October 12th, 2021
You’ve been running your community for a few months now and are seeing steady growth in both membership and activity. A number of the members are particularly knowledgeable and go out of their way to share their expertise and help the rest of the community. You want to recognize and reward them for their contributions and decide it’s time to build a champions program.
First, hooray 🎉 Congratulations on building and supporting an engaged community. Now, the question: How do you start building a champions program?
In this post we’ll walk you through the three main steps to build your own champions program:
1. Define the program’s purpose
2. Identify candidates
3. Establish the program benefits
You’ll want to first define why you want the program to exist. For example, you may want to recognize and reward the most engaged and influential members who are having a significant impact in your community. Or, you may want to acknowledge members who are eager to help others get more out of your product while advancing their own knowledge of it.
However you decide to define the purpose, be sure to refer back to it as your guiding principle as you build out the program. When I was managing developer communities at AWS, one example of a programmatic purpose I set was for our Getting Started program—to ease and accelerate the onboarding of new-to-AWS developers by providing a more guided and opinionated learning experience. Having that (seemingly) simple statement to refer back to helped me make decisions when it came to scoping and implementation (you know, all those behind-the-scenes things that help you serve your community best).
Additional examples of community programs with clear purpose statements to draw inspiration from include Confluent Community Catalyst, GitHub Stars, Productboard's Product Makers Ambassador, and AWS Heroes.
Now that you’ve defined your program purpose, you need to establish the criteria required for acceptance into your champions program. It’s useful to look at a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to ensure your champions reflect your community and your company's mission. You'll be advocating for them as much as they're advocating for you, so it's important that both of you are aligned and excited to collaborate and uphold each other's work.
As thought-starters, consider this initial list of criteria:
Quantitative: These metrics help you understand the impact and reach a champion might have, so their work can benefit the most people at once. Depending on your reporting structure, it might also help your teams measure the impact of their work within the community (e.g., how many people a champion positively helped, and how that lightened the load for some of your internal teams).
Qualitative: This type of evaluation ensures you're endorsing someone who's able to articulate and share best practices around using your product. It's important for them to have a high bar of expertise and empathy, because you'll be helping to distribute and amplify their work.
You know the types of members you want to attract into your program. Now comes the fun part where you get to assemble exclusive benefits for those who are accepted. Typically, this is a mix of opportunities to amplify their reach, connect with other like-minded community leaders, get early access to product and roadmap, and of course, swag.
Use the below as starting points, and build in your own community-related fun stuff along the way:
WIth the above three steps you should be well equipped to build out your champions program. No two programs will be alike, as it will be a reflection of what makes your community unique, so don’t worry about trying to exactly replicate what others have done. Instead, focus on what will be most meaningful to your members and if you don't know—ask them!
Building a community-based program best happens in tandem with your community. The rest will come naturally. If you have any questions along the way, come ask us in our weekly office hours.