Current Status: I tell meetups on the chapter account that the Foundation will cover meetup.com dues and approved venue fees (based on reasonable budget, etc), and that they can allow local sponsors to provide refreshments if desired. I’ve tried to stay away from having a lot of clunky rules, but we’re starting to get so many meetups on the account, with so many organizers (including many who weren’t around when the group joined/we went through the rules) that I’m starting to see some questionable/inappropriate stuff come up around sponsorships.
I do not want to make top-down rules that squelch the freedom and individuality of the local communities.
I do want local communities to be about sharing knowledge and connecting with each other, not about selling the community/events as a cheap marketing platform.
To that end, I need your help! I think we do need to come up with some (preferably light) rules around sponsorship and what’s okay to do under the WordPress name.
A meetup sponsorship example I’ve liked:
- Asking local sponsor to cover refreshments and putting a tent sign near those refreshments with thanks, and noting in the meetup event description (which also is emailed to group members) that they are sponsoring the refreshments and who from that company will be in attendance if anyone is coming.
A meetup sponsorship example that is pressing every button:
- Paid speaking time at meetups, printed signs and tablecloths at meetup (paid for by meetup group), and forcing attendees to go to sponsor table for drink tickets.
The example I mentioned above had these three issues off the bat:
- Pay-for-play. Letting anyone give money to the group in order to buy speaking time is not cool. Meetups are short, and people are giving up time with their families to attend, so we should not be using up their time with advertising.
- Plastering marketing materials. Covering the meetup space with logos and signs is distracting and unnecessary. It definitely should not be getting paid for by the meetup group. Acknowledgement/thanks and explicit marketing are different things, and we should err on the side of acknowledgement. We’re talking about pizza money here, not a new hospital wing.
- Forcing interaction with sponsors. Sponsors who attend the meetups because they are interested in the topics, love WP, and want to engage with the community are excellent. Forcing the attendees to interact with sponsors is not excellent, it should be optional.
We’ve discussed the idea of merging the currently-separate WordCamp/Meetup programs into one Local Communities program for easier administration and to make the multi-event sponsorship program even more robust, but until we get to something bigger like that, I’d love some help figuring out where to draw the line for meetup sponsorships.
What do you all think about meetup sponsorships? What rules would you suggest as appropriate? Or do you think we don’t need rules, we just need better education? Any and all suggestions greatly appreciated, and since we just had our meetups team chat last week, if there’s a lot to discuss based on comments, maybe we can discuss this week after the diversity/mentorship stuff is taken care of.