As 2014 winds down, we decided to take a look at the year in review, according to our data. Our team dug into Meetup group category growth by state to get a feel for America’s shifting interests landscape over the past twelve months. The results were more varied and interesting than we ever could have imagined…
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and there’s so much that we’re thankful for. Mostly, as we enter this holiday season, we’re thankful for the Meetup community—for the 20 million members and organizers bringing community to life in neighborhoods around the world. And this Thanksgiving, over 300 Meetups will be giving back to those neighborhoods, volunteering their time and energy in the spirit of the season. We caught up with organizers behind four of those Meetups to learn more.
In DC, the Beautiful Brown Girls Brunch Club Meetup will be serving up a meal at a local homeless mission and doing some holiday decorating to boot. “When the holidays came around we wanted to make sure we weren’t just thinking of ourselves, but also providing opportunities for our members to give back,” explains organizer Christina. “Our Meetup’s mission is to empower and build each other up, and we take that to heart outside of our membership, as well. It’s all about loving our community, loving ourselves, and loving each other.”
Also in DC, the Embassy Events in DC for Young Professionals Meetup will be preparing, packaging, and delivering meals to elderly people in the community. “One thing I’ve learned about charity,” says Greg, the Meetup’s organizer, “is that people can give money and that’s great, but what they really enjoy is going out into the community to do things.” Volunteering, Greg explains, allows his members to connect with their charitable-minded peers. “People want to make friends with people who think like them, who are willing to give up time on their holiday to do something for others—it shows there are people out there who care.”
Jennifer is anything but socially awkward. The Meetup she organizes is jam packed with awesome activities—even outgoing locals would call it one of the most active and fun loving groups in Memphis. You’d never guess that Jennifer heads up the Memphis Shy Guys Meetup— A Group for the Shy and Socially Awkward.
While Meetup might seem like a strange destination for those with social anxiety—face to face interactions with strangers?!— it works wonders for members, and Jennifer’s Shy Guys are proof. Her members come out in droves for Meetups like ‘Trivia Night’ and ‘Salsa Dancing’—not exactly activities for the faint of heart. There are over 600 Social Anxiety Meetups, and over 400 Shyness Meetups worldwide. Some of them are public, some of them are private, but all of them are designed to support members through a fear of social situations.
When Robin Harder moved to San Antonio, Texas, she joined several running Meetups. In 2013, when three foot surgeries over the course of a year forced her to take a running hiatus, Robin decided to look for a different kind of group—this time, one for veterans. Sergeant First Class Harder is an active duty soldier—she’s served in the Army for almost 20 years.
Robin’s search for veterans’ Meetups in San Antonio turned up empty. “There weren’t any,” she recalls, “so I thought, ‘why don’t I start one?’” On May 7, 2013, Robin founded the Women Veterans of San Antonio Meetup. A year and a half later, she’s found over 70 women veterans with a shared vision. That vision, she explains, is to create a place for women veterans to socialize and enjoy themselves. There are lots of veteran support groups, Robin says, but she’s setting out to create something different. “We don’t want to just commiserate, or dwell on bad memories—we want to get out and do fun things together.” Her group gets together every month for coffee, and recent Meetups have included a winery tour, and a trip to see the San Antonio Stars—the Spurs’ sister team—play. “I just really wanted to meet with other military women to share experiences, and have some fun while we do it,” Robin says. “We don’t really dwell on our military experience, but its the common bond that brings us all together.”
When Robin created the Meetup, her choice to limit the group to women was intentional. “My husband is a retiree too,” Robin says. “He served 20 years, and when we’re out together people automatically identify him as military, and come right up to him. He always says, ‘you know, my wife has been in for almost 20 years too, and she was deployed to Afghanistan,’ and they don’t know what to do, or how to talk to me or anything. They never think about women being in the military too.” The Meetup’s slogan, plastered across the hot pink t-shirts Robin ordered for the group, reads: “Women are veterans too.” “There really aren’t groups out there that are exclusively female,” Robin explains. “There are big conferences and things, but there isn’t anything that’s just like, ‘let’s go grab coffee.’ Being part of a Meetup has allowed that to happen, and it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
All Hallows’ Eve is upon us, and Meetups all over are getting into the spooky spirit. No matter what you’re into, chances are there’s a Halloween-happy Meetup near you celebrating this weekend. Throw on your costume, and get in on the fun. We rounded up some holiday highlights for inspiration.
When Tina was first introduced to a book club Meetup by a friend, she said “I’m not going anywhere with strangers.” She then proceeded to have “one of the best experiences of my life,” adding “I am still friends with those strangers.” Today Tina is the proud organizer of the Double Dutch Lovers NYC Meetup, a community of women who come together to exercise and re-live childhood memories. One Saturday afternoon this summer, we grabbed our jump ropes and headed to Central Park to get in on the fun.
