Starting a Homeschool Group, Part 2

Now that you’ve crafted your pitch, what’s next? The actual ask.

Who Do I Target?

Once your pitch is all shiny, post it where it will receive the most attention!

That said, you don’t want to go crazy vetting strangers before introducing them to your kids. Facebook group members are culled into areas based on their values. Post on the groups where the membership is most likely to care.

For example, when I wanted to start a family-friendly book club, I started with my neighborhood mamas group. I hoped the people who already had kids on a similar schedule would enjoy book discussions while their kids played in the yard. By shifting the time to 3-5pm and targeting this audience, I nabbed young families like mine who didn’t have evenings available for more traditional book groups. We are still friendly with four of the families from this group after spending years together.

When I look for a specific quality, I private message people from the group directly. I did this when I reopened Wildlings this fall and one mama wanted more teens in the crew. Strategically asking for what you want directly helps you get it faster.

If your pitch doesn’t succeed in garnering much attention the first time around, blame the algorithm and post it again, or in another group. Tell your friends to share it with their friends.

Yes, But Are They Crazy?

How will you vet the new people who respond to your pitch? Chances are, the most enthusiastic people will form the base of your new group. But how do you know if they’re safe? Short answer: you can’t always know.

But these are your kids! So take a few protective steps here.

I always organize the first group session, your meet-and-greet, somewhere public, like a playground. I will post the date and time, to ensure people can make it, and give a general location like “near South Broadway Mall” in the town I’ll use.

I intentionally interact with a potential new member several times by phone, text, email, or all three. At first I ask two things: (1) how did you find me/us/this group? (2) where are you located? Once we’ve begun a dialogue I follow up with (3) how old are your kids? and (4) what about this group appeals to you most? If there’s a rapport, I may also ask (5) what type of homeschooling do you do and (6) how long have you been homeschooling? These questions aren’t to rule anyone out, because my groups are super inclusive and I don’t always care what the answers actually are.

I want to see how much they want to be a part of my group. Expect some reservations about sharing, just as you would feel, and don’t overreach. But if a person is willing to answer these basics and continue an extended interaction, I will gladly share the location of our meet-and-greet and sincerely look forward to meeting them.

Where Should I Host My Group?

Obviously Facebook is a huge option, and I have successfully run four groups through their large and functional system. But it’s honestly been my least favorite forum. It’s bulky and your events get lost in the algorithm. All the time. Anyone can find you on FB. Even after your group is full and closed, you’ll receive requests from friends of friends, or random folks. That said, if you’re looking for a quick start, this is it. I often collect people on Facebook and then aggregate the them again elsewhere.

WordPress does not have a membership-friendly site, but I was already familiar with it from blogging and the Wildling Collective needs more organization. Our members find the photo blog posts helpful for documentation + reviewing the group’s photos of your smiling, happy kid just feels awesome. We also use polls, forms for new members, and run a Google calendar, on top of the blog. Our sessions are detailed, and the posts are long. It’s cumbersome to mesh all these things together, but the end user experience is friendlier. It’s much more thorough than a FB post, and we’re still not paying anything. Plus members are emailed directly when posts go live, so there’s not as much potential for details and events to be lost.

Meetup has revamped its functionality and offers a decent system for tracking membership engagement and for easily posting new events, even on the app. This also keeps advertising largely at bay, though it is a separate website for members to check. When I used Meetup, I liked that I could charge a general membership fee, which kept our active membership up, and I could charge to RSVP for a paid event. I found this incredibly helpful when my neighborhood group was buying timed tickets for the zoo lights or to track numbers when reserving a lesson-type event with a cap. We also had 150+ members and Meetups membership functions allowed me to cater to their varied interests better, faster and with more details than I’d have otherwise.

Decide what needs you have and which forum will allow you to reach your audience better, most consistently, and without too much trouble. Keep in mind, you can change it!

I’m All Set Up. Now What?

I’ll cover how to collaborate with your group members + split costs in the follow-up article, next week. Get organizing!

Did you miss the last article? Part 1 is posted here.

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