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Books, Community, Diversity, LGBTQ, Marginalization, SaaS

Summer reading list for building your community 📖


It’s exactly the right time to hole up with a good book.

There’s nothing like spending a quiet summer Sunday morning reading by the pool, in the park, on the beach, or in the hammock in your own backyard. I take a highlighter and pen with me because I’m usually reading business books, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasure of being outdoors and letting your mind wander across the pages.

Lately, I’ve been reading several really good books about building communities and thought I’d share them with you.


Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities
by Richard Millington

Buzzing Communities was written in 2012 by FeverBee’s Richard Millington, whose work on community building is outstanding. In fact, he’s even inspired the topics of one or two of my newsletter missives! It’s a quick read at 300 pages, and that’s because there is very little fluff. You might run into trouble trying to highlight ‘the good stuff’ in this book because there’s just so much of it. He covers community strategy, growth, content, moderation, influence and relationships, events and activities, business integration, ROI and UX.


Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities
by Amy Jo Kim

Community Building on the Web came out in The Year 2000 (eons ago, right?), but the core of what makes communities work hasn’t changed since, oh, year ONE, so it’s still on target when it comes to the basics. I enjoy reading the insights in here about how the early communities, like Yahoo, iVillage, eBay and AncientSites attracted and retained their followings. You’ll basically meet the grandmamas of the communities we know and love today, and you can see how what worked then has evolved into what works now. Think of it as a history book.


The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation
by Jono Bacon

Jono Bacon is a highly respected consultant on community strategy and this book is almost like hiring him to tell you EVERYTHING. Almost. He goes over how to recruit and motivate members to be active participants and how to use them as a resource for marketing and fresh ideas. All while making your community a resource that helps them do their work faster and easier. He also goes into how to track progress on community goals, and how to handle conflict, two thorny issues in community management that can never get enough page time in my books.


The Body is Not an Apology
by Sonya Renee Taylor

This is my favorite book of the year so far! And its message should be at the core of all communities. 💗

Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies. The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems.

World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all.


Connecting to Change The World
by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor, John Cleveland

Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are under increasing pressure to do more and to do better to increase and improve productivity with fewer resources. Social entrepreneurs, community-minded leaders, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropists now recognize that to achieve greater impact they must adopt a network-centric approach to solving difficult problems. Building networks of like-minded organizations and people offers them a way to weave together and create strong alliances that get better leverage, performance, and results than any single organization is able to do.

While the advantages of such networks are clear, there are few resources that offer easily understandable, field-tested information on how to form and manage social-impact networks. Drawn from the authors’ deep experience with more than thirty successful network projects, Connecting to Change the World provides the frameworks, practical advice, case studies, and expert knowledge needed to build better performing networks. Readers will gain greater confidence and ability to anticipate challenges and opportunities.

Easily understandable and full of actionable advice, Connecting to Change the World is an informative guide to creating collaborative solutions to tackle the most difficult challenges society faces.


Fierce Loyalty
by Sarah Robinson

Building and sustaining a fiercely loyal community of clients, customers and raving fans is critical for success in today’s turbulent marketplace. Organizations, both corporate and non-profit, that are thriving have discovered a secret – the underlying DNA shared by all wildly successful communities. Fierce Loyalty unlocks this secret DNA and lays out a clear model that any organization of any size can follow. Business strategist Sarah Robinson helps you break down the process and gives you clear, specific steps for creating and maintaining a fiercely loyal, wildly successful community and put it squarely in the center of your business plan. Drawing on her own extensive experience as well as her research into the inner working of some of the most successful communities around, Sarah de-mystifies the process and gives you exactly what you need to make Fierce Loyalty happen in your organization.


Systems Thinking for Social Change
by David Peter Stroh

Donors, leaders of nonprofits, and public policy makers usually have the best of intentions to serve society and improve social conditions. But often their solutions fall far short of what they want to accomplish and what is truly needed. Moreover, the answers they propose and fund often produce the opposite of what they want over time. We end up with temporary shelters that increase homelessness, drug busts that increase drug-related crime, or food aid that increases starvation.

