Meetup Spotlight: South Jersey Writers’ Group

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Amy Hollinger has been running The South Jersey Writers’ Group since 2009. It’s a close knit Meetup of 97 writing enthusiasts in Bellmawr, New Jersey.

She was a seasoned Organizer when she took over the Meetup group, having already built and run Get Out Philly, one of the largest and most active outdoors and adventure Meetups in New Jersey.

Her experience running both Meetups taught her important lessons in how to build a leadership team and manage community effectively. We asked her a few key questions recently, to find out more about her team building strategy, structure, roles and responsibilities.

How is your Meetup group’s leadership team structured?

SJWG is a non-profit corporation, which came out of our need to have a designated space. We outgrew five coffee shops in four years. We started charging dues so we could rent a community center. It has been beyond successful, so we incorporated as a non-profit for accountability, to share the responsibility, and so the organization can continue without *me*. Our co-organizers are also members of the Board of Trustees.

The Leadership Team structure: 

President: me, the Organizer

Vice President: who also handles programs and plans our main meeting every month

Membership Director: who approves new members, records dues paid in person, and handles questions from non-members about how to join

Treasurer: who co-manages the WePay account

Community Outreach Trustee: who helps to increase our audience in the area, planning workshops and programs for non-members (and is an Assistant Organizer)

Communications Trustee: who compiles newsletters and press releases

Event Hosts: who are volunteers, generally focused on one particular topic each month

What is your selection criteria for stepping someone up into a role?

This doesn’t happen too often, but a member should be a “regular,” and have an interest in consistently leading an event (at least once every other month.) Event Hosts generally choose a theme or a repeat type of activity to host. Another Trustee, our Community Programs Director, is also an Event Host.

How has the leadership team benefited your Meetups?

Spreading out the responsibility and giving each member a key aspect to focus on has made it easier to manage. By October last year, I had completely absolved myself of handling member dues. It helps Members understand who handles different responsibilities in the Meetup group.

What is the most important role in your Meetup?

Our Programs Vice President who plans our Third Thursday Meeting. If not for her the group wouldn’t be what it is now.

What happens when things go wrong?

Minor hiccups, but the Board generally pitches in to solve the problems. It can be real easy to get upset about small things like members leaving, complaints about content, rooms double-booked, etc. But in the end what matters is the experience you are having in running the group. Unless they are charging members for their time, the organizer is doing a service to others by providing events and activities.

In closing, she says: An organizer’s interests and happiness should not be seriously compromised by trying to accommodate the desires of every individual. Automate, delegate, and reciprocate when appropriate, and members who appreciate this will step up and understand.

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Andrea Murphy
Andrea works with the Community Team on outreach, education and engagement initiatives that celebrate, strengthen and broaden the community. Expect to hear from her if you're doing great things with your Meetup Group.