We started our new hiking group in January 2018 and up to July 2019, it has grown to over 650 members on Meetup. The original plan was to have an event overy other week, mostly day hikes and some weekends away but we increased this to an event nearly every weekend. We are pleased to see a growing core of regular members who come on many of our hikes.

The group is run on a non-commercial basis and the original plan was to break even after the first year, by 31st Dec 2018. In 2018, this was revised to break even after two years, by 31st Dec 2019 but even that target is not currently achievable due to a substantial increase in costs since Jan 2018.

Meetup Inc. is based in New York and anyone who operates a Meetup Group needs to pay an organizer subscription that is priced in US Dollars. Until June 2019, the cost was US$14.99 per month payable 6 months in advance, then it increased to US$16.49 per month. This is the same for any size Meetup group with more than 50 members and it can cover up to three Meetup groups but we currently only operate one group.

Meetup Inc. organizer subscriptions are now being collected by an intermediary company in Co. Kerry, Ireland and now we also have to pay 20% Irish VAT (in US Dollars!) whereas we never had to pay VAT before. If this Meetup group were run by a UK company registered for VAT (which it isn’t) then we could submit an Intra-Community VAT ID Number so that future payments from Jan 2020 would be zero rated for VAT but only if the UK hasn’t left the EU before then.

The Sterling to US Dollar exchange rate has fallen by about 10% since Jan 2018 and possible further falls have been forecast, depending on what happens with Brexit. US$98.94 + 20% VAT = US$118.73 for 6 months but after adding bank charges such as non-Sterling transaction fees, the Sterling total is GBP 98.77 for 6 months compared to GBP 69.20 in Jan 2018. That’s a 42.7% increase.

Our group also has other costs including Internet domain name registration and web site hosting. We use Amazon Web Services (AWS) which costs less than any UK provider that we have found but AWS is priced in US Dollars so it also affected by exchange rate movements.

We therefore regret the need to increase the voluntary donation per event from £1 to £2 with effect from 1st August 2019 in order to cover costs (eventually).