In a recent conversation with Minnestar Executive Director Maria Boland Ploessl I was very pleased to hear about the amazing growth of the Minnestar Community Supporter program. Community Supporters were something that we launched when I was on the board of Minnestar to create an opportunity for individuals to support Minnebar and Minnedemo, in addition to companies. It was always significant, even on the first year, but it has grown a lot in recent years. The biggest part of that growth has been the structured year-end giving program which I was happy to be a matching supporter of this year.
The growth is awesome, but the program itself hasn’t changed materially since the launch. The primary benefit of being a Community Supporter is that you are guaranteed a ticket to the highly in-demand events that Minnestar hosts. That is a great benefit, but I’ve always wondered what more could be done for this great group of people that are helping support our technology community. Particularly what could be done outside of events.
In my opinion, being a Community Supporter of Minnestar should be table stakes for any technology leader in the region. It should be the most direct way to give back to the technology community we are all part of, and provide meaningful value to the supporter individually. I think supporting the events and community is solid, but the only meaningful value to the individual is a guaranteed ticket.
So what more could be done to grow the program? Some ideas…
People that become Community Supporters are a pretty special and fun group. Creating more connection in that group could be incredibly valuable. This could be done with in two phases.
First, launch an every-other week newsletter just for Community Supporters. This newsletter could include:
- Easy to parse list of upcoming community events
- No more than three relevant links to news about the tech community
- Community Supporter Highlight, randomly share a bio about one of the community supporters each issue
- Project Highlights from Community Supporters to submit and share a project (personal, hobby, business) that they would like to highlight for everyone
The newsletter could be the whole thing, but if there is an increase in engagement a forum for Community Supporters could get traction. I specifically do not mean Slack or Discord. Those are far too high engagement. A platform like Discourse seems much better suited to this. I think Minnestar could benefit from a Discourse like platform for everything, with Community Supporters being a member only section.
There needs to be more ways to show a persons affiliation with Minnestar, and recognize that support. I’ve been a Minnesota Public Radio member since 1995. How do I know that? My member card says it. I’ve been an Electronic Frontier Foundation member since 2010. It’s on my member card.
First step of this should be to issue an actual Minnestar Community Supporter member card. Cards have to be printed, they expire, etc. There is effort to do this but it gives me something to carry with me and show my membership.
This should also be extended into the digital world with POAP tokens. There should be a POAP for each year given to community supporters. Over the years, you collect each yearly POAP.
This would also be an opportunity to highlight the work of a local artist and create a uniquely designed card and token each year that isn’t just membership, but something that people feel like collecting.
I’ve been a Community Supporter member since the program started, but I have no idea how long that has been!
Input & Direction
Community Supporters as a group could be given the opportunity to have input on Minnestar activities. As a group votes could be taken. Thought would have to be given on what the votes are on. There is a Minnestar Board and various committees, and they should continue to do what they do. But there could be decisions that the community supporters are asked to give a vote on.
I had long thought that it would be really great for one of the Minnestar board seats to be a Community Supporter seat. In this case, the Community Supporters would elect amongst themselves one member that would represent them on the board. This could be facilitated via the forum above, with members raising their hands to serve and make their case followed by an official voting period.
This would lend itself exceptionally well to a Minnestar DAO, with membership gated via the Community Supporter POAP that you receive each year.
It would be interesting to explore ways that other organizations in the technology community may want to extend benefit to Community Supporters of Minnestar. This is one of the key reasons to create Membership with a card and a token. Perhaps Twin Cities Startup Week would offer some unique opportunity. Or Tech.MN give a discount on membership. Or early access to certain events.
This would require that Minnestar reach out to have conversations around this with other events, and require proof of being a Community Supporter without access to Minnestar resources. I think this could work, and may be welcome from other organizations as well.