One question we often get asked at Stitch is how the Stitch Community is different from the web site Meetup.com.
Stitch and Meetup have a few features in common, but overall have been created to fulfil very different needs. This article outlines the differences between both sites, along with some of the reasons someone may have for choosing one platform over the other (or both).
What is Meetup?
Meetup is an online platform that helps people create, and discover organized interest groups in their local area. These interest groups are called “Meetups”, and each group will usually host events on a recurring basis.
Meetups are most frequently organized around particular interests, which can be either professionally-oriented (e.g. software development, entrepreneurship, business networking), or oriented around hobbies and interests (e.g. walking, astronomy, sailing).
Meetup organizers have to pay a subscription fee in order to host events. Meetup attendees have traditionally been able to use Meetup for free, although many Meetup organizers would ask for a small financial contribution from attendees at their events. In October 2019 Meetup announced it would be requiring attendees to pay a small fee to attend events as well.
Meetups generally fall into one of three categories, based on the goals of the individual Meetup organizer:
Commercial / Professional
Many Meetups are commercially or professionally oriented, with organizers using them to either promote their own small business activities, or foster engagement around professional and/or commercial topics.
Special Interest Groups
A large number of Meetups are devoted to specific hobbies & interests: walking, jogging, photography, and so on. Occasionally these have a commercial or semi-commercial basis, but most of the time these groups are organized by people who are simply passionate about a particular subject. Attendees can be anyone who is interested in participating in the particular activity.
Some Meetups are not focused on any specific hobby or interest, but on helping its members find social connections more generally. Examples include: "Sydney Singles 35+", "New York Singles Over 40 Meetup Group", "The Chicago Social Club 20s to 40s". Members who join these groups are often seeking companionship, in much the same way Stitch members are.
Purpose of Meetup vs. Purpose of Stitch
As you can tell from the above description, Meetup is structured around large, organized interest groups, and does a great job at helping group organizers create and schedule events for their members.
In case it's not already clear, we're big fans of Meetup and think it fulfils a really important purpose.
To understand the differences between Meetup and Stitch, however, it's important to understand that Stitch is built to meet a very different set of goals.
Stitch is a social enterprise built for a very specific purpose: helping anyone over 50 enrich their lives by finding the companionship they need.
It is true that many people over 50 joined Meetup as a way to find companionship, but that's often because there weren't traditionally any better options available. They may have already discovered that dating sites haven't given them a good experience, and that it's far more fun to meet people while doing activities they enjoy. Even if Meetup wasn't specifically been built to help them find close companionship, they may have found it a better choice than joining a dating site.
Of course, as Stitch grows and builds our community in new areas, we would encourage those members to join Stitch too.
Stitch does include some superficial similarities with Meetup, such as the fact that both sites include interest groups and events, but on Stitch these features are designed to serve the goal of finding companionship, rather than being an end to themselves. And because Stitch is focused on connecting people individually as well as in groups, we have had to build a range of other features which are necessary for a site like Stitch but don't fit a site like Meetup.
To help you understand why you might choose one site over the other (or both), the following section explains some of the differences in detail.
Differences between Meetup & Stitch
Here are some of the biggest differences between Stitch and Meetup:
Focus on companionship
As outlined above, Stitch's focus is on helping our members find companions who enrich their lives, not just on attending events and activities. Research tells us that finding a small number of rich deep relationships has a much more positive impact on our wellbeing than simply attending social events.
That is why Stitch's features are built around the different ways our members find like-minded companions, whether that's purely friendship, a romantic partner, or (as is often the case) both. These include:
The Stitch Members page which introduces members to each other across the community based around shared interests and other factors. Friendships are usually built around more than just a single hobby or activity after all.
Smaller, ad-hoc activities rather than large organized events (more on this below)
Stitch discussions, which bring members together around ideas, rather than just events and activities
Stitch's Verification system which keeps our members safe while allowing them to connect with other members from around the world
A rich messaging and communication platform built around the idea of helping members connect with each other around multiple shared interests
For Stitch, real success happens when one of our members tells us that they've made new, deep friendships through the community, or travelled across the country to meet another Stitch member, or even have got married to someone they met on the Stitch discussion forums.
Types of activities
On Meetup, events are hosted by group owners, and are oriented around get-togethers for large groups. Large events like these exist on Stitch too, but a bigger emphasis in the Stitch community are smaller, ad-hoc activities which can be suggested by any member.
