Tips for running groups
Group Administration tips to help with marketing, partnerships, managing member data, managing money. Also, how can you understand your group's evolution?
The core of running a group is community management and member engagement.
Community administration tasks like marketing, managing data, managing money, and maintaining tools + software are important to keep the foundations strong. Strong communication and good simple documentation can go a long way.
- Marketing your group and your event can be very time consuming.
- Reaching the right people and getting them to show-up takes effort.
- Some folks are just naturals at marketing and building buzz. Do you have any folks like that in your group? Find them and engage them.
- Build documentation and templates to enable members and other leaders to host or market.
- Activate your networks, and engage the leadership team and members to promote
- Use both social media and direct communications
- Create communications that can be easily forwarded and distributed
- Building an email distribution list or peer-to-peer e-mail listserv is a great way to grow your audience over time, and market your activities to your core audience.
- List your events & your group on local calendars, media, and networks.
- Post your events on Facebook
- Contact local publishers or groups and ask if they would promote your group. This is also a good way to build relationships with other organizations
Depending on your platforms, you might end up developing a lot of information on your members based on profiles, surveys, email lists, and activity.
- Take care with your members' data (especially names and contact information)
- Ways to collect data...
- Sign-in/ sign-up sheets at events
- Form on your website
- Your community tools for ticketing, conversations, email, etc...
- If you have group listserves or newsletters, make it easy for people to opt-out
- Be aware of your data protection responsibilities under the law (e.g. GDPR)
- Seek to connect your data so you have a good view of your membership across touchpoints and over time. This isn't easy.
- It's not recommended to give out your member data to sponsors. Definitely don't release member data without explicit consent.
- You can likely get analytics on your group from the tools and platforms you're using. You can use this to monitor the health and activity of your group.
- Study engagement trends in your group over time: membership growth, posts, top contributors.
- For example, should you recognize and reward top contributors?
- Consider setting goals based on your group goals and identity
- Measure against baselines and benchmarks
- It's a requirement that your group remain active for ongoing inclusion in Autodesk Group Network (see Criteria for groups)
- It's recommended that community groups keep costs low and try to run their operations at break-even.
- Your group may spend money on...
- Food (caution - this can get pricey)
- Schwag (e.g Stickers)
- Your group can make money by...
- Membership dues or fees*
- Selling tickets to events
- Getting sponsorship
- Donations (from members)
- Hosting trainings
- You may want to get a bank account for your group. This may require incorporating your group.
- Many groups start operating by the leaders using their personal funds to front money.
- Tools for receiving money as a group include PayPal, ticketing platforms like EventBrite, and donate buttons on your website or tools like GitHub.
* Note that it's currently a criteria for inclusion in the Autodesk Group Network that groups have a free and public membership option.
Insight from an AU2020 panel: There are different needs for groups, based on both 1) the adoption curve of a technology or practice, and 2) the target audience.
- Early on in technology adoption, people are trying to figure out what a technology does and what’s possible.
- You get some higher-level strategy conversations with innovators and business leaders.
- This is one of the most exciting times for groups, and an important function of communities of practice: they are creating new knowledge, steering the direction of firms and industries, and laying foundations for more widespread adoption.
- "People who are passionate about BIM & design technology are idealists & optimists. Groups rally optimists together to inspire and learn from each other - and try to drive change and improvement." - Aleksandr Lapygin at AU2020
- Once everyone has adopted a technology, conversations within group can focus on detailed technical practice.
- The higher-level strategy / business decision-makers fall off.
- The bleeding-edge innovators and researchers often fall off (they're on to the next frontier).
- This kind of group can be incredibly rewarding for power users and passionate practitioners - who may feel isolated in their workplace. Connections across firms enable workflow innovation and develop industry best-practices.
- It can be incredibly productive for people in Company Practice Groups, who are working together to make technology work on their projects.
- Groups can split, combine, and evolve based on audiences and needs.
The dynamics described above reflect concepts presented in two great books: The Diffusion of Innovation by Everett Rogers and Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. This Autodesk University 2016 class by Doug Look & Rebecca Arsham present two visuals riffing on these concepts: The Power of Communities of Practice: An Inside Look at How Knowledge Sharing Happens.
Groups are critical to the Diffusion of Innovation
The Community Roundtable developed the Community Maturity Model™ (CMM), and have been improving and evolving it for 10 years.
This model primarily developed for bigger organizations who run communities, but is useful for any community group to think about how the eight competencies they've identified might evolve as communities mature.
Groups are living things, and living things have a lifespan. It's useful to think about how your group will either continue evolving to keep going, or end gracefully.
- It may be time to end or evolve your group if...
- It's not working for what it was founded to do
- Your goals and availability as a leader change, and you have not groomed other leaders to step-in.
- Warning signs that your group may need to evolve or end...
- People stop showing up
- Lack of participation
- If members are only coming for free food, what happens when the food isn’t there?
- Reasons groups may loose steam...
- Lack of focus/goal
- If you don’t know why you’re there, the members won’t know either
- Without focus, you may attract a variety of potential members, but they may end up in too many different areas of interest. The group won't gel.
- Wasting everyone's time teaching to people that don’t ever use the software
- Lack of leadership
- Don’t plan ahead
- Don’t advertise
- Don’t seek out new members/ topics/ speakers
- Low/no engagement between meetings
- Need to keep enthusiasm for the next meeting up
- If meetings are boring/useless to members, they will stop going
- Inflexible meeting schedule
- Some people can’t/won’t meet regularly at certain times.
Sometimes a group has just run its course - and it's just time for something different. The group may have already met its goals.
- If your group ends or evolves, it does not have to be a bad thing. It's natural and organic.
- Ask yourself: what's next?
- How can you value what you all learned from the experience?
- How can you mark the transition, remember the good times you had, and honor the work you've done together?
In 2019, AUGI transitioned away from supporting local user groups. However, this User Group Handbook by AUGI has some good, specific, relevant tips for running user groups (authored/updated in 2013).
AUGI User Group Handbook
Connect with a peer mentor on running groups - access codes listed here for Autodesk Group Network members. Become a peer mentor
Last modified 2yr ago