10-min read
Dec 9, 2021

9 Community Leaders Share Their Best Engagement Initiatives — and Why They Were Such a Hit

Gesche Haas

These community engagement initiatives actually worked — here's why.

How do you keep your community members engaged?

Yes, there are plenty of resources that explore the building blocks of community engagement strategy — the dos and don’ts of bringing people in, getting them excited to be part of your world, and ensuring they stick around for a bit. I’ve even written about actionable tips for community engagement myself.

But truly, there’s nothing like hearing real and relatable success stories — and understanding what actually worked for a community (and what didn’t).

My own company Dreamers & Doers is a unique blend of high-impact community and a PR hype machine amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women. Here's an example of an engagement initiative that really worked for us:

1. The Conversation Starters series

Our 'Conversation Starters' series involves asking questions that remind members of our deep-seated core values: authentic connection, making engaging fun and easy, and providing easy ways to get to know other members. This example is more personal, but we have plenty of professional prompts, too.

More than 10% of all our members commented or directly engaged with these posts in other ways — and of course, many more read through it. This was relatively high for us, especially given that we shared this right after migrating our community to a new platform.

Why it worked

Whenever we share a Conversation Starter our team members engage quickly — they love being the very first ones to give members examples and encourage them to take action.

Here are a few additional tips that have made our Conversations Starters initiative successful:

  • New members are given links to particularly successful Conversation Starters as part of our onboarding process. This is a simple way for new members to immediately start engaging.
  • We often ask members to tag others in our Conversation Starters. You can make it as simple as asking members to give a shoutout to someone who has supported them.

With all of this said, the success of this initiative has relied heavily on the nuances and qualities of our group. So, what might work for you and your community?

I reached out to seven other community leaders in the Dreamers & Doers community and The Community Club to find out more about their top engagement initiatives.

Hopefully, these examples will fuel your own ideas — and lead you to successful tactics and approaches. Again, what works for one community might not work for all. So, take these tips and adapt them to the nuances of your own community — or make them entirely your own.

After all, creating true value based on what your members are seeking will always be the key to success.

2. Friday Night Lives

Gloria Chou, Head of Small Business PR Pros

My most successful community engagement initiative

“Going live every Friday with a guest expert to deliver valuable and inspirational training. It’s a lot of work but consistency pays off.”

Why it worked

We have leading experts who share their expertise in our Facebook group — which is free. We have also consistently gained over 100 views and replays per live session, with a highly-engaged question and answer session.

I have had multiple people send messages to tell me that the training sessions have led to press features or their businesses growing in other major ways. People have also told me I provide more value in this free Facebook group than some paid groups.”

3. Mindful moments

Meredith Noble, Founder of the Grant Writing Unicorn Collective

My most successful community engagement initiative

“When we began doing mindfulness breathing exercises at the beginning of each coaching call, our members loved it. Once, we forgot to do the breathing activity and our chatbox blew up with members asking for it.

Offering a simple meditation activity at the beginning and end of each of the group gatherings grounds everyone and creates a more premium experience.”

Why it worked

“Ever since we read the book, The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, we have been mindful about how the beginning and end of each activity is conducted. Gone are the days of bookending with logistics. Eighty percent of our group coaching call attendees don't ask questions, but they return every two weeks. We largely suspect this is due to the mindfulness and accountability activities.”

4. Accountability Clubs  

Max Pete, Community Manager at Freelance Founders


My most successful community engagement initiative

“My community holds ‘Accountability Clubs’ monthly — and it has to be my favorite initiative that we have implemented. Even though this is not the most scalable initiative we have launched, we have between 5-10 members who attend each Accountability meeting. They may be few but those who do join really love it and we get a lot of work done together.”

Why it worked

“It has been successful because it creates the space for members to work together (remotely) and feel a sense of belonging to the community.

One of the main values of our community is to create and share equity among our members — and we have found that getting our community’s involvement has allowed us to do just that.

Additionally, our members who create content end up sharing it with their networks and feel a great sense of accomplishment, which inspires other members to get involved when we have new needs.

We have such a great creative community that being able to have them participate in the growth of our community is an amazing feeling.”

5. Hybrid Scavenger Hunt

Jennifer Serrat, Community Marketing Manager at myGwork

My most successful community engagement initiative

“Every year, the university has an institutional event called IE DAY — it is the day where everyone shows their pride for being part of the IE community (staff, faculty, students, alumni). 

On that day, the university blocked everyone’s calendar to encourage participation, we had almost 2,000 physical attendees. The event consisted of a live show with band and music, interactive and immersive stands with activities and photo booths, as well as raffle prizes. We gave out blue T-shirts for everyone to wear so that all you could see was a sea of blue (the university’s color). 

However, due to Covid restrictions and regulations, we could not recreate this — and with our students' engagement dropping due to the over-saturation of online conferences, classes, panels, and everything in between, we also had a lot of competition to attract them to participate. 

