WHAT USERS' Clubs CAN DO TO SURViVE-ANd EVEN GROW!
by AlEX PiGNATO, AC CONTRibUTiNG AUTHOR
PRESidENT, OL' HACkERS ATARi USERS GROUP
As President and one of the three original 1985 founders of the Ol' Hackers Atari Users Group, Inc., I'd like to pass on some of the things we did to not only survive but grow. Those of us already in usergroups know the value of belonging to a group, but how can we get others to join us? How can we add to our own knowledge (and fun) as well as impart some of our ideas and knowledge to others? Here are a few of the things we found that work.
Get a list of 8-bit users. How? From want ads, word of mouth, BBS's, (ask for names and addresses in private email, telling them your club will send them a free newsletter as an inducement for them to give you their full names and address) and from any other source you can scratch up. Then carefully prepare a letter addresed to "Prospective 8Bit member", explaining that you're enclosing a sample copy of your newsletter and extolling the benefits they'll derive from joining your club. Above all, be honest if you want them to renew and remain as members after they've joined you. Tell them how many PD library disks are available to members at bargain rates. (We're currently offering five double sided, single density library disks to non-local members for a total of $8.00, prepaid.)
A Nurturing Environment
Tell them your members are available to answer questions or help with problems. At our meetings, all correspondence is read out loud, and are included as part of club minutes which are put into our disk newsletter which goes out to all our members worldwide. I can't tell you how many times members have voluntarily responded to the problems of other members, most often solving the problem. Your club must service its members if it is to survive. Give members a reason to want to join and remain a member.
Meetings must be interesting. Members who attend must feel deeply involved and willing to give of themselves, in return because they themselves are getting a lot from being members. Those members who weren't present, and who read the minutes from your club newsletter, must feel as though they were there. Our club secretary brings a little recorder to meeetings, and uses that at home to help him recall what went on when writing the minutes. This frees him at meetings to be a participant, and to do demos or whatever else. I read all correspondence and the answers that were mailed out, so everyone knows what's going on.
Roll Up Your Sleeves!
Your club must "Reach Out And Touch Someone" who is a lonely lost 8-bitter, who feels he or she is the last of our breed. I can't tell you how many times we've heard that expressed. Now that we once again have a magazine devoted exclusively to us 8-bitters, we need to get behind it and subscribe. In other words, put your money where your mouth is and stop complaining any more. [I couldn't have said it better myself. -Editor]
A final word to all those who are already members of usergroups: please get involved! Like any good investment, you'll get more out than you put in. Don't expect "George" to do it because there may not be many "Georges" around. For most of us in the Atari 8-bit world, if we don't do things for ourselves there isn't anyone else out there to do it for us. Worldwide we are now a very small community; the demise of any one club diminishes the ranks of 8-bitters the world over.