Sunday, January 27, 2008

FoxPro User Groups

The value of FoxPro User Groups is tremendous. I've learned so much from them, made so many contacts, improved my skills, learned about many third-party & productivity tools, made lots of friends, and even obtained a job through them.

Sadly, FoxPro User Groups are a dying breed. Our local group (GRAFUG - Grand Rapids Area FoxPro Users Group) is struggling to stay alive. Attendance has dropped and we're trying to figure out how to attract more people. The core people that attend each month don't want to let it go. We consider the meetings extremely valuable, and a resource that must be kept. We'd like to "market" the group and make sure all FoxPro developers in our area are aware of the group.

I'm asking for suggestions from everyone on places to post a blurb about our group in hopes of attracting new attendees. If you're running a successful FoxPro User Group, I'd like to hear from you too. What do you do to advertise the group. I'm looking for any and all ideas on how to boost our local user group and keep it alive!

11 comments:

Rick Schummer said...

I post messages on:
1) FoxForum.com
2) Foxite.com
3) UniversalThread.com (message and user group area)
4) FoxCentral.com
5) Mid-Michigan Fox Developer Group ListServer
6) CompuServe.com (MSDevApps forum - occasionally since there are few VFP messages anymore)
7) ProFox when I remember

I also post on the group Web site (DAFUG.com)

Rick Schummer said...

One more thing I forgot before saving:
1) Fox Wiki Upcoming Event page

Kevin Cully said...

We're lucky to have a very active Foxpro Users Group here in Atlanta. http://afug.com I think we continue to be successful because of our group effort. Russell Campbell is a great president, partly because he never gives up. He just keeps going.

I take care of the web site, meeting notices, and postings to the other web sites. One switch that I've made to the web site (a couple of years ago now) is to keep all of the past meeting notices on the web site. They used to be deleted. This helps with our search engine placement. If you type in “Atlanta” and “Foxpro”, our site is pretty sure to come up close to the top. This helps the group generate job leads from employers and head hunters. They pay $25 a pop, and Russell sends out a broadcast email to all of the attendees. Not only is this a money maker for the group, but it is a great service to the attendees and keeps them coming back.

Again, we have a good core group to our team and we switch off presenting. We also find great topics and speakers in what I like to call “parking lot talk”. This discussion in the parking lots after the meeting are more important (sometimes) than the presentation material. Often times we'll say something like “That's really cool. Sounds like a great topic for a future presentation.” That's how we get our best topics and presentations. It's that easy. Of course, in Atlanta, we normally have good weather for parking lot talk, year round.

Ugh. So much to say and I don't want to take over your blog. ;) I'll try to write something up on my blog soon. Don't give up. We need Foxpro Users Groups now, more than ever!

Cathy Pountney said...

Rick .. thanks for all the ideas. Very good stuff!

Cathy Pountney said...

Kevin .. thanks for your feedback. I especially like the idea of charging $25 to send a job post out to the group .. and requiring that people be paid members to get those job listings. That's a nice way to generate a little extra income.

Dave Aring said...

Cathy...
I thought I would throw in my two cents worth from the MidWest FoxPro Users Group (MWFPUG - Kansas City). Of course, I couldn't agree more with your thought that user groups are a dying breed. Three years ago our average (monthly) attendence was about 10-15 members. Today, it is 5-6 and we have cancelled about a third of our meetings due to not being able to get someone to give a presentation.

We have a database of approximately 450 names of VFP (at one time) users in our area. We e-mail out monthly reminders to that list. Sounds good, but it hasn't dramatically increased our attendance. In fact, on average 4-5 receipients ask to be removed from the mailing.

I thought I would mention a downside to the job search benefit for members. In the past, we have had "bosses", the corporate types who foot the membership fee for their employees, complain because they felt it encourage their employees to "seek employment elsewhere". There is SOME validity into the complaint. We now post job listings only on our website so that members must be motivated to search for a job rather than be spoonfed an opportunity.

None of what I said will help to increase attendance unfortunately. An "atta boy" MUST go out to Doug Carpenter, our current President for his steadfast determination to keep vital signs of the group from flat-lining, but the handwriting is on the wall and we are strongly considering disbanding in 2008.

To end this diatribe on a positive note, however... I am EXTREMELY glad to hear that Tamar Granor, Doug Hennig, and Rick Schummer have committed to hold their excellent Southwest FoxPro conference for, at least, two more years.

Anonymous said...

Kevin mentioned a number of things we do at AFUG. Here's something very specific for the here and now (as opposed to the hereafter, I guess < g >): Check out UT thread 1289155 and see if Don Higgins will be in your area anytime this year. I'm already getting him set up to do a presentation at our meeting (we'll most likely have to change the date to accommodate his schedule, but that's no problem).

Russell Campbell
President, Atlanta FoxPro Users Group, Inc.

Cathy Pountney said...

Dave .. thanks for your comments. Appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Well, while I'm at it, I might as well mention some other things:

1) Is your group registered at CodeZone. If so, they give you great door prizes each quarter.

2) www.red-gate.com ... click About, then Community Relations in the left side nav area. They have a good user group relations program going - free software if someone does a presentation, goodies to give away at the meeting.

3) www.apexsql.com ... another company with a user group sponsership program. Click Company, Partner Programs, then on the page that comes up click User Group Sponserships.

4) Kevin mentioned the AFUG Job Alert. I always get the money up front from recruiters. They will stiff you. Private companies I let send me a check. We recently got set up with PayPal and this makes payment for the Job Alert much easier. If someone wants to send one out, they can pay for it via credit card in a matter of moments and I can send it out. AFUG Job Alerts only go out to current (paid up) members.

5) Similar to the above, with PayPal I can collect the membership dues. Just makes it quick and easy for the member and for me (no deposits to be made by our treasurer or me).

6) We have a very nice training library of tapes, CDs, and books. With a $100 deposit, members can check out items (I limit them to two at a time) at no cost. If I mail them anything, I record the postage and take it out of their deposit.

7) AFUG Alerts - just e-mailings about stuff our members might be interested in. Don't send them out too often, but for an RTM of VFP or other items of particular interest, I fire one off.

8) Get on the mailing list for other groups and get them on yours.

Probably there are some other things I'm not thinking of right now, but that's a good start.

Russell Campbell
President, Atlanta FoxPro Users Group, Inc.

Cathy Pountney said...

Russell .. thanks for the comments. Anyone that knows me knows how much I like race cars. my parents met at a race track. I grew up around race cars and my dad was a dirt track race car driver when I was a little girl. He said he used to put me in the car when he practiced around the track .. this was when I was around 2 years old .. obviously before car seat laws went into place!

I should really look into having him come to our group .. and I'll be the first to admit that I have selfish motives on this issue!!

Anonymous said...

We have been pleased with the stability of our group in Chicago over the last 5 years. When I took over as President in 2001 we were seeing attendance in the high teens and low twenties. Now we are in the low teens with as many as 20 or so for a good topic.

Keys to stability. Regular monthly announcements and meetings. Add to mailing list whenever we find an email address someone interested in VFP. Opportunism in scheduling speakers -- central location of Chicago means that we get experts who are here on business relatively ofter. Encourage all presenters to be prepared. Consistent high quality is a draw. Let all express themselves. Member presentation night is very instrumental in a member getting an even better mastery of his/her subject. Camaradarie strenthtens loyalty.

Bill Drew