Do you know why you want to build an online community?

Deb Schell
3 min readApr 28


One of the foundational elements of my community-building journey was defining the core reason I wanted to lead a group of people. This took so much time, and thankfully I had a supportive community with me to help me navigate the challenges and gain clarity. The community I’m referring to is the group of peers trying to clarify their “Big Purpose” for their online community.

Some of my clients fear they don’t have what it takes to build a community. They think they can’t begin without a certification, degree, or accreditation. If you feel this way, let me tell you what I tell them: None of this is as important as finding clarity about your why.

This framework (Which I learned from Mighty Networks) has helped me, and it is something that I use with clients every day.

I bring together (ideal members) who (a problem they have) to (what you’ll do together to solve this problem) so that we can (an outcome they desire and want to do with others).

Your why is likely financial, and you surely have business goals. For example, some leaders start an online community to offer resources in one place. Others are coaches or consultants who want to scale their businesses. These goals matter, but they’re not what I’m referring to when I ask your why.

A why that resonates with your future members has as much meaning for them as it does for you. It involves an obstacle you’ve overcome in your personal or professional life, and you yearn to help others solve it, too. In a Forbes article about why communities matter, writer Tracy Brower says:

“Strong communities have a significant sense of purpose. People’s roles have meaning in the bigger picture of the community, and each group member understands how their work connects to others and adds value to the whole. As community members, people don’t just want to lay bricks; they want to build a cathedral.”

As my clients and I have come to discover, a community concept is much more than who you bring together; it comes down to what problem this community solves.

One of my community-building friends introduced me to Ayelet Baron, recognized as one of Forbes’ top global female futurists and an inspirational community builder. Ayelet brings together amazing people in her Conscious Community who are pioneering healthy paths, asking questions, and connecting in new ways. In my interview with Ayelet Baron for the Community Strategy Podcast, she shared her insights on how she defines finding a purpose.

“What if we followed our heart? What if we got our minds aligned with our hearts? What I find in conversations is that many of us feel alone and isolated. The three biggest currencies of where we’re headed are our trust in relationships, community, and the world.”

Ayelet made the case that we need to create a world in which we approach life differently, aligning our heads and hearts. This statement reflects the values she brings to the communities she runs. Community values and purpose: to create a world where we approach life differently.

When Ayelet left Cisco after 15 years and in her role as the VP of Strategy, Innovation, and Transformation, she continued speaking because so many people asked her to. The companies she speaks to are some of the biggest in the world, and they desperately need her message of humanity. She went on to say, “If you don’t understand why you’re building the community and somebody is telling you that that’s what you must do to be successful, you’ve got to sit down and say, is that true for me, and what does community mean?”

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Deb Schell

Find calm building a business you love.