Community Team: How To Build A Volunteer Team For Online Community

Taniksha Gupta
April 20, 2022

The whole community space is now evolving, especially with many brands becoming community-led. More and more teams are going beyond hiring just one community manager. As a brand scales, so does its community. There are also many community first brands where monetization happens via the community directly. This brings us to the topic for our 7th roundtable discussion, 'How to structure your community team'.

In today's blog, we will talk about:

  • How is an internal community team structured?
  • What are the benefits of structuring the community team?
  • How does the community team coordinate with volunteers and other internal teams?

And much more!

Before we move forward, if you're in search of a platform for running a community, then check out LikeMinds now! Our platform offers great inbuilt features that will make it super easy for you to monetize your e-learning community and increase engagement.

The round table was led by the following community builders:

  • Nirav Chahwala - Creative Entrepreneur and Founder of BRANDFLUENZERS Community.
  • Sourav Banerjee - Head of Community Relations at Learn for Cause.
  • Ruche Mittal - The Founder of HEN, one of the earliest communities in India.
  • Manohar Kabeer - Community Manager at Mentza and Founder of 90ML Talks.
  • Prateeksha Kedia - Founder of 3 communities empowering more than 1.5 lakh members in their journey of parenting.
  • Vineet Nandan Gupta - Facebook Certified CM with Expertise in Community strategy and Growth consulting.

Various Community Team Structures

At the first table, Sidharth had a 14k+ members community called G+ based out of Guwahati. It is a very hyper-local thing. He is planning to hire a community manager soon. Since it is a media company, they have a social media team, and content team, to make sure that the communities engage. They have a challenge in terms of how a community engages and how exactly this thing can be structured.

Speaking about Sameer, he is running a community of students. They have multiple small groups in place. But most of the students are a part of a financial boot camp. Sameer has conducted a lot of these boot camps successfully. What he observed is that the students want to learn and they are okay with the small stipend. But once they learn from it and acquire skills, that is where their motivation comes into place.

Rajat is currently sitting up a community of exporters. Because it is a fairly new group community team that they are working on, he is currently managing it single-handedly. There is no team as such. However, the community is functioning on Mighty Networks. Mighty Networks is another platform to put a community together.

Talking about Vikas, he runs a senior and elders engagement platform. So, they have a 5 member team and 3 of them are part of the community. Because seniors cannot be given much responsibility, anybody who volunteers, comes and talk to them and make sure that they are taking the initiative but through WhatsApp and their app internally, they know they are doing it.

There seem to be a lot of parallels between what CommunityHood is right now, and what Vikas is doing. CommunityHood is a great benchmark for him to look at, giving him a chance to observe and learn how exactly this thing spans out.

Benefits Of Structuring The Community Team

Tarun is a part of the speakers' community. It is a member-led and membership-based community. Currently, it is a society in the process of being converted into a Section 8 company. For 150 members, they get access to the 14 countries and the events which are happening. It is more of a society-led community. They have a structure in place where the communication is being put. It is very niche and curated at this point.

Mandeep has been a part of 5 communities out of which 2-3 were interest-based. What he shared was that he is a part of an electronics and telecommunication group as well as Punjab Chambers of Commerce, where they are still ideating and structuring the community. They have done a lot of volunteer events but at this point, they still haven't come across a challenge where a community team needs to be in place. So, as they scale, they will have a structure in place.

Aditya is supporting a spiritual community on Facebook. They have a group of 3 lakh people. It works with the help of an admin and 8 moderators sitting in different parts of the world. It is a completely volunteer-led group. And it is purely based on interest. They connect on their interest, they are passionate about it, and so they are coming together to support it.

One of the biggest takeaways from the first table was that 'It is essential to have a defined community team structure and volunteer team structure along with the SOP (standard operating procedure) for the events as it makes the onboarding process easier. It also helps in making sure that the event is running in the auto-pilot mode.'

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Community Team At Non-Profit Organizations

At the second roundtable, Ruche started the conversation by talking about Saujanya, who runs an NPO (non-profit organization). It is an NPO where they work with children. They have 2 kinds of systems:

  1. The Corporate sector where they have program managers, admin staff, facilitators, etc.
  2. They also have a set of volunteers whom they attract through universities and colleges.

