"How do you kick-start a community group in a major metropolitan city?" This is the question that sparked inspiration for Kat Friedrich, NetSquared Boston's lead organizer.
For many organizers, growing the tech for benefit community in their area revolves around planning and hosting monthly events. For Kat, her role is much more about curation, listening, and making connections within the community. Below, Kat tells the story of how she re-launched NetSquared Boston, and provides advice to other people interested in running Net2 Local groups.
A Labor-Saving Approach to Urban Meetup Organizing
By Kat Friedrich
My approach to meetup organizing is half marketing and half industrial engineering. My goals are to keep meetups innovative and entertaining, fill a vacant niche in the Boston community, and make my workload easier. During the day, I have three contract jobs, so saving time matters to me.
When I volunteered to organize the NetSquared Boston meetup, I saw immediately that the meetup needed to be revamped. From a marketing perspective, I saw we were competing with many other events which paralleled our workshops.
Boston is a lively city on weeknights. While a city like Las Vegas lights up with casinos, Boston lights up with networking and professional development events. Technology and nonprofit professionals go out to seek their fortune in what I sometimes call the “second shift.”
On most weeknights, except during the holiday season, there are multiple events that nonprofit technology and social media professionals would enjoy. Boston is dotted with tech-friendly organizations including Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the MIT Media Lab, Microsoft’s NERD Center, the 501 Tech Club, and Boston Media Makers. Many of these events are concentrated in Cambridge.
But there was an unfilled niche for NetSquared Boston. Despite the diversity of groups and events, there was no events calendar which pulled together nonprofit technology events and highlighted cutting-edge ideas. Few of the local groups were working together to share their calendars and resources.
Boston tends to have a “silo” mentality; groups work in parallel rather than collaborating. This is true of both nonprofits and other organizations. I saw this meetup as an opportunity to encourage collaboration and to make academic resources accessible to nonprofit technology professionals.
I turned NetSquared Boston’s meetup into a curated events calendar pulling together listings from all of the sources I found. Our focus is on skills development and networking. I discovered within a month that the networking component was essential.
Each month, I picked out events that caught my eye as being innovative and useful. Within several months, our RSVP rate doubled. While the group membership hasn’t grown rapidly, I’m receiving compliments and can tell that the new strategy is working.
Since people often tend to join meetups but not visit Meetup.com regularly, I send out an e-mail twice a month with links to upcoming events and news. I also include seasonal announcements; at the end of December, I sent out a note about computer recycling.
If you live in a city where networking and tech events are as common as slot machines are in Las Vegas, you may want to add vitality to your group by making it a citywide event clearinghouse and picking out some of the best events to feature as monthly meetups.