Since it came on the scene four years ago, the organization known as Newaukee has connected thousands of Milwaukee’s young professionals.
It's one of a growing number of groups in the area shaking up conventional options for networking.
But an article in the December issue of Milwaukee Magazine tries to delve into the sometimes complex goals these young professional organizations have, how they coordinate and how they compete.
Newaukee started in 2009 as a social networking group among Milwaukee’s young professionals demographic, offering a way to get to know each other over a drink or two. Over time, the group has grown more ambitious, looking to create more professional development.
“They’re a hard thing to define,” says Matthew Hrodey, Associate Editor of Milwaukee Magazine. “They’ll describe themselves as a group that activates talent and space to promote the city, and in some respects, they’re sort of a civic organization – they see themselves as promoting the new guard of the city.”
Newaukee’s strength is in social media and connection. They tout that they have the largest membership, with 40,000 members and/or followers. This includes people who attend their events as well as those on their mailing list.
While Newaukee’s organization is free, its competitor Fuel Milwaukee has the largest paid membership in the city. Hrodey says it appears the two organizations get along and work together.
Hrodey says Newaukee is kind of like the young professionals' version of more traditional civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis. But the group is less about formalities and more about getting down to business - even if that business isn't always clear.
"Newaukee has always been more amorphous and blobby," Hrodey says. "It kind of allows them some flexibility, but they also have to keep the buzz temperature high enough that they can kind of keep the static cling going."
That buzz, when it works, offers tangible benefits. Businesses and other organizations hope that by working with Newaukee, they can attract more young professional patronage.
"They have lists, they can stir up 200 or 300 people at a bar at some kind of an event for a nonprofit overnight," he says.
Since pairing up with the group, both the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Ballet have found younger audience members frequenting their performances more regularly.
Matt Hrodey’s article on Newaukee is called “Fountain of Youth,” and it’ll be in the December issue of Milwaukee Magazine, which goes out to subscribers next week and hits newsstands on December 2nd.