Starting a Mac User Group

Starting a MUG is easy! Just find one or two other people who are as enthusiastic about using the Macintosh as you are, and you’re on your way! No one has to be a technical expert, a business whiz, or anything else. As long as you share a desire to learn more about the Mac, you’ve got the foundation for a successful MUG.

There is no official qualification or procedure to go through in order to proclaim that you are a Macintosh User Group. Apple, however, does have some basic requirements in order to be recognized as an Apple-authorized MUG.But as you grow, more people join your group, and you want to get involved in the larger world of Macintosh User Groups, you’ll need to know where to go, where to find resources, how to contact other MUGs, and let them know how to find you. Here are some resources to review as you move forward.

You’ll find these resources useful:

  • The MUG Center’s Things To Do When Starting A MUG Our own checklist of how to get up and running successfully.
  • JAWS Just Add Water, available from Adobe, was the bible of MUG operations for years. While some of the information is dated, the basic concepts are still valuable. This comes in Workplace and Community/Education editions.
  • The Borland/Inprise Guide to Starting and Maintaining a Computer User Group is another great resource. This goes beyond the scope of just starting a group, and is geared to the PC crowd, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent resource. Apple lists it on their web site.
  • Review materials in the Leadership Library, a compliation of audio, video and session materials from User Group Universities and the User Group Leadership Conference
  • For a different focus, read “Forming Your Own MUG”, a great article on starting a Macintosh User Group, authored by Chris Barylick.

The MUG Center’s…

You want to form a MUG, but have no idea where to start. This check list will help you take your group from just a small group of friends who share a common interest into a more organized, more visible, more valuable organization. None of them are difficult, but all are highly beneficial. Don’t try to do them all at once, but consider each one during your first year of operations.

Have Fun!
There are plenty of good reasons to start a MUG, and very few bad ones. But the one which is perhaps most important is that you have fun. If you and the other founders aren’t having fun, you won’t want to put forth the effort to make your MUG prosper. And if you’re not having fun, that feeling will carry over to your prospective members, and they won’t join, or won’t come back. Make sure that fun is part of the planning process, part of your meetings…part of everything!

Don’t Go It Alone
Well, at least not at first. One person can start a MUG, but it is much easier and much more fun if you have a group. You are also much more likely to have successful launch, since each person can focus on a different, important aspect of the process.

Determine Your Objectives and Requirements
What do you want to acomplish by organizing as a MUG? Do you want to deliver services to your members and each other? Educate? Entertain? Socialize? Put some structure or regularity in your get-togethers with other Mac owners? Any or all of the above are good reasons. In fact, there aren’t many bad ones. But having some idea will help you move forward.

Decide On A Name
Take a little time and think about this one. It will be how you are known to the public and the rest of the MUG community. You can use something obvious like “The Smithburg Macintosh User Group” or something clever and Apple-oriented (“The Smithburg Apple Slice”). And remember to consider your acronym – it is not uncommon for a group’s acronym to be come as well known as their full name. (HUG, MUG, SMUG, HAC, BAC, WAP, BMUG, SMOG, etc.)

Consider Your Funding

Will you charge dues? Do you need to? What kind of expenses do you plan on incurring? (Meeting room rental? Equipment? Postage? Newsletter printing?) Not watching the books has caused many a MUG to suffer, or worse.

Get An Email Address
There are a number of people who are going to want to communicate with you, as a MUG. Apple, vendors, potential members, prospective members, etc. While phone numbers and mailing addresses are important, email is probably the most critical. You can use your own personal address, but it is easier if you have an address unique to the group.

Buying your own domain name for both email and a web site is great, but ambitious and expensive, especially if you’re just starting out. There are plenty of ways you can get these things free! Check out the Free Resources topic under Operating A MUG for some ideas.

Set Up A Web Site
Yes, we know. You don’t know HTML, you are not a tech wizard…you just like working with your Mac and want to get together with friends. However, a Web site gives your Group a presence, both in your local community and in the global community. It is the perfect way for people to find out who you are, where you meet, and what you are doing. Even if you use a member’s personal web space temporarily, it is better than no site at all.

Can’t figure out HTML? Don’t have a server? No problem! Check out the Free Resources section of Operating A MUG for some ideas on where to go and how to set up a Web site of your very own.

Adopt bylaws
Yes, it sounds bureaucratic, and it doesn’t have to be done right away, but you’ll be glad you did later. Having a written set of by-laws prevents disputes and misunderstandings as your group evolves, and the officers and leaders change. They can be very simple, or very elaborate. And as long as you have some provision for updating them, they can be changed as your group evolves.

As you develop your bylaws, decide who will run you group – the Board of Directors, or a group vote. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Here are some samples for you to use as-is, modify, or use as guidelines.

Register With Apple
If you qualify to be an authorized Macintosh User Group, registering with Apple will get you resources, regular contacts from Apple, and most importantly, an entry in Apple’s User Group Locator. Once there, potential members and others can find out about your group. This is important, since Apple promotes MUGs on their Web site, with each System Software CD release, and with the registration of each new machine.

Apple recognizes three categories of groups, and has different requirements for each:

  • Community groups: at least 25 members, 3 officer contacts, a live web site, a history of meetings, a newsletter (electronic or print), with membership open to the public.
  • Corporate, government, K-12, higher education, professional associations and specialized software groups: these categories are considered and approved on a case-by-case basis.
  • Online-only groups: A minimum of 100 members, three leader contacts, a live web site, and a searchable archive of discussions.

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