Since communities are all about collective growth, celebrating individual and group anniversaries, holidays, milestones and accomplishments are an important way to make members feel seen and to come together around what you value. And it's a fun way to break routine and connect members who may not otherwise interact.
If your community needs a burst of energy, maybe it's time to find something to celebrate! Here are some guidelines to help you decide how to best celebrate:
1. Have a purpose. Still an indispensable rule from Priya Parker's The Art of Gathering is to make sure any gathering you're putting together has a purpose. Your purpose for gathering should be "specific, unique, and disputable.” The more it sounds like only your group could have such a gathering, the more special and celebratory it will feel. For example, "even though we're a buttoned-up professional community, we also want to get weird and play games together" is a better purpose than "to celebrate November birthdays."
2. Start with your values. Determine the values of your community and brainstorm the most 'on brand' representation of them for a celebration event. For example, if it’s curiosity maybe it’s a scavenger hunt that everyone does together on Zoom, if it’s about relaxing then maybe you host a weekend writing “retreat”, if it’s about play, then maybe it’s something like a summer camp experience.
3. Recruit a few excited members to help! Because communities are best when they're co-created with members, you can always look for ways to spread around the responsibility. Reach out to a few community members who may be willing to help and get them involved! They can help by co-hosting or speaking at events, helping get other members excited, or by just giving feedback on your ideas so that you know you're on the right track.
4. Include surprises. I know this may seem like you're hosting a kids party, but even if your community is full of serious adults, no one is above wanting to be delighted and surprised! Surprises can be special guests, prizes, fun music, a funny YouTube video, anything unexpected is worth considering as long as it fits your purpose and your values. Celebrations and special events are a great opportunity to try out new online tools too.
As an example of all these principles, I want to share with you a post recently shared in the BACB community with a bunch of fun ideas and new tools to use to mark milestones in your community. It was written by Ghalizha Izzaty who runs a course and community for Indonesian fiction writers and who recently hosted an "Amazing Race" to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the course. Below you can read the full post as it was written by Ghalizha.
I love how much Ghalizha was able to integrate the community values into this special anniversary event and that she realized during the process that by putting in some planning time, she was actually able to design experiences that help members connect. And it sounded really fun!
I hope this inspires something fun in your community whether that be an end of the year celebration or special event. If it does, let us know!
Designing a series of community events for my course's first anniversary
Yesterday (October 10th) marked the first anniversary of my course/community 🥳 I started out last year with 33 people who purchased the pre-sale version of the course, and now that 33 people have grown into 90 members. I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year if this course ever reaches one year old, I would go out of my way and do something fun and crazy with my members to celebrate it - and here I am now, writing a post about it!
Last week had been full of friendly challenges, fun games, thoughtful reflections, and—wait for it—connections. First things first, I followed Tatiana Figueiredo (she/her)'s approach to make my values visible everywhere in the community. For this anniversary week, the values are reflection and connection. I also made it very specific to everyone to uphold these values while they were participating in the series of events, and if they actually wanted to win a specific event, which I will explain next.
🚩 Main Event: The Amazing Race
Basically, it's an online scavenger hunt on steroids! It runs heavily on Tally and Notion. The rule is very simple: complete a challenge, and you'll receive instructions for the next challenge. The first two people to reach the finish line win. I've also prepared real gifts for the winners.
The main components of the race are:
- 💃 Individual Challenges — challenges that they can solve on their own. For example, the Story Bandwagon challenge encourages the players to contribute at least 200 words of their own to a story starter. The aim of the game is to create a complete, coherent story as a team!
- 🤝 Team Challenges — challenges that require them teaming up with your fellow learner in order to complete. One example is the Writing Experience Bingo challenge where players are required to hop on a call and play a bingo against each other (hint: the bingo questions are strategically designed so the players could get to know each other during the call 😉)
- 🌟 Reflection Questions — challenges that are meant to be an opportunity for them to reflect. I followed this Tally article to send their answers to a yearbook-styled Google Document. Once again, I have to thank Tatiana for inspiring me with how she set up this course's reflection questions!
Here's a complete map of the Amazing Race. If there's anything in the map that you're curious about / you'd like me to elaborate on, I'd be happy to! Just let me know in the comment.
🍸 Anniversary Happy Hour
This was more of a social, get-together event at the end of the anniversary week. This was also where I announced the Amazing Race winners. We did some fun icebreaker game (I used this website called Fishbowl Game) and went through a recap of the Amazing Race (results, summary, highlights, favorite + funny moments, hiccups, trivias).
Finally, this was also where the members received their "yearbook" in their email, with all their reflection answers compiled in the aforementioned Google Doc. I used Zapier to bulk-send them during this call. Phew!
It felt like I was "harvesting" connections between my members. I didn't know I could do that! So many meaningful connections happened during the race!
I was skeptical at first ("what if the team challenges flop? what if nobody wants to hop on a call to complete the challenge?"), but when I asked my members to describe the race with just one or 2 words, one of the answers was literally I MADE FRIENDDDSSSSSSSSSSS. That was when I think my two weeks of solo work setting up the race finally paid off.
I'm going to stop myself before this post gets any longer. If you're reading this all the way to the end, thank you so much!
Thanks to Ghalizha for permission to publish this here! To learn more about her, follow her on Twitter and check out the Course Operations Engine she built for course creators and community builders on Notion.