So how did she build these communities to the size they are, and get so many people to join the movement?
The first thing that strikes me as a reason for success is Ria herself; she’s business-like but also open, curious and interested. In essence, she embodies the qualities needed to build a community and attract people to a cause.
During our conversation, she reflected on her experience as a community builder and had a lot of practical wisdom to share:
1. Give without expecting to get
As a community builder or founder, you need to be prepared to sacrifice with no return in the beginning — you can tell a mile off if someone is creating something for their own self-interest.
This first point embodies patience. No matter if the community we are building is for work, our social life, career support, causes, or hobbies; if you set out to quickly achieve your own deadlines, you will not succeed in getting others to follow.
2. Talk about your achievements as a group
Measure your impact! Who is your community serving? What value are you delivering? Talking about this is what keeps people around. Measurement is often overlooked as a business device, but it is crucial even in extra-curricular communities (maybe even more so). If people don’t feel like they’re part of something that is progressing, growing, or achieving its goals, motivation will wane.
3. Identify your purpose
The level of impact your community can have will be directly related to the clarity of your purpose. If you’re not clear and differentiated, people will not follow.
I appreciated Ria’s candidness about impact, telling me stories of communities she’s contributed to which haven’t managed to sustain themselves, or which she’s stepped away from. It illustrated her point perfectly; if people start to forget why they were turning up and contributing in the first place, they will quickly lose interest.
4. True communities are more than their umbrella organisation
Building a true community and building a brand are very different activities. A community should be about fostering relationships and when tested, they should endure, even if the umbrella organisation does not.
This point really resonated with me as I have worked in the commercial community space in the past. There are many businesses out there who try to connect more deeply with their customers but they never quite get beyond going through the motions. A customer’s desire to help stems from feeling part of the community, be it online or offline, and that will only emerge when you include your customers from the ground up. In other words, include them in your mission, in creating your brand and in determining what it stands for.
4. It takes a community to build a community
Don’t underestimate the importance of mobilising others to help you. Ria shared a useful tip; contact five friends and ask them to each bring someone along. When people are being relied upon, they feel more invested in the cause. Use this to build your community and open its reach wider.