At the end of 2009, I took over as President of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG). One of the first things the new officers and I did was to meet and set goals for 2010. We set the following goals for the year and announced them at the January 2010 meeting.
- Get members more engaged and involved
- Increase meeting attendance by 50%
- Increase supporting membership by 30%
- Continue to attract high-quality speakers
- Increase sponsorship by 100%
- Finish year in the black financially
Most of those goals focused on growth of the group. Prior to 2010, the group was successful, but we felt it had plateaued and we wanted to make more people more aware of GANG and excited about coming to meetings. We successfully met the 2010 goals by increasing attendance, sponsorship and supporting membership during the year.
At the end of 2010, the leadership team met again to discuss goals for the upcoming year.
This year’s goals focus on connections: Connecting members more with the group; connecting the group more with its members and connecting with other user groups.
Our goals for 2011 are
- Cultivate Ownership In Group
- Continue to Attract High-Quality Speakers
- Support and Connect with other Area User Groups
- Average 60 attendees per meeting
- Increase supporting membership by 15%
- Increase Monetary Sponsorship by 10%
- Make it an event!
Below I describe our plan to achieve these goals.
CULTIVATE OWNERSHIP IN GROUP
If a member feels connected with a user group, he or she is more likely to support that group with his money and his time; he is more likely to run for a leadership role in the future; and he is more likely to recommend the group to his friends and colleagues.
Last year, we implemented things like networking time before the meeting, name badges, and after-meeting social hour to help members connect with one another. This year, the big change is in the number of volunteers we have. Over the holidays, the officers sat down and listed all the tasks that go into putting on a user group. When people told us they want to volunteer, we were able to send them this list and allow them to pick the tasks they want.
I have already announced that I will not run for President next year. By getting more people involved, there should be no lack of leadership when I step down. I think this turnover is good for the group.
CONTINUE TO ATTRACT HIGH-QUALITY SPEAKERS
GANG has always done a great job at this. Over the years, we have had some outstanding speakers. Many of them were Microsoft insiders, MVPs, book authors, Regional Directors, and heartland influencers. Many of the speakers at GANG also speak at major conferences around the world.
This year, we are looking to attract speakers with bigger names than in the past. This means bringing in speakers from a wider geographic area. Our sponsors will help defer some of the cost of this. As of this writing, we have confirmed Richard Campbell and Steve Bohlen will speak at GANG in 2011 and we are waiting to hear on some other well-known speakers.
SUPPORT AND CONNECT WITH OTHER AREA USER GROUPS
GANG is part of a strong developer community in Michigan and the Midwest. Currently, we have the highest user group attendance in Michigan, which gives us a platform for making our members aware of other groups in the area. We will be strongly encouraging our members to attend other user groups and the officers of GANG have made a commitment to attend 20 other user groups during the year. This will help us connect with other groups and to bring new ideas into our group. In January, we actively promoted the 5-year anniversary celebration of the Ann Arbor .Net Developers User Group. I attended this event and saw a number of GANG members there.
The March GANG meeting will be presented in partnership with the Greater Detroit Cloud Computing User Group and will feature a presentation on REST and hypermedia.
AVERAGE 60 ATTENDEES PER MEETING
We finished 2010 strong in terms of attendance and we’d like to continue that trend. Average meeting attendance rose from 35 in 2009 to 54 in 2010. We will continue our strategy of promoting the group via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mails, and our web page; However, word of mouth remains the best method for getting the word out.
This year, we will repeat our membership drive in which members earn raffle tickets for attending meetings and for bringing new people to each meeting.
The best way to increase attendance is to deliver a quality product.
INCREASE SUPPORTING MEMBERSHIP BY 15%
If we provide value to our members, I believe those who can afford it will gladly support us. We have made it easier for them to do so by allowing members to support us via PayPal and by clicking a link on our web site. We also plan to send a reminder e-mail when a membership expires.
INCREASE MONETARY SPONSORSHIP BY 10%
In 2009, the Michigan recession caused corporate sponsorship to dwindle so low that we could not provide food at most meetings. In 2010, we raised over $4000 from corporate sponsors, a huge increase over the previous year.
This year, we are looking to raise even more. Our strategy is to define sponsorship levels and to communicate the benefits a sponsor receives by contributing at each level. Benefits include mentions during our meetings, logos on our web site, slide decks and e-mails, and the opportunity to present Lightning Talks before meetings.
This money will go toward providing food at the meetings and travel costs for speakers traveling a great distance.
MAKE IT AN EVENT
I don’t remember who it was, but someone described a GANG meeting last year as more of an event than a user group meeting. I really liked this description and want to strive to make it even more true in 2011.
We are planning some fun things at each meeting, such as trivia questions, and a more personal introductions for each speaker. We have also planned a few special events throughout 2011, such as a Food Drive and a Membership Drive.
The biggest event of the year will take place in October, when GANG celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Our October meeting will be replaced with a day-long, single-track conference featuring many of the founding and early members of GANG. Details will be announced soon.
The goals we set for the coming year are more evolutionary than revolutionary. GANG seems to be heading in the right direction and we want to keep that momentum going. As of this writing, we have held two meetings in 2011 and we are on track to achieve these goals.