Chocolate Wonk Membership, Meeting Fees, and Attendance

Clay Gordon
04/27/10 01:44:12PM
This is an open message to all current and prospective Chocolate Wonk members.

One of the reasons I decided to charge an annual membership fee is that I wanted to discourage people who are not seriously interested in attending the Wonks from joining.

My experience with organizing the NY Chocolate Meetup group for two years (2006-2008) was that I had a large membership roster (over 900 when I turned it over to Kamini Reddy), that the same roughly 40-60 people would RSVP - but only 20-30 would attend. This made it very difficult for me to plan events and secure venues.

Through Chris Cuzme and the NYCDAT , I learned about Jimmy's and found a home for the Wonks. The space is perfect for 25-30 people to comfortably gather and the price I pay is very reasonable (I do pay to rent the space, but the price is kept down by asking for the two drink minimum). This enables me to keep the meeting fee low and participants get to choose what they want to drink - from soft drinks and a great selection of beers - based on their budget.

One thing I can't figure out - and this is why I am posting this discussion, for your input - is how to get people to be serious about their RSVPs. For the April 25 Wonk, only about half the people who RSVPd actually attended or contacted me about why they couldn't make it.

Right now there is an annual membership fee of $25 and a per meeting fee of $10 for everyone who attends. Please note that is not a money maker for me. The fees cover travel expenses, the cost of chocolate, materials (for the first Wonk I had to buy a small video projector; for this past Wonk, an easel pad), and a beer.

I am considering changing the fee structure with the next Wonk to get people more serious and considerate about managing their RSVPs. I am asking for your feedback on these ideas or if you have some alternatives.
  • The annual membership fee will stay at $25.
  • Meeting fees stay at $10 for members, payable in advance or at the door.
  • Meeting fees for non-members will be $10 paid in advance, or $20 at the door.
  • Non-members can attend two or three Wonks before they have to become members.
  • Meeting fees paid in advance are non-refundable and non-transferrable if I don't receive notice by the day before of the Wonk.
  • Members who regularly RSVP and do not show up at meetings without notifying me in advance may have their memberships suspended.
Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances (like last Sunday's weather) and I plan to be fairly lenient - you all know how casual I have been in the past on this - in sticking to this new policy to start.

Thanks in advance for your support and your kind and careful consideration,
:: Clay