4 questions you should ask yourself before hiring a Community Manager 

By: Ashly Stewart, Senior Content Marketing Manager

Maybe the decision to build an online community isn’t quite as dramatic as a Shakespearean play, but the choice to invest in a new or refreshed community can be exciting, overwhelming and every emotion in between.  

After all, you have to consider what your members want, you have to find the best ways to present the idea to your board and you have to face one of the biggest questions that most associations ask themselves when deciding if an online community is right for them: can I really create and maintain an online community without a dedicated Community Manager?  

The good news is that associations can and are running communities without a Community Manager successfully.  

But the decision to launch an online community with a Community Manager should be approached thoughtfully and strategically.  

Here are four questions to ask before choosing to hire or not to hire a Community Manager. 

1: Why do I think an online community would be a good fit for my association? 

It may seem obvious, but the number one thing we hear from associations that have strong communities is to ensure that your members actually want an online community.  

The latest Personify data reveals 75% of association members identified an online community as a top reason to actively engage in an association, but do YOUR members have an appetite for connecting in an online space?  

You could email a quick survey to your members or create a poll on your social media accounts to gauge the level of interest your members have in an online community and what types of community features and activities appeal most to them.  

“Put yourself in the shoes of your members. Think about their perspective and their perspective only. It’s tempting to try and make things easier for us and our teams, but we want to make sure everything we do is for our members.”  

“Put yourself in the shoes of your members. Think about their perspective and their perspective only. It’s tempting to try and make things easier for us and our teams, but we want to make sure everything we do is for our members.”

Nicole Hodson, Executive Director, NANP

Even though your members should be the driving force behind the decision to build an online community, you should also check in with your board and your team to understand if or how a community could benefit your organization.  

Some questions to ask your team and the board to understand if an online community is right for you include:  

  • How will your association define success for your online community? 
  • How will your association track and measure success? 
  • How will an online community help reach membership goals for attraction and retention? 
  • Does an online community fit in with your organization’s strategic plans?  
  • Are there benefits to using an online community that go beyond member engagement for your association?  

FUN FACT: NANP saved $1600 a year after they found they could replace Dropbox with their online community to securely create, store and share documents with the board and its members. 

2: What are the costs associated with an online community?  

Many associations started their online communities on social media platforms, mainly through Facebook groups. A big reason for turning to Facebook is because it was free! 

But as issues about privacy, secure data and difficulty controlling members’ posts become too big for many associations to ignore, organizations are looking to find a new (or improved) online space to share their content and make connections using an online community platform.  

We could write an entire post about how to choose the right online community platform for your team, but for now, when it comes to pricing, we’ll say that it depends on the features you’re looking for, who’s managing the platform, the number of members you’re serving and its ability to integrate with your current AMS.  

Ultimately, you’ll find solutions in a variety of price ranges depending on your needs. And you want to make sure you ask about any implementation or support costs associated with the price.  

Real community story: FTK® Nation sees a 5.5x increase in funds raised for those participating in their online community.  

3: Speaking of costs, what is the average Community Manager’s salary? 

The role of a Community Manager is on the rise, especially as consumer brands are investing more in online communities, and the job description and salaries associated with a Community Manager vary based on industry, location, and experience.  

The average salary for a Community Manager in the U.S. is $66,196. 

It’s hard to pinpoint an average salary for an Association Community Manager, specifically, because it’s a fairly new role to the association world and the responsibilities of a dedicated Community Manager can often fall under titles like “Marketing Manager” or “Membership Manager”, but it’s looking like the average salary for an Association Community Manager is comparable to salaries across other industries.  

4: Do I HAVE to hire a Community Manager to start a community? 

The need to hire a dedicated manager depends on the goals, expectations and budget your organization has in mind for its online community.  

But many associations and nonprofits have started online communities that engage members and grow their missions without a Community Manager.  

If you believe an online community will be valuable to your members and organization, but you can’t hire a dedicated manager, there are other ways to build and maintain a thriving online community. 

These are some approaches that we’ve seen work:  

  • Add community management to an existing position like a Marketing, Communications, or Development role: It’s understandable to worry about adding too many tasks to one role, but we’ve found that a successful online community often means that teams can scale back or evolve marketing and membership activities to be more efficient and effective when your new hub of communication, content, and connection is in a centralized place. 
  • Make community management a tag-team effort: We see more and more teams dividing and conquering the work of building and managing an online community.  

While an Executive Director may oversee general communication and content sharing, a Marketing Manager may oversee posting and respond to discussions. We’ve seen a lot of teams add a visual designer, like a videographer or graphic designer, to help with things like onboarding videos and courses.  

  • Consider a volunteer-managed community: Some associations lean on their volunteers to manage their online community, whether it’s one or two member volunteers sharing the responsibility, or you develop a more robust community leader program.  

You can also find a lot of success in asking for volunteers from your board, or even creating a specific community-based board role.  

No Community Manager? No Problem. 

Online communities are hugely beneficial to members and rewarding for your association. A lot goes into planning for a successful online community, and you must plan for challenges along the way — but not having a Community Manager on staff doesn’t have to be a barrier to offering your members a protected online space they can make their own.  

If you’re curious how building an online community without a Community Manager works for other associations, join our webinar on Thursday, February 17, 11:30 a.m. CST/ 12:30 p.m. EST as we walk through NANP’s journey to a fast-growing online community using their existing team to manage it.