Finding space, sponsors, volunteers, and students

Lillie Chilen edited this page Dec 11, 2013 · 10 revisions

Note: if you're in San Francisco, all of this is taken care of by your lovely meta-organizers.

Identify existing communities to collaborate with

If you're not already involved with your local RoR scene, Google is your friend. First find your local Ruby and Rails user groups; in some cities Meetup.com is a hub for user groups. Ask the RailsBridge mailing list if they know anyone in your city.

In addition to your local tech communities, think about finding organizations that are working with whatever demographic you're focusing on, like professional organizations, chamber of commerce-type organizations, and non-profits.

Find a space

Not much you can do without a space, and the space you find will determine how many students you can have at your workshop. Here are a couple ideas for where to find spaces:

  • Local companies that use Rails – this is a great recruiting opportunity for them
  • Community colleges
  • Community centers
  • Coworking spaces
  • Advocacy organizations that work with your target group (Workshop for Latinos? See if there’s an immigration advocacy group that would host you. For women? Maybe there’s a women’s business group.)

What you’re looking for is a place with classroom seating for 50-80, fast and reliable Internet connectivity, plenty of power sources and, ideally, break-out rooms or separate spaces that can be used when the group breaks out into classes.

Consider that participants and volunteers will arrive by a variety of transport modes. If the space offers free parking, mention that in your Meetup.com posting and any publicity for the workshop. Cyclists will appreciate hearing of secure bike parking. Specify nearby transit stops in your communications to volunteers and attendees.

Ask the venue about barriers to wheelchair accessibility, such as staircases, high curbs and narrow doorways. Potential attendees need to know of these before signing up so include notices of them in your communications also.

Find a sponsor

This really ties in with finding a space, as your sponsor might be the one to provide with a space. What is a sponsor, you ask? Well, think about the things you need that cost money – the two most common being renting the space and providing your attendees with lunch. If you can get a sponsor to donate the space, then you’ve saved yourself what could be your biggest cost. Sometimes, though, someone will offer you a space but require you to pay for security and whatnot. If so, then you’ll need another sponsor to pay for that. And of course, get somebody to pick up the lunch tab if you can. Remember, sponsors get publicity for their businesses or organizations out of sponsorship – which can mean an awful lot to them! But if all else fails, if you’ve got a space but no lunch, ask your participants to brown bag it.

RailsBridge can act as the sole sponsor for a workshop, but we highly encourage organizers who are able to seek sponsorship from companies and organizations in their networks, so that RailsBridge funds can be used for workshops in new cities where finding sponsorship is onerous and might prevent a workshop from taking place. For more information on sponsorship by RailsBridge, check out the Money Things section.

You can also contact the Railsbridge mailing list for ideas and help with sponsorship.

To figure out how much you'll need to fundraise, check out the sample budget.

Set a date and time

Plan the Installfest for a Friday evening and the workshop the following Saturday. Trust us, you need that extra day for the Installfest – students can’t do the workshop without it, it’s messy and takes everybody vastly different amounts of time.

Recruit volunteers to teach, TA, and help you organize

Hopefully you have a friend or two helping you out. And maybe a few coworkers? Here are some of the positions you will need to fill:

  • Organizers (that’s you!)
  • Teacher trainers (might be you, as well)
  • Teachers
  • TAs
  • Installers
  • Greeters/door-people/pizza-getters

For your first workshop, you’ll probably want to keep it simple and just have two roles: teachers/TAs and greeters/door-people/pizza-getters.

If you don’t already have someone who’s handling logistics (signup forms, coordinating with the event host, figuring out lunch, etc.), convince one of the people you find early on to take that role. Don’t be afraid to delegate to point people! Being the point person on something is not more work, just a different set of responsibilities. No one wants to die the painful, stressful death caused by trying to do everything.

Recruit participants

A workshop’s no fun if nobody comes. Find out the capacity of the space you’ll be in so that you don’t sign up more people than you have capacity for. But remember, a lot of the people who sign up won’t show – could be as many as half. Plan accordingly.

In addition to reaching out to Ruby and Rails user groups, research local tech groups and communities that might include members interested in RoR:

  • SysAdmins
  • Designers
  • QA Engineers
  • Product and Project Managers
  • Devs working in other languages

Other people who are often interested in RailsBridge workshops include:

  • Lawyers
  • College students
  • Admins
  • Career changers
  • People from all backgrounds!!!

Now, how are you going to get the word out? While here in San Francisco we’re pretty lucky to have things like Meetup.com, posting to local forums, putting flyers in coffee and book shops with a link to a Google form that they can use to say they’ll attend, or connecting with community colleges/local IT businesses in your area to get the word out are also good ways to go.

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