As an INETA Mentor, one of my responsibilities is to approve requests from user groups seeking to join INETA.
I was recently asked what criteria I use to approve a group. Generally speaking, I like to approve groups. If you are serious about running a .Net user group, then you should be welcome in INETA. INETA is trying to grow the number of groups so I don’t turn many away. But I don’t accept every request. The criteria I use is:
- Clear mission
- Regular meetings
- Commitment from leadership
- Open to the public
- A web presence
The user group should have a clearly stated purpose and that purpose should be related to Microsoft technologies. In the states I cover, there are groups devoted to .Net, SharePoint, and Architecture. A group doesn’t need to focus only on Microsoft technologies, but there must be some focus there.
A user group needs to commit to hold regular meetings at a consistent time and place. Monthly meetings are by far the most common and are frequent enough to keep members engaged. Generally, I require a group hold three monthly meetings before I will approve them for INETA membership.
Commitment from Leadership
I frequently get requests from user groups that have yet to hold even a single meeting. I don't want to approve a group; then learn a few months later that they never actually held a meeting or that the group fizzled after one meeting. Running a group is a lot of work and I want to make sure the group's leadership is in place and committed before approving that group. The "three meeting" rule above helps to verify this commitment.
Open to the Public
The group should be open to the public. Some companies sponsor user groups for their own employees and don't allow non-employees to attend. Others require attendees to pay dues each year or an admission fee to each meeting. I haven't had a membership request from such a group, but I would not accept them if they had a restrictive rule like these.
A web presence
If a group wants to attract members, it is essential that they have some sort of web presence. This can be a web site or a single page or a subscription to meetup.com or any way that I can find them using a popular search engine. Users should not need to sign in before viewing the web page, so Facebook pages and BaseCamp accounts do not meet this criteria.
At a minimum, this web presence should state the date, time, location, and frequency of the each meeting. The topic of the next meeting should also appear on this page, but I would probably approve the group without this, since so many groups do not provide this information.
Generally, I apply the criteria above before approving a user group for INETA membership. These rules are not carved in stone and I might consider deviating from them if a group leader presents a strong case, but they are a good starting point for that conversation.
It's also worth noting that I am the INEAT mentor for Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, so I approve groups only in those three states. Other mentors in other states may apply slightly different rules.
User groups are welcome to apply for INETA membership before they have met all these criteria. They will remain in the "Pending" state until I approve them. Send me an e-mail (David Giard (At) David Giard (Dot) com) if you have a user group and would like to apply to INETA.
You can learn more about INETA at http://ineta.org.