Take Your Group to 2.0: Recognize the Need to Fund Your Group

User Groups 2.0

Every so often an age-old debate starts up on the Apple User Group Discussion List (AUGD) or whenever Mac User Group leaders get together: should Mac User Groups be free? At one time the idea of having a group that just got together and there was no need for funding was both appealing and even perhaps realistic. In today’s world, however, there is no question: Resources cost money and MUGs need to find ways to fund their operations.

In case you’re not convinced, here are some of the expenses a 2.0 group is likely to face:

Projection: If you are just starting up a group, the interested parties might be content to huddle around a PowerBook or iMac, but people aren’t going to come back if they can’t see what’s going on. Even if you don’t need a group computer, you need a projector and a screen.

Meeting Space Expenses: Many groups wrangle free space at a local school, library, church, civic building or whatever, but that doesn’t mean there are no expenses. Even with no direct charges, may such organizations require groups to have liability insurance and to hold them harmless in the event of injury or property damage.

If you’re one of the really lucky ones who get away with no rent and no insurance requirements, you still should consider making a donation to the organization or contributing in some way and not just because it is the right thing to do. From a completely selfish standpoint, when (and not if) there are changes in the management, policy, procedure or requirements of your host, your group will fare much better if they hold a favorable opinion of you and your support of their operation. Regular (monthly or quarterly) contributions are the first, best way to create that opinion, and often for much less than what you would pay elsewhere in rental fees.

Speaker Gifts: If you are going to invite guest speakers to present to your group, you should at least thank them by buying dinner, providing some small speaker gift or possibly even paying an honorarium to help offset their expenses.

Group Web Site: There are plenty of free web site options out there, including one from the Apple User Group Program for groups who qualify and who are inclined to keep up the requirements, but nothing says more about the stability and credibility of your group than an established presence and that means your own domain name. You can register your own for as little as $8.95 per year (at GoDaddy) or get it, along with the hosting package you’re also going to need for as little as $7.95/month (at DreamHost). You’ll have full control of your email address ([email protected]), your domain and resources like your own email lists, blogs and more.

Those are just a few of the basics. Others can include portable speakers and PA systems so your attendees can hear your presentations, extra rental fees for when you decide to do something different, unusual or supplemental to your normal meetings, printing costs for signs and business cards, post office boxes and more.

There are plenty of ways to spend money running your group, but you have to have it first. We’ll talk about how to raise money for your group in the future, but for now, recognize that any MUG that wants to be counted among 2.0 groups is going to need funding.

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