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What Makes a Great Community Charter?

Learn how to create a Community Charter, a guiding document that defines the foundation of your community, for your organization's community strategy.

When developing a community strategy for a launch or re-launch, there are many factors to consider.

Who is the intended audience for the community?

What is the purpose of the community?

What kind of atmosphere do you want to create?

What are the goals for the community?

After completing strategy planning for your community, the output is often a Miro board, Google Doc, Google Spreadsheet, or even a random napkin full of notes, ideas, and drafts. This makes it difficult to extract the pertinent ideas of your strategy, which can be especially frustrating when drafting messaging, creating programming for the community, and building onboarding content.

Often, you need to refer back to specific items in your strategy to create this type of content, but this is challenging when they are scattered across your workflow. Moreover, if you need to share some of this information with your community, you can't simply point them to a Miro board or half-finished Google Doc.

That's why it's important for anyone managing a community to put together a Community Charter. A Community Charter is a single document that you can refer back to, containing all the "must-knows" for a community. Think of it as a guiding document that establishes the foundation of your community by defining who it's for and what we do to serve our members.

I recommend that all our clients have both an internal and external version of their Community Charter. The external version can be a pinned post in the community and should be required reading for all new community members. The internal version may contain more sensitive information relevant only to the community management and moderation team.

Here’s a quick outline of the main sections that I like to include in a external or public facing Community Charter:

  • Community Purpose: Provide a 2-3 sentence description of the purpose of your community. Who is it for? Why do they come together? How will the community help them?
    • Personas: You may want to get specific on the people that can join your community. Who is eligible? How do they join?
  • Community Values: Provide a 2-3 sentence description of what your community stands for. You may even do these as 2-3 bullets for each value. What’s the culture of the community? If you had the describe the character or personality of your community, what words would you use?
  • Community Guidelines: Its always a good idea to put high-level community guidelines in your Community Charter. Basically, at a high level, what is allowed and what is not allowed. You may want to link out to a separate post or document if you have very detailed guidelines. You’ll get more specific on what the rules are and how to handle infractions of the rules in your Moderation Guidelines (more of an internal document)
  • Community Logistics: Who is the team managing the community? Where should you go if you need help? Who can you give feedback to? This is all about helping your new community operate and get acclimated to how the community functions.

Here are a few items that I like to include in the internal portion of a Community Charter:

  • Community Goals: What are the goals for the community? I typically break them down into either GROWTH, ENGAGEMENT, and RETENTION goals. A lot of times these are internal metrics that you don’t want to share with the greater community, so I usually put this kind of stuff into the internal part of the charter.
  • Community Team: This gets overlooked so often! Who is going to help you manage your community? Your main person is going to be your Community Manager, but who is going to help with content? Programming and executing events for the community? Do you expect your executive team to get involved? Identifying roles/responsibilities for the core and secondary folks involved in your community is a good item to document in your Community Charter.
  • Community Moderation Guidelines: This is where you can get more specific on how you want to moderate your community. What are the core moderation days/hours? How do you handle posts that need to be moderated? Who is responsible for moderation? These are items that you may not want to share with the entire community, but are appropriate for your internal team.

The key to a great Community Charter is keeping it concise and focused. You should provide relevant information that helps community members understand the core purpose of the community and acclimate to the new space, enabling them to participate. When your new member on-boards, this is the perfect time to put the Community Charter in front of them.

Remember that the Community Charter is a living document. Be flexible! As you receive feedback from your community, consider doing a lookback to review and update it. You may find that you update your Community Charter frequently, especially if the community is relatively young.

Do you have any questions about building a community strategy and creating a Community Charter? Leave a comment or feel free to reach out to us!

Need more ideas on how to acquire and engage new members for your community? Check out my monthly Members Welcome (Spotify) podcast.

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