content? Not even a tiny bit.