I would not pay to enter a show/exhibit that I were uncertain about how the money would be used.

In what few I've entered, I am supporting a local organization that supports and champions arts education and/or amateur photography. Maine Media College for example, provides scholarships with some of their proceeds. Another local one I've participated in is riverartsme.org, which is a organization that does networking, education, exhibits, etc.. If it's a small non-profit, they probably need the entry fees to fund the exhibit space and related activities. Things like buildings and parking lots and lights and heat/ac cost money even if it's staffed by volunteers. The people that visit these exhibits are mostly other artists, not 1%'ers, so it's they aren't in it for the money.

Even when it's used for the best purposes, some form of cost also causes some self-pre-curation. With painting or alt process printing or silver printing, you make an investment in materials and time and are limited in the volume you can produce or at least have to dedicate your time toward better negatives.. With Jpeg's you could theoretically submit any careless crap, thinking what the hell, nothing lost, why not submit?

As the OP states, there is luck involved. The juror may different tastes than you, and not everyone agrees about what is good art. If I were a juror, Cindy Sherman might get overlooked, for example.