I organized several Meetup groups in the past, and I’ll give you full details of what’s needed to manage its social activities successfully.
What Is Meetup?
Meetup is an online social platform created to bring people together to share common interests while attending various group events.
Group organizers pay a fee for using Meetup's app and website to host events. In addition, their groups are promoted throughout the platform to help find people interested in joining.
What You Will Learn From This Article
I've learned a lot from my experience managing Meetup groups over the years. I'll share that with you so you know how to have a successful social group and organize its members and activities.
I’ll cover the following subjects:
- How Meetup got started.
- Instructions on how to become an organizer.
- My experience with common ordeals organizers face.
- List of improvements for the Meetup App.
- Finally, the guidelines I created for my group members that you can use, too.
How Did Meetup Begin?
I often used the Meetup platform to organize and run various social groups. So I experienced Meetup through many trials and tribulations as a member and organizer, scheduling events, and managing the membership.
CEO Scott Heiferman founded Meetup after seeing how the 9/11 attack bringing down the World Trade Center Twin Towers in 2001 affected society.1 In short, many people didn't want to be alone after that tragedy.
Mr. Heiferman worked with four other founders to create an online platform where people could organize communities for social activities where everyone could make connections and meet new friends. The site went live in June of 2002.
In 2017, WeWork acquired Meetup for $156 million and took over the management and programming of its website. They completely revamped the website hoping to improve usability for users and organizers.2
Due to the changes, the website portal became difficult for organizers and members to use properly. Scheduling events was a nightmare with confusion among group members. Eventually, in 2020, WeWork sold its investment in Meetup to AlleyCorp and other private investors for less than they paid in 2017.3
By 2022, Meetup’s 20th anniversary year, AlleyCorp had done an excellent job redesigning the website and smartphone app. I consider Meetup on its way to becoming what it was meant to be, a place where people can arrange real-world, in-person events as well as online virtual meetings.
How to Become a Meetup Organizer
Each group I had organized in the past had a different focus and purpose. But the method of organizing was the same no matter the group’s purpose. Meetup provides all the tools you need to create a group, specify its name, add an image banner, write a group description and describe membership requirements.
People want to have a reason to get out from behind the screen and find activities in the real world. When you organize a local Meetup group, you provide value to members seeking events in the cities and communities in which they live.
Once you get started, you can create events with full descriptions, including date and time, where to meet, specify member rules and guest policies, and anything else you need to include so that members can make an intelligent decision to join and attend events.
What’s the Cost for a Meetup Group?
Members can join groups for free, although organizers have the right to request fees for membership or group events. That seems fair to me given that organizers have to pay Meetup for hosting their group events.
Organizer Subscription Options
The organizer subscription fees have been slowly increasing over the past 20 years. But it is still under $100 for a six-month subscription.
There are two options, monthly and twice-annual billing cycles. Prepaying for six months saves you money.
Organize Multiple Groups for One Fee
When you sign up as an organizer, you can host up to three individual groups without an extra fee. That gives you the chance to segregate unrelated events and engage with members that are the right fit for each group.
With multiple groups, you can assign other members the responsibility to host events. Therefore, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. In addition, you can specify what they are permitted to do, so you maintain complete control of your groups.
Event Ideas for Meetup Groups
This is by no means an exhaustive list (there are groups for just about any popular interest), but these are some of the most common:
- Bicycling, kayaking, nature walks, hiking, rock climbing
- Party games, board games, teambuilding games
- Scavenger hunts, geocaching, miniature golf
- Lunch and dinner socials, pizza/movie night
- Arts and crafts, photography, painting, cooking
- Creative writing, storytelling
- Private house get-togethers
- Conversation groups
- Museum events
- Support groups
The Importance of a Group's "About Page"
Every group has tags near the top for About, Events, Members, Photos, and Discussions, which visitors can click for further information.
It’s vitally important that you put effort into writing everything your members need to know about your group and post that on the “About” page.
This should not only describe your group but also list the rules your members need to know, such as any membership fees if you want to recoup some of your expenses. I’ll discuss more on that later.
You Can Step up to Organize an Existing Group
Once in a while, organizers will give up and decide not to renew their group. In that case, they might offer their members the opportunity to step up as the new organizer.
That gives you the ability to take over an existing group that already has members. You might want to adjust the rules the prior organizer set forth. It’s a great way to improve the group.
It’s possible the last organizer gave up because they didn’t make the rules clear and allowed members to cause trouble, such as registering for an event and not showing up. I often see people being blocked from limited attendance events because someone else held a spot and didn’t show up.
