A few things to start. First, this is about SQL Saturday events. Only.
This is NOT about the future of the Summit. Redgate is working on that separately from this project.
This is NOT about user groups, which Microsoft and DCAC are helping, each in their own way. If you are interested in those efforts, or want to help, please contact others that are supporting or managing those events.
Second, this is NOT about replacing PASS or taking over their mission. There is no intention from me, or Redgate, to replace the PASS organization.
Third, this is my vision. This is what I think now, and this is completely subject to change when a board of directors gets together in the SQL Saturday Foundation and starts to vote. I’ll have one of nine votes, and everything I think now could be changed. I may start something in the next few weeks to get SQL Saturdays moving that will get abandoned over time.
That’s fine. The important thing for me is to start moving. With that in mind…
I have come to love and appreciate all the different ways that SQL Saturday events have run in the last 14 years. With that in mind, my goal in working to get this foundation set up is to continue to facilitate and promote local, free events organized by individuals in some area.
I see a foundation doing this in a few ways:
- Hosting a landing page for events
- Provide a non profit umbrella
- Tooling that integrates services needed (payment, speakers, registration, etc.)
- Connecting organizers with mentors or volunteers
- Collaborating with other events
- Assisting with fundraising
The first item is easy, and with credits from Azure or AWS as a non-profit, I envision a site like the Data Saturday project to host landing pages for the site. In fact, my first attempt really duplicated a lot of the style from that project.
Likewise, having a non-profit entity is something that needs to get completed. This is likely a US 501(c)(6), allows many organizations to donate to the event and take a tax deduction. Redgate is donating some resources and has engaged lawyers to get this set up.
Tooling is more complex. While I think a lot of the tooling from the old SQL Saturday site was useful, some needed work. I don’t anticipate anyone funding this, but I do think their either an OSS project under this foundation, or under Data Saturdays, can help here with the tools needed.
I don’t anticipate tools being an issue in 2021, as most events a likely to be virtual, but 2022 will need some things. What, I’m not sure. The board will need to prioritize and help here, likely with some committees weighing in.
When we started SQL Saturday, a lot of the time and effort in the first few years were mentoring other organizers. No one really knew how to run an event in 2008. Now we have hundreds, maybe thousands of organizers worldwide that can help. Now I don’t anticipate the foundation being more than a repository for knowledge, and a way for inexperienced organizers to connect with and ask questions of others.
That being said, the board will need to disclose their experiences and help us mentor future board members.
I knew last year that SQL Saturday would be in trouble. Part of my concern led me to join the Data Saturdays project. I’ve helped SQL Saturday events that were scheduled move over and supported them. I think it’s a great project, and I hope that I can work with them as part of SQL Saturday.
There may be other projects or event umbrellas, like Sharepoint Saturday, that we can work with, share tooling, help each other with marketing, and more. My goal is to work together to get more events (and more types) rather than compete.
I want more people to experience a one day conference and get inspired by others. I want more speakers sharing in person. And these days, I really want to get back to in person events at some point.
One of the best things I saw from the previous management of SQL Saturdays was the global partner program, which allowed a sponsor to provide a pool of money that would be allocated to events. This reduced the burden on sponsors, which certainly can be a resource issue. It also provided a base for some events to get started in funding their effort.
In order to provide this program, a legal entity is needed. Unlike the former program, this one will look to send 100% of the sponsor funds to events. I would anticipate fees being minimal here, and those ought to be covered under the annual operating expenses of the foundation.
To me, this is the big work of the foundation. Raising money, deciding how to allocate to events, and publicly accounting for every penny.
We built SQL Saturday to ensure that a lot of people would have the conference experience. They’d get the chance to attend an event, with lots of speakers, with vendors and swag, and get to meet other professionals.
It succeeded beyond any of our expectations thanks to the amazing volunteer efforts of organizers and speakers. SQL Saturday become quite a phenomenon. I want that to continue into the future, with lots of events, lots of volunteers, and lots of collaboration with others.
As I mentioned, this is my vision for now, but subject to the opinions and views of the foundation board of directors.