The Meetings Community, the three-year-old,-driven meetings-industry listserv and Web site, plans to incorporate as a non-profit association before the end of the year.
Jim Louis, co-founder of MeCo, cites three main reasons for the upcoming transition to a 501(c)(6) organization. One is liability. The group hopes to broaden its educational programming to include some face-to-face events, but without a legal organization behind them, the moderators would become personally liable for the events. “Our primary focus is education,” says Louis. “We’ve talked about doing an open spaces conference and expanding our educational opportunities.”
Another reason for the change is to foster connections with other meetings industry groups, Louis says. “We want to look at more partnerships with organizations. For example, we’d like to join the Convention Industry Council, and we would need a formalized business structure to do that.”
Louis says the long-term viability of MeCo is also at risk without a business structure for the group. “We want to be sure that if we come to a place where, for example, Google stops doing free Google Groups we have some sort of structure in place if we needed to then start raising money to support our activities.” MeCo is now funded by contributions from the moderators and their companies.
Louis says moderators, who will serve as the initial board members of the new association, made the decision to incorporate as a non-profit, but continue to research the ideal organizational model. They are looking for a governance structure, he says, that fosters “openness and community involvement.” The group is committed to running the MeCo listserv and other current services free of charge and with complete transparency into its finances.
MeCo started with six moderators in 2006 and has grown to 13, including two suppliers. The listserv, hosted by Google Groups, has close to 2,500 members and averages about 50 messages a day. In addition to the listserv, MeCo hosts informal “meet ups” at industry, offers a free online job board, allows planners to post canceled room blocks, and plans to launch a student mentoring program later this year.