Feedback for Launching a Community for Large Organizations


(Caleb Love) #1

Sorry for the length. I work for a global nonprofit that has some fairly unusual structure to it but it gets millions of views a month, and basically has two goals for the community. 1- Lower support costs, and 2- integrate community across the organization…So basically they want everything. :slight_smile:

It is awesome that they are so interested… However, being such a large org they are also used to large numbers, have significant needs, and have spent a lot of money. The product team wants to stand up the community like any other tool (Stick it in beta a couple months and then make it public). The support org is swamped and is really pushing. We could get 350k visits just by posting the link in the Help section of our website, but getting the high number of active/ long-term participants is going to be tricky. Another fun fact, while they recognize me as a thought leader in the org, I also happen to be two tiers down from the people I’m trying to emphasize the need to set expectations with and occasionally play the telephone game with them through my managers.

I have been working in the space for years and am cringing at how many best practices we are breaking but I grew up on Macgiver and I’m trying to make due with my bailing wire and bubble gum and am wondering if there are some hacks to help large organizations with existing relationships implement a little quicker. Here’s what we are doing but I’d love to hear your story.

  1. “encouraging” our product team to wait to a while to put the link on the website and allow us to create a hidden network for our staff and patrons that are in our 4,700 physical research facilities and then over the next year, branch out because 1- we have direct contact with them, 2- we can control how many people get in from each facility, 3- They have the expertise to support it when we go public 4- There is high interest and potential for a vibrant online/ offline community. 5-While I can’t build relationships with that many people that quickly, it is a network of people who already have an affinity toward each other and support structure to leverage.

  2. I am also creating a group manager program to empower the different teams in the org to set up their groups within the community.

  3. An employee group for an initiative our CEO is pushing and some private work groups for different teams in the org to communicate with their remote teams of employees and volunteers because I want them tying their business activities into the community before they organize more public groups.

So, onboarding employees, building a team of leaders, and TRYING to set up a somewhat controlled/ organized launch.
Anyone else been in a similar situation with a large org wanting to implement quickly? How did you do it?

@lucasmiller3 @amyperrin @aimee_charlton @duncanfield @doctorj


Persuading MT to start slowly
(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hi Caleb,
Interesting challenge! Before digging in too deep, I have a question.

So given that you’ve just done the strategy course, have you defined your primary goal? If it is reducing support costs, does it matter if engagement and retention are low?


(Josh Wolf) #3

I think I’m in a very different situation given the size of the organization, but we’re doing something very similar to your first point. We brought the staff in first, and now are inviting in active volunteers on a rolling basis that are already connected with each other locally and have established connections between local groups based on past experiences with the organization. The intention is to generate familiarity with the people who are most involved with the organization over time before opening up the community more broadly and we’re still at the early stages of that process.


(Richard Millington) #4

Hey @caleb.love1

This is going to be a really exciting challenge for you, congrats!

I think most organizations tend to want to go for the big bang launch. And, despite what I’ve said many times, if you have the mass it can just about work - especially for customer support.

The problem is it works so much better when you take the time to launch small and test multiple concepts. You can gradually learn what kind of appeals work best and then do more of them. All of which is really useful.

What platform are you using?

What are you doing at this point to ensure that people who ask a question in the community will get a better solution than calling the customer support line? Do you have smart people ready whom can answer questions?


(Caleb Love) #5

The mission of our nonprofit organization is essentially to connect and engage people in doing their genealogy. We don’t just want to give people answers, we want them to connect with each other, learn, share, and continue participating. So when I say “research support” it is a little bit broader use than the typical ask a question, receive an answer. We want them to share what they are learning, best practices, research tips, resources, experiences, etc. The research communities are also a building block to other initiatives.


(Sarah Hawk) #6

Got it. That makes more sense to me.


(Caleb Love) #7

Sometimes you can’t decide if it’s “exciting like skydiving” or “exciting like falling toward the earth at terminal velocity hoping your parachute will open”… it fluctuates day to day :fearful:

We adopted Salesforce as our CRM a couple years ago. We are now expanding to include Communities. Since the org wants to move quickly, I am working on involving specific employee teams, and large research center staff to help as founders and early adopters to prep and seed the initial community. Then tapping into their network we should be able to get the expertise we need to at least lay the groundwork.


(Sarah Hawk) #8

Haha. Love this.


(Caleb Love) #9

How quickly are you expanding?


(Josh Wolf) #10

We’re being very deliberate - the organization is fully bought into the steady build up approach.
We have a list of a couple hundred active volunteers we want to invite directly and will ramp up the rate of invitations but for now want to fine tune the process by learning from them a few at a time. It’s important to us that these key people wind up invested in the community so we’re putting a lot of energy into them for now to foster a sense of ownership.


(Caleb Love) #11

I am jealous. That is exactly what our team would like to do. I guess that is one of the downfalls to organizational collaboration. The more people you involve, the more cooks end up in your kitchen. :slight_smile:
So from that list, are you organizing webinars with small groups, or phone calls, or emails? How are you introducing them to it and how are you fostering the sense of ownership?


(Josh Wolf) #12

Yes to webinars, phone calls, and emails. We started by inviting long time volunteers that we knew we would stick with us despite some bumps along the way and have gotten some really useful feedback about what they’re expecting compared to what they’re finding in the community. Those interactions took place by phone and email that will help us improve our approach for future invitations. Our first attempt at a webinar didn’t get any takers but I hope that was mostly a function of scheduling rather than interest so we’ll try that again at a more convenient time. I think we’ve gotten a lot of valuable information so far that will help us improve our community management.

As far as a sense of ownership goes, we’re offering some behind the scenes access to staff and projects. Members were excited to see a statement from the organization before it went out to the email list, and we loved that they could share their thoughts in a way that doesn’t happen with mass email. We also asked for input on a curriculum update so that they get the sense of being part of the creation process. We’re also asking for input on things like the name of the community so that they really see it as theirs.

Any other useful approaches that people have found? (Or not so useful ones that it would be good to avoid? :slight_smile: )


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