BUT, this “quite” time is also an excellent opportunity to get some reflection on the past year and more importantly some forward planning and action for the coming year.
Even a couple of hour sessions spread over a few days during this period spent on planning and preparing for the New Year can reap huge benefits as the year progresses and can ease the burden on your Committee and other volunteers when things are busier with work and other commitments.
Reflecting on the Past Year…
Thank Your Volunteers
Many Apple User Groups seem to operate their meeting timetables and other activities like magazine publishing etc on the calendar year. So the final meeting for the year, or perhaps even the first meeting of the New Year, are ideal times to remember all the work your volunteers have done over the past year.
It can be a simple mention on a slide during your meeting, but a physical greeting card with a personal message from your President and signed by all the Committee is always appreciated.
If your group prefers to acknowledge your volunteer’s efforts at a different time, say, at your Annual General Meeting, still spend some time during this quite period to compile a list of the volunteers and their efforts to date… it will make it easier later in the year when you have lots of other things to worry about.
Check out our previous article “Have You Thanked Your Volunteers?” for some simple ways to thank your volunteers.
Thank Your Committee
It’s been my experience that most Committee’s are good at recognising the efforts of all the other volunteers within the club, but they are very reluctant to thank themselves… and this is a shame, because without the guiding hands of the Committee your group is going to stagnate and die.
Yes, it can be hard to thank yourself but in reality your not actually thanking yourselves… you are publicly acknowledging this thanks on behalf of your group’s membership.
The easiest way to handle it is by having your President publicly thank all the other Committee or Board Members for all the hard, and often thankless, work they’ve put in month in, month out, over the year… and then have another Committee Member publicly thank the President for their efforts as well.
You don’t need to go on for hours about everything each Committee Member has done during the year, but if possible, and assuming your Committee isn’t too large, try and highlight one special thing each Committee Member did during the year to make the club better for all the members.
Again, a mention on a slide during the meeting can suffice, but a physical greeting card is also nice to hand over and receive.
Thank Your Members
Remember without your “rank and file” members you wouldn’t have a club to run and manage, so don’t forget to actually thank your members for been financial members, for attending meetings, for providing feedback, for helping out with minor tasks etc.
Smaller groups often throw a small party at, or just after, the final meeting of the year to thank their members. You don’t need to spend a fortune… in fact the best ones are often when you have your members bring along a plate of food for everyone to enjoy (don’t forget to ensure someone brings along some drinks)
Many groups hand out a Disc of the Month to all their members… The “Festive Celebrations” or “Spotlight on FOSS 2016” DVDs compiled by AppleUsers.org are ideal Discs for this sort of thing. And they are still available, free of charge, to Apple User Group Leaders to download and distribute to your members.
I’ve also seen organisations approach other local businesses for a Discount Voucher they can pass on to their members… perhaps a voucher from a local restaurant offering a free dessert with any main course purchased, or a voucher providing a 20% discount off at your local cinema… think of a business that would love some extra customers and think about what is a realistic offer that could provide your members.
Thank Your Presenters
As discussed in our “Working with Presenters After the Event” article (part of our “Working with Presenters” series) you should remember to send a Thank Card to EVERY person who gave a presentation to your group during the year… be this a representative from an external business or organisation, or one of your own members.
It can be a Christmas Card, a Season’s Greetings or just a plain simple Thank You Card. And just like with thanking volunteers, if your group prefers to do this around the time of your Annual General Meeting, now is a good time to re-check your lists to ensure you’ve remembered everyone who has presented so far.
Planning for the Coming Year…
Update your Website, with Next Year’s Meeting Dates
All too often I see Apple User Group websites in January or February (or later) that are still listing LAST Year’s meeting dates and NO mention of the meetings coming up in this year.
Most groups meet on the same date each month… say the 2nd Wednesday of each month, or the 5th of each Month… so it is not hard to update the Upcoming Meetings information for the forthcoming year. If you have Meeting Topics already planned for the first couple of months in the new year, then list them as well.
