This is a guest post by Kimberly Hartke, of Hartke is Online!, another Real Food Media blog. Kimberly is also the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation.
Using Meetup.com to Organize Locavores and Support Small Farms
Many farm fresh foodies and locavores have experienced the frustration of trying to encourage our families and friends to support local farms. A few cotton to the idea, but many do not.
Rather than alienating my close friends and relations by becoming a noodge, I decided to focus on delivering the good news of a healthier way to eat on folks I hadn’t yet met. One day — I am not sure how — I stumbled upon the website Meetup.com. I searched to see if anyone was using Meetup to promote local foods in my area, and I found Sara and Todd.
Brand New Weston A. Price Members Launch Meetup.com Outreach
Sara Tung and Todd Crames of Reston, Virginia, attended their first Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions Conference in 2006. They were well acquainted with the internet, as they are both software professionals. Enthusiastic about what they had learned about traditional foods, they launched a group on Meetup.com called Northern Virginia Whole Foods.
The Meetup site makes organizing events around common interests very simple. It automates all the tasks, related to an event. Choosing a location, providing driving directions, collecting admissions fees (if there are any) and RSVPs. It even has waiting list and automatic meeting reminders capability. Organizers pay a small annual fee for setting up a Meetup group.
Our Chapter Joins the Meetup Group
I was a brand new WAPF chapter leader, and asked Sara and Todd if our local WAPF chapter could join their group, and use it as not only our organizing tool, but as means of spreading the WAPF message and recruiting new members. They were thrilled to team up with our local chapter and invited me to be an assistant organizer.
Organizers have the authority to list events on the site. Once an event is listed, the site does the rest, emailing a link to the event, shows others who has RSVPíd and how many guests they are bringing. It allows organizers to notify only those who are attending of any last minute changes, such as additional parking available, or snow date or even last minute cancellation of an event due to lack of interest or unforeseen circumstances.
After an event, it prompts the attendees to review the event, to give feedback to the organizers and the rest of the meetup members. Members of the meetup have the ability to upload files and photos, post messages, start a discussion, and build a personal profile on the site. These features facilitate the building of a community online for the group members.
Our Meetup Now in the 8th Largest in the Nation
In less than two years, we have grown to nearly 400 Meetup members. We have easily organized as many as three meetings a month, and find with every meeting we post, more people join the meetup group. It is free to join, and all our events are free, so there is no financial barrier to participating. The growth of the group has been organic, through simply posting new events, we have attracted hundreds of new members in a year’s time.
When members receive an email announcing the next event, the email is then forwarded on to folks outside the meetup group. New topics seem to attract participants with a felt need to learn about that topic, for instance a meetup on “Beating Cancer with Nutrition” attracted several cancer patients and a few others who had loved ones with cancer.
Every event we schedule people join the Meetup just to attend that particular event. Others, who come as guests of Meetup members join the group after the first meeting they attend. We have recruited new WAPF members, and even new chapter leaders through this powerful vehicle.
Meetup Has Amazing Synergy Capabilities
We are now inviting other area chapters to post their events on the Meetup group. We have reactivated two inactive chapters by showing them how easy it is to get an event off the ground.
Our goal is to have 4,000 members in the Northern Virginia Meetup group. At each and every meeting we promote membership in the Weston A. Price Foundation. If only 10% of the Meetup members join WAPF, we will have 400 new members. If every chapter used Meetup.com as an organizing tool, busy chapter leaders would be able to easily grow their local influence and membership in WAPF, without spending all their free time doing it. Meetup.com does the grunt work for you!
I just discovered the best feature of the Meetup group. When it comes time to file our chapter report to the WAPF National office, at the touch of a button, all the events of the past year prints out, ready to attach to the report form and mail.
How You Can Help Grow the Organic, Local Food Movement with Meetup.com
Whether or not you are a chapter leader, please consider starting or joining a “Whole Foods Nutrition” Meetup.com group in your area.
As the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, I can’t stress enough the importance of grass roots organizing to the overall success of our nutrition education mission. Meetup.com enables us to spread our message to folks who would have no other way of being exposed to the local farm fresh food movement.
Feel free to join our Northern Virginia Whole Foods Meetup, so that you can see how it all works and get ideas of the type of events you can organize. You can opt out at any time.
Kimberly Hartke is a homemaker and publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation. She blogs at Hartke is Online! where she promotes traditional foods, small farms and natural health solutions.
A Few Notes From Cheeseslave:
I recently became co-chapter leader (with Victoria Bloch) for the Weston A. Price Foundation here in Los Angeles. I followed Kimberly’s lead and set up a Meetup group for our chapter. Victoria and I have been too busy to do much with it yet but it’s amazing how fast we’ve grown despite that. We set it up at the end of Feburary, and in just under three months, we have over 100 members, most of them brand new.
The best part about Meetup is how easy it is to schedule and get the word out about meetings. No more calling and emailing. Just press a button and you’re done. I also love how it helps us easily find new members. Meetup does the advertising for you.
We should also mention that there is a small fee to use Meetup.com. It’s $144 per year. We ask for donations from our chapter members to cover the cost.
One last thing: if you set up a Meetup group for your WAPF chapter, you might consider calling it something other than “Weston A. Price Foundation Meeting”. Here’s why: most people have no idea who Weston Price was and why they would want to attend.
I took Kimberly’s advice and named our group the Los Angeles Whole Food Nutrition Meetup Group. People may not know Weston Price but they know what “whole food nutrition” means! We also used a photo of a farmer’s market, and employed this description: “Meet other locals who are interested in the nutritional benefits of eating organic whole foods from local family farms.”
Lastly, we used the following Meetup categories for our group: Whole Food Nutrition, Organic, Farmers Market, Cooking And Recipes. Meetup uses these categories to match your group with like-minded people.
Click here to check out our L.A. WAPF Chapter Meetup group.
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