By Erik Davis

I am the founder and head organizer of NOTiCE (Northern Ohio Testers in Collaborative Engagement). The purpose of this meet up is to give local testers somewhere to meet and talk about testing. We struggled initially with where to host the event. We tried a coffee shop, but found the space too limiting. We thought about hosting it at one of the organizer’s offices, but we work far enough apart from each other to make that a pain. Then we thought about restaurants. I know of other meetups that get together in pubs or restaurants, so I figured, why not? This is where the AST grant program comes in.

For many months, I ignored mentions of the grant program. What could I do with that? I have maybe 8 people showing up to a monthly meetup. It’s not like I’m hosting some large event (well, other than WHOSE). Eventually, a board member got tired of politely mentioning the program and told me to just apply. Not long after, I received a reply from Michael Larsen (the treasurer) with the good news: I had been approved for a grant. What did I come up with as my purpose? To provide food for my meetup to help get people together. Seeing as we are all social creatures, and NOTiCE meets right around dinner time, I thought having food would help get people to come and get them to participate more. So far, it has worked well.

I’ve used the money to supply heavy appetizers for two of my meetings. The first one was back in February. We hosted our first meet up of the year as a “plan the year” event. We had our core group in attendance, and managed to plan out topics through August. We also discussed ways to get the word out better (Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc), and possible locations (the one we had been using was consistently loud and the parking was often horrible).

The second meeting was in April (we cancelled the March event due to weather). We had six attendees, including one first timer, to discuss building tester communities at work. We later morphed the conversation into ways to get better connected and learn more about testing in our area since our first timer was currently looking to get back into testing. That’s one benefit of having a smaller group: it’s easy to change the topic around and react to comments or ideas that pop up in conversation.

Could I run my meet up without the AST grant? Sure I could, I did for 11. Would the meet up be as good? Well the topics wouldn’t change, but the social aspect would definitely take a hit.

I don’t play up the fact that food will be provided until after people arrive at the meetup. I want them to attend because of the topic, not because they get some free food. I also make sure to thank and mention AST (not a grant program requirement) at every meeting so that people know where their wings and reuben spring rolls came from.

Now, I’m not trying to say that every tester meet up should apply for a grant for snacks. I would recommend however, looking for new and interesting ways to promote good testing in your community. If any of them align with the mission of AST, then look to see if there is a way that AST might be able to help. There is no guarantee that your grant request will be accepted, but it can’t hurt to ask.