How could we make it fun but safe? With the whole world experiencing similar situations (including budget cuts) there wasn’t much out there for us to benchmark, my research would not always yield favorable results until I had come across a random World Guinness article on the largest media scavenger hunt — my lightbulb moment. 

What would they hunt for, though? I pitched the idea to my supervisor to have the university's mascot disappear so that only through the power of community would CammIE, the mascot re-appear. Once approved, I was on the hunt for trivia to challenge the IE community. With the help of my team, we set out to contact the different university departments for them to be a part of it (as it was a university-wide event). They each sent us 10 fun facts and trivia questions that could be answered through an app via multiple-choice, video and photo upload, and open-answers). 

Over 20 departments contributed to 320 questions. This provided unconventional lessons about the university's history and how each department helped make IE what it is today. Participants had to visit different buildings and department websites outside of the classroom as they not only had to learn more about the history of the university and but do it in a fun way.”

Why it worked

"With COVID happening, we went from a 'campus life' to a home life overnight. 

Maintaining a positive student journey was top of mind to us as the university experience is invaluable, kind of like a right of passage into adulthood for some folks. We knew (from event surveys) that students wanted more social events so we had to think outside the box and adapt ideas conducive to our new normal. 

The event was successful because the community still wanted to feel connected to each other outside of their routine online meeting and classes. Gone were the days of bumping into each other in between classes or in the professor's lounge. You couldn't get the same sense of belonging or connectedness as you would catching up over a coffee or monthly social hours. So we found a way to get staff, students, professors, and alumni to work together in finding the epitome of community engagement: CammIE — the university mascot. 

There were almost 600 participants who completed daily trivia and activities over five days — you could see live the progress of the hunt as the leaderboard shared the photos and videos being uploaded as the hunt was being completed. The ultimate proof of its success was the feedback received afterward on how fun and needed the initiative was for the students resulting in its nomination for Event of the Year at the IE Community Awards. You can see the scavenger hunt recap video here."

6. Making meditation fun

Dina Kaplan, Founder of The Path

My most successful community engagement initiative

“Our most successful initiative has been making our products fun so that people suggest us to friends and colleagues. We also made sure to have our events equally divided among men and women. I heard a few years into The Path that people were sending their single friends to us for dating.”

Why it worked

“I think people have enough stress and work in their lives. So making our events playful and easygoing made them something people would want to join. If you're single, you're often interested in meeting new people, so making our events social was an important component as well.”

7. Zoom warm-ups

Elissa Weinzimmer, Founder of Voice Body Connection

My most successful community engagement initiative

“In late 2019/early 2020, I had been leading 20-minute group warm-ups as part of our community events. However, they were poorly attended, so I was about to remove them from our schedule.

When the pandemic began, people were suddenly stuck in their homes, yearning for a way to feel connected with themselves and others. This led me to add more sessions. I opened them for free for three months, and people poured in. On several mornings, more than 30 people have warmed up together via Zoom. It was amazing."

Why it worked

"It addressed a real need. I took what I had available and adjusted it to meet the needs of the moment."

8. Project: Perks

Cole Zerr, Community Operations Manager at Commsor & The Community Club


My most successful community engagement initiative

“One of my favorite initiatives that we've implemented is our Perks program (Community software deals). With the explosion of new tools and platforms, it can be difficult to know which tools are worth paying for. Through our Perks program, we offer deals on our favorite community platforms, engagement tools, and other related software. Our goals are to reduce the cost of building a community, help garner buy-in from executives, and provide extra value to a Community Club membership.”

Why it worked

"Three main factors contributed to the success of this initiative:

  1. Everyone loves a deal.
  2. We curated the list of platforms and tools for companies we believe serve high-quality products.
  3. Many of the Community Club members are looking to launch a community or they're in the process of picking a new platform.

We know picking a new community platform or tool can be difficult. To make these decisions easier, we're planning to build out the home for community deals and discounts. We look forward to providing Community Club members with more resources and free trials to some of the greatest platforms and tools in the landscape!"

9. In-person meet-ups

Isis Nyong’o, Founder of WomenWork

My most successful community engagement initiative

“WomenWork was recently invited to a women's empowerment breakfast with the president of Estonia, who was on an inaugural visit to Kenya. Ten members from the education, sustainable fashion, and technology sectors attended to reflect sectors that Estonia is focused on strengthening with Kenya.”

Why it worked

“This initiative stands out because of the extensive Covid-19 lockdown periods in Kenya — this was the first opportunity to network in person as a community since 2019. The collective energy and gratitude for this cultural exchange on advancing women's equality were unmatched.”

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Want more guidance on how to engage your community? Check out our Guide to Successful Surprise and Delight Campaigns, or get back to basics with the 5 Principles of Community Engagement.

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