March 3, 2015 by Mike Hillwig
I’m a regional mentor for PASS. That means I help user groups in the northeastern US with whatever their needs are. This can be anything including marketing, membership, speakers, and sponsors.
The easy part is finding speakers. With a single tweet or email, we can usually help groups find speakers. What I consistently hear is that it’s hard to find sponsors.
Most groups don’t need thousands of dollars a month to operate. They need enough to pay for the pizza and sodas each month. That money is more readily available than you think. How?
If you’re like me, your phone rings at least once a week (or once a day) from a recruiter looking to place you with a client. These people spend a ton of money on memberships to sites like Monster and LinkedIn. The hits they get are soft hits at best. At the end of these calls, the recruiter invariably asks if I know anybody who might be looking for job, my response is always “You bet I do.”
This is where the conversation completely changes. I’m no longer the prey. I’m the hunter.
I explain to the recruiter that I help organize a SQL Server user group, and I explain the demographics of the group, such as the number of people who participate in our Meetup site, or the number of people who attend our meetings. Every time I do this, I imagine the recruiter salivating. Every member of your user group is a hard hit to them. It’s a recruiting goldmine.
This is the best part. I explain that I can put them in front of my user group at our next meeting if they’re interested. The recruiter is no longer salivating. She or he is downright drooling. If you want to get in front of 50 SQL Server professionals (or the number that usually attend your group) in one night, we ask you to sponsor us for the night. That’s the cost of the pizza for one or two meetings. I’m always happy to put them in touch with the member of our group who handles our sponsorship.
If you’re getting money from a sponsor, you need to help them. We encourage them to do some type of raffle at our meetings, such as an Amazon gift card or some type of a tech toy. Let them collect business cards (or index cards with contact info) from members to do the raffle. Those cards are pure gold for recruiters. It’s absolutely worth the cost of a few pizzas.
Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s worth that extra two minutes on a call to pull in the occasional sponsor for your group.