This is the story of how the Massachusetts Go Association (MGA) used Meetup.com to turn a slowly dying club into one of the most active clubs in the U.S..
For many years, the MGA rented space in Cambridge. The cost of rent fell onto the shoulders of a core group of aging members, many of whom had helped found the club several decades ago but no longer played actively. In between the high cost of joining the MGA and the rise of internet Go servers, membership revenue dropped quite dramatically. It was no longer fiscally feasible for us to have a permanent meeting space, and the lease was dropped in 2010.
Both equipment and people were scattered to various locations. Meetings started up in Natick and Methuen. Jason McGibbon kept meetings alive at a nearby cafe, but very few people attended regularly. A major problem was that only mailing list subscribers found out about our meetings, and attendance dwindled. By 2013, we had managed to survive the blow and start growing again. Weekly attendance at the cafe was about 10-15 people, with some very dedicated newcomers.
Among the growing numbers was Andrew Hall, an MGA member since his high-school years. It was Andrew’s idea to start using Meetup.com to advertise our club’s weekly meeting more effectively. The logical next step happened not long after: some of our more enthusiastic members decided to add another meeting to Meetup.
A year later, we really began to harness Meetup’s power. We added two more meetups, bringing us to 3 weekly meetups. These meetups happened on different days, at different locations, and were attended by different people. Wednesdays were strong players, with more Chinese in attendance (run by Chun Sun). Thursdays were at the cafe (run by Andrew). And Saturdays had the widest distribution of ranks and culture (run by myself).
Meetings that had formerly been announced only to our mailing list were listed on Meetup, and these saw a surge in attendance. And in early 2015, when Andrew decided to start a Open tournament circuit, Meetup was once again leveraged to reach out to the decentralized Go community. The tournaments became a good way for people from different meetups to meet and interact with each other.
Today, as people from the Greater Boston area start setting up meetups, the MGA is faced with a very good problem: newcomers are bewildered by the array of choices offered. We’re trying to figure out how to present our options coherently.
Ultimately, this story isn’t so much about Meetup.com as it is about the many enthusiastic organizers who have dedicated a lot of time to hosting their meetups. But without the community-building power of Meetup, it seems less likely that all of our organizers would have stepped forward to host their own meetups. Boston, as it turns out, is full of many Go players and interested beginners, which we’ve only begun to tap.