Here in Victoria, B.C., the nonprofit and tech communities are fairly tight-knit; but some of these communities seem to operate in separate spheres that don’t necessarily overlap. As organizers of NetSquared Victoria—which is part of the NTEN 501 Tech Club program—bringing together these communities to share ideas and resources is part of our mission.
Here are some strategies we’ve used to draw different communities to our events and get community members more engaged.
- Start a Needs Parade. We end all of our events with a “needs parade,” a chance for speakers, volunteers, or attendees to deliver a 30-second pitch about a specific need to the group. Needs can be anything from, “I’m new to Victoria and I’m looking for work as a social media manager,” to “I’m planning an event and we need sponsors,” to “My rock band needs a drummer—anyone know a drummer?” This is an easy icebreaker that helps prompt connections and conversations that might not have happened otherwise.
- Co-sponsor events. Partnering with like-minded organizations to co-sponsor is a great way to get members of both organizations talking to each other and sharing ideas. The women in tech panel we hosted with the Victoria chapter of Ladies Learning Code was one of our most popular events. So popular, in fact, that we’re running another women in tech panel on February 23. We also help organize an annual event called NGO Ho Ho, where small nonprofit groups can celebrate the holidays together at a much bigger and more festive bash than they could throw individually.
- Recruit diverse organizers. We think having a large group of diverse organizers who pitch in as they’re able can be better than a small, homogenous group of organizers, even if the smaller group is more devoted and hard-working. That’s because diverse organizers can help attract more diverse speakers and attendees, which leads to livelier discussions at our events and more cross-pollination of ideas. Plus, it’s easier for a small group of devoted, hard-working people to burn out. We’re pretty flexible about the level of time commitment, which makes it easy for organizers to contribute when they’re able to and avoid guilt when they’re not.
- Invite varied speakers. In planning our events, we try not to focus too much on speakers from one type of organization or topics that overlap too many months in a row. By inviting presenters with varied experiences, it helps us bring in varied attendees. Often, our event speakers share or retweet our event announcements, too, so it’s also a chance to engage with their communities. Social Media Surgery is a great example of varied speakers. Our last Social Media Surgery featured six “surgeons” (experts on various aspects of online communication and social media) offering one-on-one tips and advice in an informal setting.
- Engage the community on social media. We live-tweet our events using the hashtag #Net2Vic and retweet other attendees using the same hashtag. After each event, we also compile highlights using Storify so that others can see the main takeaways, or attendees can recap the key points. In promoting our events, we use other hashtags to indicate geography, such as #YYJ (the airport code for Victoria) or #YYJevents, so that those following the hashtag know about the events even if they don’t know our organization yet. Posting event photos on social media (we give attendees the chance to opt out of photos if they prefer) are also a great way to re-engage attendees after the fact when they tag or share photos.
Engaging members of different communities helps our organization grow and keeps our events useful and relevant. We’d love to know how you’re involving your own communities in events, so leave a comment and let us know!