Remember, the Internet and the World Wide Web operates 24/7, 365 days a year… and you just never know when someone is going to come looking for current information about your group… and you might just catch new visitors or members who finally have some spare time over the end of year holiday period to actually browse the web and learn about your group and if your information is out of date, you may lose them altogether!
Check out our “Does Your Apple Group have a Website?” article for suggestions on what other information could be included on your website.
Plan Meeting Topics for the Forthcoming Year
Every Apple User Group should ideally be planning on having the meeting topics pre-planned at least three months in advance. Unfortunately too many groups leave it to the last minute, especially for the first meeting of the year, so it usually fails back on to the same person.
By planning ahead, you can begin to promote the topics on your website, on social media, in local media and just as importantly spread the load across multiple presenters.
Read the articles “Finding Guest Presenters” and “Approaching Potential Presenters” for hints and tips on how to best to achieve this. And while you are there, you might as well check out the entire “Working with Presenters” series – links to rest of the series are contained within each article.
Plan A Special Event
To add some spice to your meetings and annual schedule, start planning at least one Special Event for the forthcoming year.
Ideas include running a Swap Meet, hosting a Trivia Night, participating in another event like Software Freedom Day or having a stand at a local Seniors Expo or School Fete, or just having a very different style of Presentation
Even if you haven’t worked out the exact nature of the Special Event, you can start promoting the date with a “Reserve this date” marketing promotion.
A tip: Consider varying the month you hold your Special Event from year to year. This helps stop it becoming just another meeting (even if it held else where from your normal meeting location.
Now your Special Events need not be so extraordinary, but by having an exciting event each year you can continue to enthral your members, and possibly get potential new members visiting.
Plan a Fund Raiser
I’m yet to find any Apple User Group that couldn’t use some extra funds either to help the club meet its’ financial commitments or to fund a special purchase like a Projector, or a new Laptop for use at your meetings.
So look at having at least one Fund Raiser per year. You may or may not want to have it coincide with your Special Event. There are pros and cons for having them together and for keeping them as quite seperate.
A tip: Like the Special Event, seriously consider varying the month you hold your Fund Raiser from year to year. This helps stop it becoming stale and been viewed as an annual “levy” or “tax”.
A raffle is the most obvious Fund Raiser and they are always popular, but they can be over done. A night (or day) out at the movies or a stage show is something different and allows your members to include their partners and family.
And remember that not all fund raising has to come directly from your members. Your Fund Raising Officer should also look at applying for various grants from local, state, and federal governments and other private sources.
Write a couple of Articles for your newsletter and/or Website
Writing articles for publication in your User Group newsletter or for the group’s website is time consuming, and your Editor and Webmaster are always after new content.
Use the quite periods over the holiday period to write some short articles that can be held in reserve for publication when your members are busier later in the year.
Simple “How To” articles are always in demand and they usually don’t date too much. Write about how you use your Mac, iPhone or iPad to perform a specific task.
Likewise short Hints and Tips or Q&A articles are informative. Checkout Macworld’s Mac 911 column for ideas on the type of hints and tips that are been asked. You’ll also get plenty of ideas based on the questions your own members ask at meeting or in your Online Forums.
Product reviews and book reviews are other good articles that aren’t always time sensitive.
Produce some Crosswords or Word Search puzzles that have an Apple theme to them
Revamp the various Space Filler ads you may have produced to promote Club Services… even changing the background colour, border style, or font can make the same information seem new and fresh.
Browse through the various back issues of the Apple Users Spotlight for ideas for short articles and space filler ads.
No Rest for the Wicked
Just because your Group isn’t meeting for what seems like a couple months don’t let the group come to a complete standstill and use the end of year holiday period wisely to catch up on some tasks and chores for your User Group as it can make your lives easier later in the year!
But still make sure you still take some time out to rest and relax 🙂