| Lately several people have asked for advice
on starting singles groups. Since this is a notion that strikes most
singles at one time or another, here's our basic advice on how to proceed.|
First you need to have a clear idea of what you want the group to do, in the sense of who it will serve. A "neighborhood" group - primarily folks from a certain part of town? Or focused on a certain activity - single croquet, for instance - or a certain philosophy or point of view - such as single sports fans or avocado lovers? With a clear focus, it's easier to draw together the folks who would also be interested in such a group.
But generally those considering the work of starting a group do so with a specific purpose in mind, so then the question is how to proceed.
There are a couple of possible approaches here. The least work is to send a notice to us that you would like to start a singles group and describe the purpose or goal for the group. Include a phone number so that people who are interested can contact you. This is a good approach particularly if you think you may be the only one interested in the group you have in mind - single begonia growers, for instance. The disadvantage is that some people will be interested but never get around to calling, so you still won't be absolutely certain of the level of interest.
The better alternative is to plan the initial general meeting (more on the meeting itself later), send us a notice including the purpose, time, date, place, and a phone number for the public to call for information. The phone number is probably the most vital; it gives others a sense of security that someone really is behind this new project.
Be sure to send the information in plenty of time to make the deadline for our next issue. Then send the same information to your local newspapers (don't forget the weeklies and the neighborhood editions of the dailies).
Next make up fliers that give the details about the first meeting and briefly summarize the purpose of the group. Hand these out at singles events, church, work, to friends, and tack them up in laundromats. Attend other singles' events and talk it up.
PLANNING THE FIRST MEETING
Plan the first meeting for around the middle of the month. That gives people time to hear about it and plan for it after the news comes out in this paper. Holding the meeting in a home is ok; an apartment clubhouse is better - some people are uncomfortable about going to the home of a person they don't know.
Community parks departments and libraries offer meeting rooms that are generally free or very inexpensive. Your bank may have a "hospitality" room available. Coffee shops and restaurants occasionally have meeting rooms, tho some charge as much as hotels charge for their meeting rooms. But restaurants may let you use the room for a guarantee that the group will spend a certain amount on food and drink. When planning a location, consider the availability of parking, how easy it is to find the location and the meeting room itself, and how well the area is lit. Hold the general meeting at a time and on a day of the week that seems most appropriate to the likely interests of the group.
THE FIRST MEETING
If the turn-out at the initial meeting is low, try one more general interest meeting, and repeat the initial steps. At the first meeting, discuss your hopes for the group and have each person attending do the same.
Remember to be flexible, to allow for the interests of others. Maybe there are lots of single croquet players, but you're the only one interested in tournament play. On the other hand, if several people at the begonia lovers meeting would actually prefer to grow roses, suggest they start a separate group.
It's better to start with just a few planned activities at first - those that you personally are willing to get going. That way attendance is likely to be larger per group event, and you're less likely to burn out on the project.
And preventing burnout is important if you want the group to go on. Share responsibility; when possible, delegate. It's best if others take responsibility for the events they themselves are interested in. This includes offering their own phone number as the information source for that event.
Schedule regular general/planning meetings initially. Gradually add events as others take responsibility for them. Don't worry about electing officers for the first couple of meetings, until it's clear there is enough interest and clear who will show up regularly.
Send the information about your next month's activities ~to calendar editors (ours and other media's) right away, and repeat the steps for the other publicity as well.
KEEPING IT GOING
New faces are essential to an on going singles group. No matter how much we're interested in the activities of the group itself, we're also interested in meeting new people. Besides, it's inevitable that participants will move, marry or in other ways "match up" and stop attending. New people are important to take up available roles and to provide fresh ideas.
When we hear rumors that a group is cique-ish or not interested in or friendly to new people, we know it usually won't be long before we hear the group has "died". A welcoming attitude, an emphasis on shared responsibility for the group, and continued attention to publicity (especially sending this newspaper your club information) are near-guarantees of a successful singles group.