You can easily account for existing problems by making precise rules about acceptable behavior, RSVP etiquette, and terminating members if they held a space that caused others to miss out on an event.
As you can see, it takes effort to keep things going smoothly. If you’re comfortable with that, you could be the right person to reorganize an existing group that was previously destined for failure.
The Ordeal of Organizing a Meetup Group
Organizing public affairs is not a simple matter. Some people don’t appreciate that they are sharing activities with others, and they expect everything for themselves.
When organizers let that get out of hand, everyone suffers. Therefore, it’s crucial that you write a set of rules members need to understand and post that in the group description.
I ran into problems with members who caused trouble for others. That needs to be handled tactfully. Even when the instructions are clearly explained, some members never care to read the rules before signing up.
In that case, everyone gets into trouble with missed communication. I needed to repeat crucial instructions several times, in the event description, later in the comments, and eventually with email notices.
Despite all that, some people still ignore my messages and then complain when things go wrong. I’ll give you an example, something that happened to me.
I posted an event that was to be held in a local library. I described how members need to register with the library in addition to their Meetup RSVP. I also mentioned that they need a library card. Unfortunately, a few members didn’t follow those instructions, and then they got turned away by the library.
I had even sent out reminders by email. You can only provide so much hand-holding. At a certain point, you need your members to do their part as well.
Failure of Communication
There are several reasons why people don’t know what they need to know about the groups they join, and organizers need to do whatever they can to account for that.
Unfortunately, some people never read the membership terms. They blindly sign up without knowing what the group is about and then cause trouble later when things don’t go their way. I consider that careless and a waste of time for both the member and the organizer.
Some groups tend to get members who never attend events because they never reviewed the details posted on the “About” page of the group. They join for some unknown reason and then never see an event that is of interest to them.
I can’t blame them, though, because Meetup is partially at fault. They send out emails suggesting groups to join, and the email has a direct signup button. As a result, people never see the “About” page describing the group. Of course, people should be diligent enough to read that after signing up, but most people never bother.
Many organizers collect membership dues to reduce the cost of their organizer fee. However, if people don’t check on that before attending an event, it creates an embarrassing situation for all parties concerned. I’ll tell you an interesting story about that in a moment.
Some Members Opt-Out From Emails
Some people opt-out of receiving emails from Meetup and group organizers. I can appreciate why they do that. We all get too much spam, and we don’t need more emails filling out inboxes that we don’t have time to read. But if one is interested in a particular Meetup group, it’s only wise to pay attention to communication.
If one chooses not to receive email notices from groups they have joined, I would think they should follow up with due diligence, reviewing crucial communications that are saved on the message board of each group.
There is no excuse for keeping oneself in the dark and then blaming the organizer for failed communication. Yes, that’s another thing that happened to me.
Example of a Disrespectful Member
I had some disappointing experiences with ill-mannered behavior. For example, one member was incredibly rude when I asked for her membership fee at an event. She claimed she never was notified about it.
I responded by explaining it was mentioned on the “About” page, in the welcome email when she signed up, and again in the reminder email about the event she attended. With that, she said I was harassing her and shouted, “You ain’t getting a dime from me!”
Disrespect for Fellow Members and How to Deal With It
If one cannot appreciate the cost to organizers and the effort involved with arranging events, it’s not fair to all other valued members. That attitude interferes with those that want to enjoy a friendly group of congenial friends.
Therefore, I added three requirements that you might want to consider using too.
- I added a question people need to answer when they sign up, indicating their agreement to the membership terms. Meetup has a feature that you can use only to approve new applications if they confirm their acceptance of the fees and other terms.
- If anyone does not pay their membership fee at their second attended event, they will be removed from the group.
- Finally, if a new member is a no-show on their first RSVP and does not respond to communication, they will lose their membership in the group.
I feel this is the only way we can offer an enjoyable group for those who care to participate.
List of Improvements to Enhance Team Spirit
Meetup is aware of the problems organizers face and they are finally doing something about it to improve team spirit among all members.
Better Attendance Tracking
They see the need to add the ability to track who showed up, not just who RSVPed. That will help organizers that have inconsiderate members who don't show up but hold spaces someone else could have used.
Meetup is eliminating the need for FaceBook, Slack, or WhatsApp to communicate with members. Instead, they will do this with more reliable emails and the addition of chat for better communication directly within the Meetup app.
Support of Video Conference Events
Meetup is integrating its app with Zoom video conferencing so organizers can host online events. Group Members will be able to join Zoom events with one click.
Let Members Pitch-In to Help Recoup Meetup Costs
Meetup will be adding a feature that lets members donate to a cause or subsidize the group. Organizers can use this feature as an option when they want to support a cause or compensate for their Meetup fees.
How to Create Member Guidelines for Your Meetup Group
As I mentioned earlier, you need to have a clear set of rules posted on the “About” page for members to follow so everyone understands what is expected.
You can’t make everyone read the guidelines, but having it there will help when you need to refer a disruptive member to it. At the very least, it will avoid getting into an argument, and it will give you the right to remove unruly members from the group if they become a nuisance to others.
I’ll show you parts of the guidelines I created for the groups I ran. It should help give ideas for writing your own guidelines. No matter what your group is about, the idea for managing your members is roughly the same.
Feel free to modify what you want from this to use as you see fit. You’ll notice that some parts are necessary for your protection, but I recommend you have an attorney review any legal issues to ensure you’re fully protected.
Description of Activities and Membership Rules
When you write the text to go in your “About” page, begin with a description of the group’s agenda. Then give a review of the types of activities members can expect.
I like to add a short paragraph about what the group will do for its members and what they can do for the group. That’s my way of making them feel important.
If you host events that are limited to a small group, such as dining events, make that clear and enforce a policy members need to follow.
A Terms of Service statement is essential. It includes a disclaimer for your protection, information about any membership fees you decide to charge, guest policies, and RSVP Etiquette.
The example of a disclaimer and RSVP etiquette you'll see below may seem harsh, but you’ll soon find the need for it. When you deal with the public, some people will always try to take advantage of you. I once had a member threaten to sue for damages because they ran a red light trying to get to one of our events on time and had an accident. Believe me. You will run into people like that.
See the examples below that I used in my member guidelines for all this.
Example Guidelines for Your Group Members
The following are examples of what I just discussed and should give you some ideas you can use for your group:
What the Group Will Do for You
The purpose of all our events is to give you the opportunity to socialize with others who share similar interests and values. If your goal is to achieve a future with meaningful harmony, being part of our group can be a life-changing experience.
What You Can Do for the Group
Bring your fun-loving, healthy attitude. Be committed to showing up when promised and be respectful of other members. We require that your profile includes a clear picture of yourself so others can identify you at our events.
Terms of Service
By accessing and using the service of the Meetup platform, entering your RSVP, and continuing to attend our events, you agree to be bound by the following terms and conditions.
In no event will anyone be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, consequential, or other damages arising from attending an event. Attendance is at your own risk. The organizer, co-organizer, host, and Meetup, are not responsible for loss, damage, theft, injury to oneself or equipment, allergic reactions, speeding/parking/red light tickets, or accidents with your vehicle.
Meetup.com charges organizers for hosting groups. Therefore, our group has a membership fee of $5 per year to go towards these expenses.
Members can bring any particular guest only once, and then they need to become paid members with their second attendance. Guests will not be permitted at events with limited seating, and only members may attend.
Our dining events are limited to eight members, which we find is most conducive to enjoyable comradery and allows everyone to join in on mutual conversations. In addition, it's a great way to get to know one another. So please be courteous and remove your RSVP if your plans change, so someone else can take your place.
If you or your guest can’t attend an event you had registered for, please have the courtesy to update your RSVP the night before so others have a chance to see if there is an opening to take your place.
Some venues, such as restaurants, require limited attendance. In that case, we'll have a waiting list for anyone who still wants to attend once an event is filled.
If you are a “no-show” and you blocked someone on the waiting list from attending, you lose your membership in the group, and you will be banned from reapplying.
The Takeaway — Building Community Interaction
When you organize group activities for local meetups, you create a community of like-minded people who share common interests and can meet others in person.
It’s important to plan events on a regular schedule to keep your members engaged. That also helps grow your membership since it always gives people things to do when they need to get out and seek meaningful interactions.
Dealing with the public requires some due diligence to ensure that everyone knows how to get along with other group members. It’s not always easy, but with the resources of Meetup and maintaining a lively group of pleasant people, it could turn out to be a rewarding experience.
People always seek a sense of community, and Meetup provides the tools to make that happen. All that’s required is the desire to create a group focused on a specific idea and arrange events to bring people together.
- Yashica Vashishtha. (January 9, 2019). “Scott Heiferman: Founder of Meetup, A Platform Connecting People in the Real World” YourTechStory.com
- Alyssa Newcomb. (December 26, 2019). “Meetup was a darling of the tech industry. But can it survive WeWork?” - NBC News
- Sarah Perez. (March 30, 2020). “WeWork sells off social network Meetup to AlleyCorp and other investors” - Tech Crunch
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Glenn Stok