Jon Rosenthal signed up for Meetup on June 18, 2002, when he read about it on Slashdot. It was four days after Meetup launched, and Jon was the 278th member to register in New York City. Fast forward twelve years, Meetup is 1,000,000 members strong in NYC, and Jon is the awesome Organizer behind The Group That Shall Not Be Named: The NYC Harry Potter Meetup. We caught up with Jon to learn some more about his Meetup journey through the years, and, of course, to ask him some hard hitting questions about Harry Potter.
When Jon first came across Meetup in June 2002, the brand new company caught his interest. “It was pretty intriguing,” he recalls, “to use the internet as a means of getting people off the internet. Online forums are one thing, but this was taking it to another level, in a totally different direction. It seemed like a good way to have an excuse to go somewhere, to get you up and going.” He got up and going to his very first Meetup, a gathering of Slashdot readers, just a few weeks later. Jon remembers the night well. “To be honest, it was a little awkward,” he says with a laugh. “People were mingling as best as geeks can mingle, which is to say, not well. But a lot of people showed up. I remember thinking that it looked successful in my eyes, just because people showed up for it.”
This weekend world leaders will convene at the United Nations for a landmark summit on the climate crisis. But the summit isn’t the biggest news—on Sunday, just outside the doors of the UN, thousands of people will add their voices to the debate by joining what’s expected to be the largest Climate March in history. The People’s Climate March will bring people of all stripes together to peacefully flood the streets of New York. Together, the marchers will make their way through Manhattan, taking a collective stand for the kind of world we all want to live in. In addition to the businesses, unions, schools, and church groups marching for change, many local Meetups will be participating.
On August 9th, an over 50 basketball team from Yokohama, Japan, faced off with an over 40 basketball Meetup from San Jose, California. The game was organized by two players named Mike – Mike B. from California, and Mike S. from Japan. We caught up with both Mikes after the game to learn how it all came about…and, of course, to find out who won.
“I grew up playing basketball,” Mike B. explains, “but when I turned 35 I felt too old to keep playing. I thought, ‘okay, this is a sport I can’t play anymore.’” He stopped playing, and shortly after turning 50, found himself joining Meetups about everything from business networking, to food and film. “I joined all these Meetups and realized, ‘I think I can pull this off and start to play again,’” he remembers. In December 2011, he created the Over 40 Pickup Basketball Meetup in San Jose, California. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. “I think there are a lot of people like me, who grew up playing and gave it up when they got older,” he says. “We’ve had people come from up to 70 miles away to play.” Today the Meetup is over 130 members strong. “I’m always blown away when I see how many Meetups we’ve had. It’s really amazing. It’s changed a lot of people’s lives. Most of the people who play say, ‘I haven’t played in ten years!’ One guy lost 30 pounds since he started playing again.”
Over 5,000 miles away, in Yokohama, Japan, Mike S. plays on a similar team for basketball players over 50. “I’ve played with my team in Yokohama for just a little over a year,” he says. “These guys are all retired and some have played together since high school, for more than 40 years now. We practice a couple times a month and get together once a month for a senior tournament.” The team also travels together to watch and play games outside of Japan. A few months back, they got to work planning their third overseas trip, this time to California. As the only English speaker on the team, Mike S. helped out with the planning. “Our organizer asked me to arrange a game in California,” he says. “I did a search online for seniors basketball and up came Mike B.’s Meetup.”
When Amy adopted her pup, Patti Smith, in January of 2003, she thought she was adopting a Jack Russell terrier. She’d never owned a dog before, and since she lived in New York, she was looking for something small and portable – the kind of dog you can bring in a bag on the subway. The shelter claimed Patti was a terrier, “but over the next two months she gained 20-something pounds and started to look a lot larger,” Amy recalls now, with a laugh. “I had people coming up on the street saying, ‘oh, you have a pit bull!’” Before long, Amy realized those people were right: forget a Jack Russell, Patti was a pit.
As reality sank in, Amy knew she was in over her head. “Everything I’d ever heard about pits was from stories on the news, and they weren’t very positive stories,” she remembers. “I noticed there were people who would squeal out of fear when she was walking toward them, or cross the street to avoid her entirely. I’d never handled a dog, and now I had a very energetic pit bull that I didn’t know how to train or socialize.” Amy started poking around on the internet for pit training resources, but came up empty handed. “I thought maybe I should start my own group,” she says, “and gather pit owners from the community together who might have some ideas or tips for how to train my dog.” In October 2003, the NYC Pit Bull Meetup was born.