NetSquared's fiscal year begins July 1, so every summer I look back at the previous year of the community's activity to identify trends and lessons learned. This time I'll be looking at FY19, which covers July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
NetSquared is TechSoup’s global network of volunteer-led nonprofit technology meetups. We're the answer to the question “where can I get support to use technology effectively at my nonprofit?” Event attendees build their networks and learn practical digital skills to support their programs, marketing and fundraising.
NetSquared by the Numbers
Here's all the numbers for July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
# of events: 1,154 (vs 1,119 previous year) ⬆️3%
# of RSVPs: 10,279 (vs 11,529 previous year) ⬇️️11%
# of active groups: 125 (vs 120 previous year) ⬆️14%
# of countries with active group: 41 (vs 34 previous year) ⬆️4%
# of meetup.com members: 68,154 (vs 58,212 previous year) ⬆️17%
# of new groups created: 48 (vs 30 previous year) ⬆️60%
Many of us put our groups on pause for the summer, but now's the perfect time to plan for the fall. September and October are the busiest months on Meetup, so posting a strong trio of events is the best way to grow your local community.
Before you became a NetSquared organizer, you had some sort of vision for your group. You want to accomplish something with your community. You want to have events on topics you care about.
NetSquared is committed to accessibility, so almost all our events are free. But food and drink can be a big lure (pizza is magic!), and in some countries it’s the expectation that events provide refreshments. Unfortunately it can be challenging to pay for food and drinks at evening Meetups. So, how do you get a sponsor for your group?
Create Value Consistently, Then Charge For It
In my four years of running events with the SFTech4Good Meetup, I grew the community (from 2,000 to nearly 5,000 members) in two ways:
Consistently creating high-quality events (we did about 9 or 10 a year, or nearly one a month, with a summer break).
Sending out a monthly email newsletter with information about tech for good events, resources, and jobs – even those that we weren’t producing, but which were relevant to a tech for good audience.
What do those have in common? Creating value, repeatedly, over time.
Once you have a thriving community, and especially once you have a good size email list, you can charge for that value by identifying organizations with a problem you can solve.
To volunteer to be a NetSquared leader, you don’t need to have a PhD in technology for international development. You also don’t need to be a saint. You can get something out of the experience, and it’s easy to get started. I volunteered with the SFTech4Good Meetup (formerly SFNetSquared) for four years, and even if you only run meetups for a year or two, it can still help you significantly advance your career!
Want to know the secrets to running a great NetSquared Meetup? Keep reading to get the advice I’ve distilled from four years of volunteering in producing the SFTech4Good Meetup all in one place.
1. Set an Intention or Theme for Your Event
The first thing to consider when running a Meetup is: why do you want to run this event? What’s in it for you? What is your motivation?
Don’t run an event just to run an event. Why not? Because you’ll quit when you get bored or when you encounter difficulties.
Pick a topic you’re passionate about. Choose something that will help you get where you want to go in your current job, or that will help you find your next job. By deciding what you care about first, and setting your personal intention for the event, you can create a compelling theme. Enthusiasm is one of the secret ingredients to making amazing things happen. As Simon Sinek’s TED talk says, “Start with WHY.” The reason why you are interested then naturally links to why someone would be interested in attending. Your personal intention and event theme will also determine whom you should invite to speak at your event, the type of location you select, etc.