How do these unintended consequences come about and how can we avoid them? By applying conventional thinking to complex social problems, we often perpetuate the very problems we try so hard to solve, but it is possible to think differently, and get different results.

Systems Thinking for Social Change enables readers to contribute more effectively to society by helping them understand what systems thinking is and why it is so important in their work. It also gives concrete guidance on how to incorporate systems thinking in problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning without becoming a technical expert.

Systems thinking leader David Stroh walks readers through techniques he has used to help people improve their efforts to end homelessness, improve public health, strengthen education, design a system for early childhood development, protect child welfare, develop rural economies, facilitate the reentry of formerly incarcerated people into society, resolve identity-based conflicts, and more.

The result is a highly readable, effective guide to understanding systems and using that knowledge to get the results you want.


Quiet – The Power of Introverts
by Susan Cain

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts (including me!). They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.


If you run across a community building book I should read, please let me know. 📖☕

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Community, LGBTQ, Marginalization, SaaS

SaaS startups: Let’s support LGBTQ communities, and not just for Pride.


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth.


Pride Month is an opportunity to open up conversations about improving inclusivity – not just in our online communities, but for our employees and customers too. As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, I run an LGBTQ community, I am bi, and have been with my girlfriend for almost 8 years. But even if I wasn’t part of the LGBTQ community, I would be advocating for inclusivity, because LGBTQ rights are human rights.

Humans, however, are notoriously flawed, and the road to inclusivity is packed with potholes. It’s not an easy road, even for those of us walking it every day. I am constantly listening and learning from my marginalized friends. I’m constantly making mistakes. And I am constantly trying to improve.

That’s all we can ask, really. To have the desire to be more inclusive, to listen more carefully, and to constantly improve. Personally, I’d write that straight into company policy, if I had my way.

Some things your SaaS biz can do to support LGBTQ diversity and inclusion:

  • Train staff on the full spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity, including the LGBTQ vocabulary so everyone knows the correct terms.
  • Provide sensitivity training that is up to date, and not just about racism and sexism. Tip: Learn from Starbucks recent foray into sensitivity training what worked and what didn’t.

“They told us we need to be ‘color brave’ instead of color blind and it was the whitest thing I’ve ever heard,’ she said, describing a journal and discussion portion held mid-way through the session. ‘Me and my coworkers of color felt uncomfortable the entire time.’” – Alicia, a Starbucks employee, quoted in Time

  • Don’t obligate your marginalized staff to help train employees who aren’t marginalized (it’s not their job!) – but, be open to their input. Being open to input could have helped Starbucks avoid the above.
  • Offer equal benefits packages for everyone. Some health insurance providers don’t provide benefits that LGBTQ employees need.
  • Diversify your network by introducing yourself to people who don’t look like you. This action is on the micro/personal level, but it can have a big impact on who gets hired, recommended and promoted in tech.
  • Become aware of who does the “office housework” (ie. it’s usually women), and create a rotation system. Things like taking meeting minutes, cleaning up the break room, collecting money for a birthday gift.
  • Advocate with amplification. When a woman makes a good point or brings up a good idea in a meeting, often a man in the meeting will say the same thing (afterwards) and take the credit. This happens a lot, especially in tech. So when a woman makes a good point, do like these White House staffers did and build on the idea so it keeps progressing and is properly attributed to its rightful source.
  • Donate to LGBTQ foundations to show your support. Some suggestions below!

Where to donate to support LGBTQ communities in tech year-round:

  • The Body is Not an Apology an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment.
  • Lesbians Who Tech – the largest gathering for women in tech in California, and the largest LGBTQ professional event in the world
  • Trans*H4CK – tackles social problems experienced by the Trans community by developing new and useful open source tech products that benefit the trans and gender non conforming communities
  • Start Out – connects and educates LGBTQ entrepreneurs to empower great leaders and businesses.
  • Out in Tech – provides resources and mentorship to ensure career access for LGBTQ youth and provide web services for LGBTQ activists around the world.
  • Trans Tech Social – an incubator for LGBTQ Talent focusing on providing resources, support and community.

My Pride Month reading list:


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth

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