We’re Not Selling Out. Honest.

As always, if you’re reading this on LinkedIn, Facebook, or anywhere else that picks up our RSS feed…please click through to our site to view this original posting so that you can actually vote and leave us some feedback.  Because, seriously, we really do listen…but you have to say something before we can hear it.

We’ve pretty much kept the whole “sponsor” thing at arm’s length.  We still turn down referral fees from recruiters.  We still haven’t taken a dime from any of the locations that we hold events.  As you know directly, we also don’t charge people to attend our events.

And we’re certainly not planning on changing any of those things.

But we also have lofty goals and aspirations of what we want our events…or at least some of them…to be, and we think we may have come up with an acceptable solution (both for us, and you) that may work.  So let’s talk about this for a moment…

So hypothetically speaking, let’s say there’s a someone out there that would like to “sponsor” our events.  Now, I put that in quotes for a reason.  What does “sponsor” mean?  Do they show up and let people trick or treat for free stuff at a table?  Do they throw money at us to help us book bigger venues and put together even bigger and better events?  Do they pick up a food/bar tab?  Some combination of those?  Something else?

And…most importantly…what are they going to want in return?  Quite honestly, this is why this topic has never really been brought up before…because we’re a bunch of paranoid, neurotic freaks that refuse to sell out and become “that group” or “those guys” that hypocritically screw over everyone that’s come to trust them in order to make a buck.

And let’s be clear here – nothing that we’re looking at is about “us making a buck”.  That’s not the point.

There have been a number of companies that have approached us over the past year in particular, and everything falls apart pretty much as soon as we say “You’re not slapping ads everywhere, you’re not getting a dump of our membership’s contact information, you’re not going to get to stand up in front of a crowd at one of our events and pitch whatever it is that you do, and you’re not going to…well, you’re pretty much not going to get anything you just said you want, so now what?”

That’s usually the “Yeah…I guess we’re done here” moment.

This is also why we’ve avoided taking any kickbacks or referral fees from anyone that’s hired people from our events – we don’t want there to be even an appearance of bias caused by financial incentive.  Don’t misunderstand – we do have a bias or two, because we’re human and that’s the whole point of networking.  We’re biased towards the recruiters and companies that are regular participants with us and our events…but in the same way that you’re biased towards a friend rather than a stranger, not because they’ve dangled a few bucks in front of us.

But now we’ve got a few folks approaching us that are willing to run with our outlook.  That understand who we are, what we do, and how we do it.  That “get” our take and approach on things, think it’s a good idea, and want to be a part of it all.

So back to that “hypothetically speaking” moment up there.  Let’s say someone wants to send some cash our way so that we can pick up a drink or two for everyone at one of our Pink Slip Party events…and all they’re asking for in return is, for example…to have some coasters or other swag sprinkled liberally around the bar with their branding to get their name out there.  Now, this isn’t a local company…but they are in/around the IT industry yet it’s not anyone that competes with any of the recruiters or companies that attend our events – we’re not dumb, we wouldn’t do that.  So is that “selling out”…or is that…like we think it is…”acceptable” for the group?

That’s not even that big of a stretch, really.  Those of you who were at the event in June of 2010 probably remember our long-time friend Brad from Mojohost who showed up and graciously dropped a credit card on the bar and picked up the tab for everyone.  And that was just spontaneous, and didn’t even involve swag.  Totally caught everyone off guard, including us – I mean, Brad’s a great guy and all, we’ve always known that…but that was a hell of a gesture.  And we certainly didn’t hear anyone complaining that they weren’t paying for their own drinks.

So that’s where we are right now.  Talking with a few organizations that would like to do things like that.  We’re not giving your information out to anyone, this still isn’t being thought of as an income stream for any of us, but we’d like to figure out how to bring our events up a level from time to time.

So give us your thoughts.  As always, they matter.