Connect With New Friends on Meetup.com:
Meetup.com is a collection of almost 80,000 personal and professional groups from 45,000 different cities. Topics range from food related (brunch and dinner groups), movie buffs, book clubs, gardening groups, writing critique groups, business networking groups, and more. Virtually every interest and hobby is covered.
Meetup's mission, as defined on their website, is to "revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize." The site gets six million visitors per month and boasts over seven million members.
Joining a Meetup Group:
To find a Meetup group in your area, type in your topic of interest (hiking, book club, sewing, etc.) along with your city and state or zip code. Several local group choices will appear. If you're interested in joining, you can click the "join us" button on each group's individual page. As part of a group you can discuss upcoming events, share photos, and chat with other members, depending on the settings each group has designated. Some groups also charge a nominal (under $10) fee to help with maintenance costs.
Starting a Meetup Group:
If you search for a specific type of group and don't find one in your area, Meetup will ask if you'd like to start a group yourself. Meetup charges organizer dues that range from $12 per month for six months, up to $24 for a month-month charge. Many groups share this cost with their group members.
To start a group, fill out the information to be placed on the group website within Meetup, choose a theme, pay the organizer dues, and promise that the group will be a real, face-to-face community. Then you can approve member requests when they come in.
Sponsor a Meetup Group:
Businesses and other organizations can sponsor Meetup groups through a program called Meetup Perks. The idea is offer a perk of some sort (the site suggests discounts off of goods and services or donation of a meeting space) that can be offered to groups on the site. When a group leader accepts the perk, it becomes available to the members and the business is then considered a sponsor. Sponsors have a tab on the group's webpage, and sponsorships costs $5 per month.