Tips for starting groups
Why start a community group? Types of groups. Roles & being a group leader. Getting members and launching the group. Incorporating and formalizing a group.
Recommended Resource COMMUNITY CANVAS
A framework that will help you build and run a new community, or analyze and improve an existing community. Poses questions through a 1-page canvas worksheet (full, shortened), guidebook, and worksheet doc. It is available in multiple languages.
Leading a group is hard work! It’s not easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding: personally & professionally. It is a unique and powerful experience.

Why Start a Group?

Know who you are and what you're creating. It is important to be very clear on why YOU want to do this.
Be as specific as you can, but some general reasons may include:
    Professional Benefits
      Practicing & demonstrating leadership
      Creating job or project opportunities
      Networking
      Learning: keeping your skills sharp & current
      Stay up to date with leading practices from other companies and individuals
    Personal Benefits
      Making friends
      Staying interested by geeking out with others
    Bigger Picture
      Industry innovation, impact, and movement-building
      Build a sense of community
As you're reflecting on this - talk with a lot of people to see what resonates with them.
Having no clear guiding purpose can stifle growth or, worse, lead to failure. See Group Mission & Vision.
The name of your group is important.
See some branding guidelines from Autodesk if you're starting a group.

Types of Groups

    Physical groups/ local groups/ meetup groups - Meeting physically and synchronously for conversations and connection is the core. Focus is often deeper personal connections and in-depth topics.
    Online Groups - Meeting online and often asyncronously for chatting, Q&A, and sharing is the core. Focus is often quicker knowledge sharing.
    Company Practice Groups - All members are within a company, seeking to improve practices within the firm.

Study History & Precedents

    Have there been similar groups in the past in this area? What happened to them?
    Are there current groups doing what you want to do? Should you join or partner with them?
    Can you talk with current and past leaders of these other groups to get insight?

Roles & Being a Group Leader

Leaders of the group set the tone, and healthy groups come from healthy leadership relationships. Define your group's leadership structure, even if it's informal.
    Find another leader to do this with you?
      It’s more fun and rewarding to work with others.
      It's risky and less resilient if groups are too heavily dependent on one person.
    Some groups run on "do-ocracy" - If you have time & interest to do something, just do it and enroll people along the way.
      People may work themselves into specific niches based on interest and proficiency
      High functioning leadership teams share responsibility and are able to distribute tasks over time.
    Some groups formalize roles, though it's common that one person wears many hats.
      President
      Treasurer
      Secretary
      Vice President
      Partnerships manager
      Membership manager
    A marketing person is crucial for every group to help drive engagement and awareness with group activities (on social media, etc)
    Meet & communicate as a leadership team
      Make time commitments and time availability clear and explicit.
      Leadership is a support system for each other
      Have a culture of accountability
      Have fun together
    When groups are very young, they're in a fragile state when the first leader is the decision-maker, executes most tasks, and establishes group norms.
      As that first leader: take care with the tone you set, and seek to enroll others and get support.
"A group does not belong to whoever starts it, it belongs to everyone involved." - Adam Reilly, Austin CADD User Group

What do group leaders do?

    Set the tone, vision, and direction of a group
    Plan and host events
    Maintain tools for the group (establish systems/ platforms for conversation)
    Seed and share content
    Catalyze & encourage conversation
    Participate in conversations
    Moderate conversations, enforce ground rules of the group + space
    Welcome people & make introductions
    Project management
    Manage membership and member data
    Analytics and gauging group health
    Manage money, create budgets, raise funds
    Create partnerships and get sponsors
    Communicate to the group (via e-mail, social media, etc)
    Market the group, market events

Tools to use when starting groups

You may need to set-up some infrastructure for the group when you start.
    A website
    A social media account
    A way to accept payment or sell tickets
    Group chat
    An email account
    An email newsletter or list-serve
    A shared file storage drive
Start simple and see what works. See more in the Tools for Groups guide.

Group Documentation & Communication

    Investing in good group documentation can pay off if and as the group grows.
    This can be as simple as a shared cloud storage drive (e.g. Google Drive) and good meeting minutes.

Money

Not all groups require financial backing, but this is definitely a consideration to discuss as you’re starting your group. Leaders should communicate openly, honestly, and in-good-faith about money.
Often individual group leaders pay for up-front costs and seek to recoup those costs - but this can be financially risky. It also might lead to leadership disagreements and power imbalances if communication is not good.
    What do you need money for and where will it come from?
    Will you sell tickets?
    Will you need to front money?
    Will you find sponsors?
    Will there be membership costs?*
You may want to explore partnerships to help get members and/or sponsors financially.
* Note that groups in the Autodesk Group Network must have a free and public membership option (as of June 2020).

Getting Members & Launching the Group

Many new group leaders ask how to promote and get momentum when they start...
    The personal brand of founder & leaders matters:
      If you’d like to launch a group, it is a good idea to launch your blog at first
      Building a following on social media (e.g. YouTube channel)
      If you don't already have that online presence, maybe your colleague has one that you could springboard from.
      If you already have a strong individual presence online, an online group is likely to have rapid growth in the beginning.
    Get people engaged by the purpose
    Promotion through the grapevine is a good idea, especially if you’re an extrovert.
      Find a group with the similar topics, on the same platform, or on a different one (If you’re on Facebook – explore LinkedIn, Telegram, vk, etc), contact the admin and ask them to promote your group. It is not dangerous for them because if they are confident and professional, they won’t lose the audience.
      Talk to subject matter experts and influencers from the industry who are relevant to the group.
        Ask them about their perception, what they are interested in, would they join the group, who else would they talk with and how would they promote it?
        Convey "I want you to be part of the journey"... the goal is not to have everyone join the group, just to gather allies, insights, and connections.
        Can these conversations improve and evolve your initial ideas? They might end up shaping the group's mission & vision - in addition to recruiting people.

Create a Launch Plan

    Who's the audience? Don't just blindly recruit. Make sure the people you're attracting are the right people for the group's goals.
    What's the main message and call-to-action? Reinforce the purpose of the group.
    Do a soft-launch first with a smaller audience - play around, pre-populate conversations, create artifacts, give feedback to each other, have fun.
    Get the word out by...
      Writing blog posts & articles
      Presenting at other events and groups
      Social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
      Being a guest on podcasts
      Emails (crafted to be easily forwarded)
    Have realistic expectations. If your high expectations aren't met at first launch, try to find value, keep your motivation, and kindle the flame.
    Other resources on the web...

Take care in community management

    Do community management
    Do moderation
    Do enforce ground rules
    Make sure people are getting what they need
    Make sure the space you're hosting is healthy & welcoming

Incorporating & Formalizing a Group

    Groups can be incorporated as non-profits and/or industry associations
    Benefits of legally incorporating include
      Creating a structure for continuity & decision-making
      Limiting liability of group leaders
      Holding bank accounts as a group, not as individuals
      Enter into partnerships and contracts with other companies or groups
      Enabling tax deductible donations (if a charity)
    The incorporation process is different by country and by state, but it involves writing formal bylaws, registering with the government, nominating a board of directors, etc...
    The downside of incorporating is that it adds administrative overhead.

Other resources from the web

Engage to improve

Fill out our interest form to get support in starting a group Or, become a peer mentor
Last modified 8mo ago