A quarter of a year has now passed since the day I paid for a started my first Meetup walking group. In this short space of time, it has grown beyond my initial expectations.
When I started this group, I chose to do this after feeling frustrated that I wasn’t able to connect instantly with any other local walking group outside of Bristol. I decided to go it alone and, if people were going to join, maybe I’d be able to form a decent group over a year or two.
I was amazed to have twenty walkers sign up within that first week! Soon it was thirty, then forty, fifty and now… We have more than one-hundred members within our collection. I’ve yet to research this carefully but I’d estimate that more than half of them live in Weston-super-Mare.
To date, I have organised and led a total of four walks, with four future events already listed on our calendar. Most have been centred around the Mendip Hills (our local hill-range and AONB) and within a thirty-minute drive from Weston. Towards the summer, I aim to start leading walks slightly further afield.
Average attendance per walk is between eight and ten people, which I’m very pleased with. It is neither too many or too few. Bearing in mind that this is still a grey and muddy season, there’s every chance those numbers could rise over the summer. If I was to shift my aim and leader shorter walks, it’s possibly that even more people would attend on a regular basis.
I’m aware that 10 miles (our average length of walk) is too far for some of our membership. But I don’t particularly enjoy shorter walks and I’m trying to remain true to myself with this. Perhaps someone else, over time, will be willing to step up and host other events.
I paid around £68 (a reduced rate) for the first six-months on Meetup and I’ve only this week made an effort towards installing a charge per walk for each attendant. I dislike charging people to do something that can be free for many. But I do need to consider my own costs and, at the end of our most recent walk, people were happy to volunteer spare change without being asked.
These ‘fees’ can be viewed as donations. I would not turn someone away from a walk for not paying but again, I need to recoup my own expenditure. Any “profit” gained could be given to a local charity or reinvested within the group. I appear to have lost a couple of members (I’m unaware of who) since installing this change but I feel most people would be happy to pay £1.
Several members have made a call for monthly social events. As a not-particularly-social person, I’m less confident treading forward with this than I am when leading a walk. But my plan is to start with a simple pub and social drinks one evening… The next time, we could look at organising a group meal, with people booking their seats in advance. It’s a shame there isn’t anything like a bowling alley in Weston anymore and cinema trips aren’t actually too social when you’re sat in a dark noisy room for two hours or more.
I still find it hard to believe how quickly this group has grown. Where might we be, twelve months from now?