2015.01 News: SWAG Board Votes To Disband Group

We begin 2015 with sad tidings that many of you have seen coming for a long time. The Southern Wisconsin Apple Group (SWAG) really isn't viable any longer, and the board has voted to recommend to the membership that it be shut down. The motions to do so are listed under the "Business" tab. They will come to the floor early in the January meeting and will be subject to debate and amendment at that time.

This recommendation was prompted by declining membership in general, declining attendance at meetings, and officer burnout. Examples:
  • Altho our current newsletter mailing list is in the vicinity of 60 recipients, about ⅓ of them are complimentary subscriptions to other user groups, Apple corporate, the Apple Store at West Towne, Graphite, etc. We have fewer than 40 dues-paying members, compared to literally hundreds (with internal interest groups for publishing, programming, etc.) 20 years ago.
  • At our December movie night, intended purely for enjoyment (no brain strain) and with free popcorn, we had only about half a dozen people show up, and some of them left early.
  • President Dave Weston has been the only person doing Q&A for the last several years, and he's also been doing over half the formal presentations. Repeated appeals to the members to do their own presentations, or even suggest ideas for them, have produced almost no results.
  • Similarly, Secretary Holly McEntee has been essentially single-handedly putting out the newsletter every month for years with almost no input from anyone else.
  • Richard S. Russell has been responsible for 95% of the content of our official blog (what you're reading right now), and we can't even seem to draw comments on it.
  • When Vice-President Doc Huntington had to resign for health reasons, we put out an all-call for someone to step up and fill the vacant office. Nobody at all responded.
We've observed that, for most of the 21st Century, the average age of our membership has increased by about 11 months every year. The reason it's not 12 months isn't that we're attracting more young members, it's because the older ones are dying off. While the board feels that there's still some value in having an Apple user group (at a minimum, because we ourselves enjoy getting together for our monthly board meetings at a local restaurant), and that there are still people who appreciate its services, there simply aren't enuf of them to justify the amount of work it entails, especially since that work falls on very few people, and we too are getting older and tireder.

The problem is not financial. SWAG isn't bankrupt or even anywhere near insolvent. After we abandoned printing and mailing a paper newsletter in favor of using exclusively e-mail for distribution, our expenditures became minimal, and we started accumulating a healthy operating balance. In fact, we've reduced dues 3 times over the last 5 years because, even with a declining membership, we were still taking in cash faster than we could spend it. The expenditures we did make, in an effort to draw in more members, were for advertising some of our meetings (those with broader general appeal) in Isthmus, but those ads didn't seem to draw in a single new person, not even for a single meeting, let alone on a continuing basis.

So we have a respectable balance in our treasury. (Treasurer Raul DeLuna will tell us exactly how much at the January meeting.) As a non-profit organization, we're not allowed to simply divvy it up among ourselves when the group folds. The shutdown plan calls for us to refund the unused portion of your annual dues, but then we'll still have a pile of cash that the IRS requires us to give to some other non-profit organization. Since the Madison Public Library has been so good to SWAG (and its predecessor, Mad Mac) thru the years, the board recommends donating the last of our treasury to the Madison Public Library Foundation.

And, after the last "I" has been dotted and the last "T" has been crossed, our final act will be to sign off from this blog after 30 years of service to Apple users in the Madison vicinity.

Nothing lasts forever, and it's been a good run, but it's time to go.


  1. I would hate to see the group disband. Perhaps we can cut back on the meetings, by starting later at 6:30 or 7:00. Or no meetings in August and/or December, or al least skip the popcorn. If there is no formal program have general discussion. There always seems to be some new system or program to talk about. Cut back on the newsletter content to just announce the meeting date and program, if any, and perhaps a couple of the better Q&As from the last meeting.

    Since most people never volunteer for anything, did you ask anyone to be VP?

    1. We asked everyone if someone would be willing to step up, both on this site and in the newsletter.

      Crickets. Not even a "What might the job entail?" inquiry. That's pretty much when we decided to throw in the towel.