I am on a program committee that is struggling with an explosion of submissions. There are way more than we expected (or, perhaps, can reasonably handle), and what really blows is that we apparently don't have the money to pay for quality conference paper management services.
In general, conferences have all sorts of problems with paper submissions. Every good conference is familiar with receiving a certain volume—sometimes a disturbingly high volume—of papers that are either too weak or too far off topic. These authors could easily save the program committee members (and themselves) a great deal of effort by just perusing past volumes, which would rapidly help them realize their work does not fit; but there is currently no disincentive in submitting (even the same paper to multiple venues). It's a sorry story all round.
I therefore have a fairly obvious modest proposal: charge each paper a submission fee of USD 10.
Here are various considerations:
Apparent disadvantage: It hurts those who can't afford that sum. However, this amount is absolutely nothing in the face of the other conference costs. Even if you lived around the corner from the venue, and the conference had a one-day registration fee, the cheapest you could do would be a minimum of about USD 250, making the submission fee a 4% overhead. But compared to the more realistic cost of a conference, it adds an overhead of about 0.66%, i.e., nothing.
Advantage: Conferences can use this money to pay for professional services for the submission, review and response phases. (The cynic will say, “But they won't!” But they'll have a harder time justifying why not.)
Advantage: Processing the submissions costs the program committee and administrative staff time and effort, so it seems reasonable to ask the authors to pay for it. (This is no different from college applications, etc.) Right now, they pay only if they get the (presumed) glory of an acceptance; but there is no (direct) cost in trying without success.
Advantage: It reduces the number of irrelevant, off-topic submissions.
Advantage: Some authors create havoc by submitting the same paper multiple times, etc. They'd be a bit more careful if they had to enter a credit card number each time.
Observation: This system appears to not have perverse disincentives. If, for instance, your friendly neighborhood oracle told you you have a 100% chance of acceptance, you undertake no risk at all in paying to submit. Thus, it hurts the best papers the least.
Mitigation of Disadvantages: You could waive the submission cost to select authors to encourage them to apply, just as we do application costs for other activities. Of course, choosing whose costs to waive can get controversial, and even counter-productive. One elegant solution would be to waive it for people whose papers were previously chosen for award nominations and the like, because these are precisely the people whom you want to have submit again (and they're a small enough group that they don't cost you much).
Concern: It may be more difficult to implement this using, say, credit-cards from some parts of the developing world. There are some alternatives we could consider in these cases.
I expect the first response most people will email me will be, “But then we won't have any submissions left!” Anyone so inclined is hereby expected to also explain why that's a problem. (-: