“You don’t want to charge for the meetup,” says Michael Torbert, organizer of the Raleigh WordPress Meetup Group. “Obviously it’s not about making money.”
But you don’t want to go broke either. You’ll be putting a lot of time and sweat into a meetup, you shouldn’t have to put your wallet into it as well. This is where meetups can get complicated.
There are several costs associated with meetups and just as many ways to handle them. Here are some of the potential costs:
- Promotion (website hosting, flyers, table tents, signage, etc.)
Certainly you don’t need all of these. Many meetups go without free refreshments. They either ask folks to bring their own or they meet at a restaurant or coffee shop where everyone can buy their own. Recording your events is also not required.
You also don’t have to pay for all of these. Most speakers will volunteer for free. Promotion can often be done on the cheap. You can also find sponsors who might be willing to cover the cost of the venue or food.
What About Income?
So you’ve got some expenses. How about some income? There are generally two options and you can always do both.
1) Charging for the Meetup
While you want to keep your event free, that’s not always possible. WordPress strongly encourages it, but sometimes you have expenses. Sometimes you need to charge for the meetup to help cover those expenses. It’s not ideal, but it’s perfectly acceptable.
“I charge to ensure that the members have a quality experience,” says Tony Cecala, organizer of the Dallas/Fort Worth WordPress Meetup. “There are many other haphazard, free meetups they can attend.”
Charging for your event also means you can more easily raise the bar on what you’re offering, as Tony says. This fits with the WordPress model: There are plenty of free themes out there, but if you want a better, solid, more trusted experience, you can also spend the money on a premium theme.
Another benefit to charging for your event is that RSVPs will become much more reliable. When an event is free it’s too easy for people to RSVP if they’re kind of interested but then not show up. This can be a major problem if you have limited space. But charging a nominal fee–$5 or $10—will almost guarantee that people show up when they RSVP. They’ll flake out if it doesn’t cost them anything, but they’re less likely to throw away good money.
Remember that once people have to start paying for an event they’re going to expect more. Be sure there’s a tangible sense of value.
Sponsors can be a great way to cover costs. That extra money gives you room to invest more in the event and make it a better experience for the community.
But opening up your meetup to sponsors also means you have some added responsibilities. No one is eager to sit through a commercial, so you’re going to have to balance the needs of your sponsor and the needs of your community.
- Make it very clear what sponsors are getting. Spell out the details in writing to avoid conflicts.
- Likewise make it clear to your community what sponsorship pays for. A two-minute commercial goes down easier when it’s understood that it keeps the event free.
- A good sponsorship works when everybody gets value out of the relationship. If everybody wins, everybody’s happy.