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Managing an online community

The silent online auction me and my team organise every year to raise funds for our beloved Expatclic has just ended. With this post, I want to publicly thank all those who have supported us, but also reflect on the first 15 years of this journey within a wonderful community.

When I launched Expatclic in 2004, I had no idea I would soon find myself managing an online community. I thought I would concentrate on producing high-quality material, and meeting requests for support via e-mail.

As it turned out, our gestire una comunità online forum was incredibly successful, showing that we had touched the heart of a specific community. Expat women wanted, needed and sought discussions and sharing. Until socials appeared, our forum saw hundreds of women engaging in a healthy and lively community activity.

When it was clear that Facebook had drawn the attention away from it, we closed it and moved the community onto a FB group. This had pros and cons I won’t discuss here, but mostly gave the community a wider growth potential.

However, the volatile nature of the socials makes it difficult to grasp the soul and the essence of the community. Managing an online community means to never be certain about the precise  mood and feelings of the individuals that make it up – at least in my experience.

Luckily – or because we are good 🙂 – we never witnessed aggression or big quarreling on Expatclic. The community has always shown respect and constructive participation. This is also true for private conversations (and I can assure you we have many), which are always marked by good manners, reciprocal respect and healthy curiosity towards the other.

All this pointed to a certain happiness within the community, but for me it was not enough to get a satisfactory answer to the question: how do you measure the degree of satisfaction of a community? Of course one criteria in managing an online community would be to look at how punctually the offered services are provided. And although we are sure that Expatclic is one of the most solid, vast and generous networks on the planet, we are also aware that it is not always easy to answer all the questions of our members, or provide the right information at the right moment.

The answer, in a way, came with the online silent auction that has just ended.

Maybe not everybody knows that Expatclic is managed by an Italian non profit association whose statute is extremely simple and does not allow us to promote online sales, ads or paid guest posts. This is something we never really regretted because we are not big fans of all of these things.

However, we need to find the money to keep the website going. We liked the idea of an online silent auction because it gives something back to those who donate. For the last three years it has been our regular fundraiser.

When we launched it in October, we were, as always, a bit anxious. We don’t like asking for money. We also know there are tons of causes and projects that deserve more attention than Expatclic. At the beginning, moreover, nobody bid or donated, and this fed a feeling of frustration in me, which I was not sure how to manage.

managing an online communityI have often explained why I consider donating a very important part of life. Showing gratitude is however an equally important thing in my view. I believe there is no need to say that I have always worked incessantly for this community, often sacrificing time I could spend with my loved ones. I therefore have this deep conviction that those who have received a smile, a tip, a useful info or contact through my work, should use opportunities like the auction to show gratitude.

So at the beginning I was a bit sad, I tell you honestly 🙂 I was also seriously worried about how we would cover all the expenses if people did not buy or donate.

With this in mind, two days before the end of the auction I went into the PayPal account of Expatclic to see what we could do with the little funding we had collected. The surprise I had completely changed my mood and filled me with a wave of warmth and gratitude I will never forget.

Donations had come in abundantly, but the auction platform did not register them as bids and did not add them to the counter. In fact, lots of people, many of whom I did not even know, donated what they could. I was moved seeing donations of maybe 10 or 15 euros from persons I know for sure are not going through the happiest financial moment of their life. I was touched to see how people whom – as far as I know – have never enjoyed Expatclic’s services, generously donated.

With this post I want to thank them all. I thank them for showing appreciation for our work. What their support tells me is that the community I have created and have been looking after with love and passion for so many years, somehow and for someone really counts. And I cannot think of anything more valuable than using my time and experience to touch others’ lives, maybe even making them happier.

Thank you all.

Claudia Landini
November 2019
Photos ©ClaudiaLandini

 

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