For NPOs, it has been observed that it is much easier to attract volunteers. If we share the purpose of the community, the volunteers might want to pitch in and contribute. So, the question for all of us community builders here is 'If are we sharing the purpose of our communities enough for volunteers to work in and work with our organization.' That was one good takeaway!

Surbhi runs an NPO (non-profit organization) for women. They educate women on hygienic products. While Surbhi is working on educating women and also building the product, one thing that she brought up was that in her organization, they partner with various other organizations on the local as well as national level.

In Ruche's personal experience, running a community from a Facebook premium group to a paid group now and having her networking platform, she also had that same experience. She has one group of the community team, which is the internal team, that is on the pay road.

Other people volunteer for them. These are the mentors and experts. And they also have a set of partners who provide various kinds of support systems for their members. So, they are working on all these three verticals.

However, they are still working to set up a community team structure where they can build a strong volunteer program being a profit model company and not an NPO. So, that remains a point of work for her at HEN.

Role Of Marketing In A Community

Speaking of Ahmed, he has an app and they have built a community of 1k+ people within a month. They have worked on it endlessly for 2 years and they are still doing a lot of things even now. The thing that worked for them is to keep marketing simple and be quick. Evolve with time and move fast.

Community building is about marketing, so the questions for all of us are:

  • How much to focus on marketing strategies?
  • Are we keeping things simple?
  • Are people able to understand us?
  • Is the purpose being communicated?

In terms of the community team, it is still building up since they are fairly new. Currently, they have a team of 4 and they are working to build it up further.

Struggles Of Monetizing The Community

It was a mixed bag of people at the third table. One of the members had just gotten involved with a startup and he wanted to know and learn how to capitalize on communities. And for that, he is trying all the best possible ways out!

Then, they had people who were running fitness-based communities. They wanted to proceed further with paid memberships, but the challenge they had was monetization. They currently have a team of 2 extra volunteer members. However, they have started making the hierarchy as they are growing.

They also had a mom community from Jaipur. Rachna has been handling it for the last eight years. The community is 6.5k members long with multiple WhatsApp groups. Women help each other with their specialties. They also have a team of 2-3 volunteers. They have a good name in Jaipur and they are still growing. She wants to see how CommunityHood and LikeMinds can help her with monetizing the community.

A major focus at the third table was on the fact that they are all building their community team currently and they want to learn how they can grow and monetize their communities going forward.

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Need For A Community Team

At the fourth table, not everyone had a structure, but people overcame their inhibitions and said that they wanted to build one. The problem of not having a structure is a reality at this point. After all, the conviction around communities is gradually evolving, so due to the lack of strategy or that kind of conviction from the business, there weren't any established structures.

All of them had very diverse communities. In the case of Manny, there weren't any volunteers because the nature of the community is such that it requires professional advice. They have trainers and counselors, and it makes business sense to not rely on a volunteer program because it is about giving the right advice.

Just for the sake of efficiency or to cut the cost, using the volunteers in the wrong context may backfire rather than being useful to you.

The limited ways in which communities are using volunteers are either for ideation, referrals, or content contribution where people don’t have to work very hard to ignite the spirit of the volunteers proves to be quite efficient in such cases.

Dipisha from New York talked about a community on Slack, called 'Alpha'. People contribute there, but she is doing things mostly on her own and she relies on tools rather than people. This was common at their table, 'there was an affinity towards tools over volunteers'.

Anisha is a part of a community where they get on a Google meet call and then, they crowd-source ideas for what needs to be posted on social media next.

The key takeaway was that just going to call out for volunteers is not going to work. If you want to make a good volunteer program, make a community design where people feel motivated to work. It is not only the rewards but the design of your community where volunteers will find space.

Some Other Fruitful Insights

  • Scaling is where volunteers can help in a community. teamIt is quite beneficial to have a strong volunteer program.
  • Instagram is more of a people platform, not a community. People use Slack, Discord, Facebook, or WhatsApp for a small number of people. 
  • People use community-specific platforms and in-app communities for a large number of people. 
  • Any platform through which you can communicate and solve people‚Äôs problems can be termed an ideal community platform. 
  • For issues related to monetization, you need to hire passionate people for community team building.
  • You cannot just put someone with a social media background into community building. It is not going to work. 

CommunityHood is an initiative by LikeMinds where we try to help the community builders' ecosystem, by exchanging peer-to-peer learning. We also do a lot of events, where we bring the industry experts and share their learnings with our members. Be a part of our journey, join CommunityHood today!

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