OK, so after yesterday, you’ve got a potential group or two that you might like to join.  The general format of the group and the make-up of its members will meet some as yet unmet need that you have.  Time to join up, right?
Not so fast.  Here are a few other questions that you should be asking:
  1. How often does the group get together?  Does that match your available time?  Many closed networking groups meet once per week.  Some social groups might meet only once per quarter.  You’ll want something that meets frequently enough that you have a chance of becoming known but not so frequently that it will place an undue burden on you.
  2. How much will it cost?  Is there an annual fee? What about the cost for each gathering?  Many social groups cost only enough to cover the venue.  Becoming a member of a non-profit board on the other hand can run into the thousands when you count the donations you will be expected to make to the cause.  Will what you expect to get from the association (whether it’s business, personal connections, or satisfaction that you are giving back to the community) justify the expense?
  3. How can you serve? What sorts of opportunities does the group offer that will allow you to give back? How much time will it take?  Helping to host a Chamber networking event rarely takes more than an extra half hour or so.  Being on the fundraising committee for a non-profit, however, can almost be a full-time job.  How will that fit in with the time you have available?
  4. How many members does it have? How often does it have new members or visitors?  If your goal is to meet new people, then a group which is largely stable will afford you less opportunity.  On the other hand, if your goal is to secure deep relationships with just a few people, a group with a more stable membership would suit you better.
  5. How well does the group treat new members and visitors?  Do they go out of their way to make them comfortable at events?  Watch this closely as it can quite often be an indicator of the future success of the organization.  If they aren’t welcoming new members and making sure that visitors walk away with a good impression, how can they hope to maintain a strong long-term membership?
  6. What other membership requirements are there?  Does the group have an attendance policy? Are you expected to host events for the group yourself?  Many closed networking groups require that you bring referrals every week for other group members.  Can you realistically meet the added requirements?
I’m sure there are other questions specific to given group categories, but this should at least give you a good start on evaluating whether a group fits your needs and lifestyle.  I would also recommend that you apply these questions to any groups you might already belong to.  Maybe one or two of them overlap and can be left off the schedule in the future.
After all we all only have 24 hours in the day.  We need to invest our time in areas where it will pay off the best.