That's because the one thing that all our members have in common is that they often know of things they would like to do, but choose not to because they don't have anyone to do them with. Has a play come out recently that you'd like to see? Do you like avant-garde French cinema but have nobody to watch it with? Just suggest something on Stitch to find other members who would like to come with you. Many Stitch activities include just a few people instead of being large social get-togethers, which promotes conversation and connections between members with similar interests.
On Meetup, event organizers need to pay a subscription fee in order to create events, while attendees don't. (Although as mentioned above, Meetup has recently announced they are planning to change this model so that all attendees pay a small fee when attending events.)
On Stitch, you don't need to be a paying member to organize and suggest events, and you can attend activities and events for free. Stitch members only require a paid membership if they want to unlock greater ability to browse individual Stitch member profiles and connect with more members one-to-one, or to use some of the other features related to connecting with other members online.
Social mission & background
Stitch differs from Meetup in that it was founded as a social enterprise, built to have a specific social impact of addressing social isolation for older adults. The Stitch community itself is a not-for-profit charity (and is in the process of acquiring deductible gift status, to allow donors to more easily contribute to our social mission).
Meetup, by contrast, is a Silicon Valley venture capital backed social network, which raised over $20M in venture funding and was sold in 2017 to WeWork (itself a multi-billion dollar company) for $200M. This doesn't mean Meetup can't make a positive difference to the lives of its users, but its social mission isn't baked in to the DNA of its business the way it is with the Stitch community.
Stitch is ultimately governed by a mandate to do what it can to improve the lives of its members.
Apart from those Meetup groups which target specific age ranges, most Meetup groups are age-agnostic. So if you're a 65 year old fan of physics, you'll be attending events with people aged anywhere from their late teens through to their 80s or beyond.
For some people, that's great! But if you're looking to find someone who is in your own age range AND shares one or more interests with you, it doesn't work so well. Stitch is designed to help older adults find like-minded companions within a broadly similar age range.
On Meetup, everything is structured around interest groups, or "Meetups". On Stitch, interest groups are only optional. That's because Stitch itself is very much a community, and Stitch members connect with other members right across the community, rather than just through interest groups alone.
A Stitch member can choose to suggest an activity just to a specific group on Stitch, for example, or to suggest it to the whole community.
Unlike Meetup, Stitch has very strict rules about commercial activity on Stitch. We found that allowing members to post activities for a commercial benefit created too many opportunities for the community to be abused for commercial gain.
The Stitch community rules now prohibit commercial activity on Stitch.
Similarly, Stitch does not allow or accept advertising. What is in the best interest of an advertiser is usually not in the best interest of Stitch members, and Stitch's overriding principle is to always act in the best interests of our membership.
Stitch will only allow third-party organizations to create activities on Stitch where those organizations are working in the best interests of Stitch members. This includes government agencies seeking to promote better social connections to their communities, non-profit communities, health providers, or similar organizations.
Meetup was founded in 2002 and is now a large corporation, having raised tens of millions of dollars in venture-capital funding and been acquired for $200M. This means it has invested a lot of money in growing the number of Meetup users across the world over a sustained period of time.
Stitch, by contrast, is a much newer community (founded 2014), and is usual for a social enterprise has never raised large amounts of venture capital investment to be used to grow the community. Stitch has instead relied on word-of-mouth growth from our existing members, partnerships with key government and non-government organizations and community groups to grow the Stitch community in new areas, plus the incredible efforts of Stitch member volunteers.
As a result, there are plenty of cities worldwide which have active Meetup groups but don't yet have active Stitch communities. If you live in one of the cities, and would like Stitch to come to your area, why don't you talk to us about what we can do to grow the community in your area?
Which should you use?
If you've read everything above, you've probably already realized that the answer to the question of whether you should use Meetup or Stitch depends what you're looking for.
If you're over 50 and would like to get a little more companionship in your life, then Stitch is most likely a pretty good choice for you, particularly if you live in an area where the Stitch community is already very active or is getting started.
If you are under 50, live in an area without many Stitch members yet, or just are looking to attend events without necessarily wanting to make new friendships, then Meetup could well be a better choice.
There is, however, an even better answer to the question of which site you should choose.
You don't have to choose at all!
Stitch and Meetup are both great sites built to fulfil different needs, and there is no reason why you can't use both. We always encourage all our members to try anything that could enrich their lives, and if joining Meetup groups does that for them then we are thrilled.
At the end of the day, the only thing we care about is what makes life better for our members!
(And pizza, of course. We love pizza)