I’m sure you are aware of financial problems that PASS is experiencing now. PASS, the organization that runs PASS Summit, sqlsaturday.com, and virtual and local user group (a.k.a. UG) websites might not have enough money to weather the 2020 storm. If PASS revenue would not magically go up, it will have to shatter the door and put a hard stop to your volunteering UG investment. This blog post is not about Fear Urgency and Doubt (a.k.a. FUD), but rather about creating a UG continuity plan (read: insurance policy). I’m going to try to provide you with enough information to create an alternative path for your user group, so if PASS will go down, your user group doesn’t have to start from scratch. While this blog post is going to cover how to from PASS platform to another platform and provide some freemium alternatives.
If you are user group leader, you should be concerned about the potential PASS shutdown. From my 1 year old analysis, about 60% of the North American user groups are solely relying on PASS for their user group platform (website + member contacts) hosting. While we are going to discuss alternatives to PASS platform and migration tips, my second blog post is talking about retaining UG members (https://datasteve.com/2020/09/08/preparing-a-user-group-continuity-plan-for-a-possible-pass-shutdown-part-2-retain-members/).
If PASS is going to disappear, all your UG content could disappear. You need a new platform and migration plan fast.
The effort of moving platforms is going to be directly connected on how much content you currently have and how much content you would like to retain. For the most part, tech content is getting outdated super fast, so you might want to consider retiring some content (maybe it’s time for the old meeting info and artifacts to go? see Fig 1). Since there is no available migration tool, you would need to sign up for a new platform, have 2 monitors, keyboard with functioning Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V buttons, and lots of patience.
Freemium alternatives to PASS UG platform:
Client facing web site (Fig #2):
https://www.wordpress.com – solid domain registrar + web site hosting solution that comes with plugins to Eventbrite and other tools ($60 a year)
Back office message center section (see Fig #3):
https://www.mailerlite.com (freemium) – maintains list of members, sends and schedules newsletters, engages the audience (see Fig #4)
https://www.mailchimp.com (freemium) – maintains list of members, sends and schedules newsletters, engages the audience, comes integrated with Facebook and Twitter
Any of 3 commercial Email Marketing Systems above are far superior to the message center
Back-office event organization and management section (Fig #5):
https://www.sessionize.com – the golden standard to manage call for speakers, build schedules, communicate with speakers, manage content and collect feedback and more (free for a free event)
https://www.eventbrite.com – organizes and manages event and attendees (see Fig #6), links to Facebook and Twitter (free for free events)
https://www.tito.com (free for free events)
While all the freemium solutions are great, the most comprehensive solution that is available on the market is meetup.com. Meetup encapsulates all the features above + adds social media component + adds organic traffic from meetup.com. Meetup.com is already used by 40% of existing PASS UGs in North America (see Fig #7). Meetup will cost your UG $20-$30 a month.
This blog post is partially based on the lessons learned from William Durkin (creator of https://www.datagrillen.com f.k.a. https://www.sqlgrillen.com) and Steph Locke (creator of https://www.satrdays.org).