Finding, participating in and building meaningful community takes work and skillful means. As a fundraiser who wants donors to feel part of community, figuring out what makes a community a community is a super important question.
Here are some takeaways from my personal experience and I welcome your thoughts:
(1) A community has a clear shared purpose. For instance, my buddhism community exists to help each other practice. My theater community exists to help turn each other on to new works and fund emerging artists. My cross fit community exists so we can help each other get fitter and hit physical goals. My neighborhood community exists for mutual security and well being. My dog mom community exists to provide mutual support and to decrease dependence on pricey outside/paid help.
(2) A community gets together physically. I know I’m going to get railed for this, but the communities that I truly feel part of always have some physical expression. I do participate in virtual communities, but I don’t feel the same kind of connection with the dog rescue group I volunteer with virtually as I do my local dog rescue that I volunteer with in person. Even within my crossfit community, I’m closer with those who work out at my box vs. other athletes who work out at the same gym in different locations.
(3) A community has multiple ways to engage with varying levels of commitment. I tend to get involved deeply with communities I’m part of. I volunteer. I go to fitness almost every day. I participate in weekend buddhist activities. I’m board chair of a fringe theater in Bushwick I’m advocating for public transit in my community. But despite my interest in going deep, communities allow ways for folks to feel part of the community without having to lead it.
(4) A community allows members to communicate and build directly with each other. I’m done with hierarchy. The successful communities I’m part of don’t rely on hierarchy to engage. There’s a bubbling up of interest from small pockets within the community. And those bubbles might surface into something or they might just fizzle. The community must feel like they are responsible for keeping the fires burning without some leader calling all the shots.
Ok – this topic is vast. What did I miss? What makes a community a community? And why is it so hard to build?