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Relationships with Sponsors

From the earliest days of our MeetupMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook., our venues have been provided under sponsorship agreements. Initially these were venues like co-working spaces that provided their space free of charge in exchange for us promoting them. As business changed, we found ourselves paying for the venue and having to find sponsors who would cover that cost. Recently, after even that got too expensive we have had to go looking for new venues and new sponsorship arrangements.

It has been a challenge. We looked at a bunch of options including university campuses, Bars and pubs, local community centres/venues. They all had their challenges. We found that university needed a connection at the venue, usually, we did not have that, and we wanted to meet at times that do not work so well for the campus. Bars and pubs often have a minimum spend if you are using their room, so it is going to cost money, and as we try to steer away from venues that provide alcohol for the meetup. They did not seem viable either. Local community centere could have been viable, but often are in regional suburbs and we were keen to be in an easily accessible, central place. We did find a local library that has fantastic facilities, and is affordable, but it was not really easy to get to… so many issues! Finally we emailed the Meetup group to let people know we were looking, and asked if they could offer any suggestions. One of our members who is a tenant at a new co-working venue introduced us. So here we are again with a free venue. Central to the city, close to public transport and really workable. All of our needs met, and we could have saved a whole lot of hassle if we had asked the group first. So, while the sponsorship arrangements may differ, either in-kind sponsorships like venue provision, or monetary sponsorships for payment of Meetup fees, or pizza, the sponsorship relationship can be a little bit tricky to navigate. Here are some tips on finding sponsorships that have a mutual benefit that is even, rather than more in favor of one party than the other. Here is how you go about looking for sponsorship.

  1. It is often better to ask. The best fit sponsors are not always going to come to you – and if they do approach you, figure out what they are selling before you blindly take their money. You need sponsors who understand WordPress, not just who want a platform for peddling their goods or services.
  2. Approach sponsors with whom you have something in common or who would have a natural connection with your audience.
  3. Have a strong, professional sounding sponsorship email request or sales document outlining what your group is about and why you would be a strong fit for developing a sponsorship arrangement. If you look like you take it seriously, sponsors will take you seriously.
  4. If a sponsor decides to come on board, respect their branding on your website and in your communications about them.
  5. Keep in touch with your sponsor, send them pictures of your Meetup, keep them up to date with how they are helping you. Do not just see them as a cash dispenser. Build a relationship with them. As that relationship develops and continues, your mutual benefit grows with your group.

Here is a template for the kind of email that is useful for approaching sponsors. Two more words of caution about sponsorship: First, do not let sponsorship change the nature of your group. If the things a sponsor wants from you start to look like they are making your Meetup feel less like an Open SourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL. and WordPress meetup, think very carefully about continuing. You have a culture to preserve. Do not let money get in the way of that. Second, sponsorship is not about making a profit for your group. It is not about storing up resources, and it is not about providing high end, fancy spaces or food – it is simply about having your needs met. Try and keep your needs modest so that your sponsorship needs are not exorbitant.

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