Our regular uplifting monthly meeting had a dark cloud of sadness lingering over it because I felt like I had to say goodbye to eight friends all at once.
For the past two years, a community of e-commerce business owners hired us to grow and engage their members. I facilitated several of their monthly meetings, which allowed me to get to know each member deeply. Some even felt like close friends. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way because the members had connected on such a deep level with each other that they also felt closely bonded. We all looked forward to our monthly meetings to laugh, learn, and grow together.
The typical upbeat mood of our meeting quickly soured when I confessed to the group that we were closing the community down. In saddened disbelief, they asked why.
After several years of not getting enough new members, it became clear that we weren’t able to add enough members to replace the members who graduated from the program. The leadership team watched the numbers closely for the past six months and knew what was needed. However, because the members had formed such great connections, it was still a hard decision to make.
Although we were unhappy that the community was closing down, we made it a point to enjoy our final meeting together and made commitments to stay connected into the future.
In a previous blog post, we discussed when to pull the plug on your community and highlighted three indicators. The three reasons are: if there is no momentum in your community, if the thrill is gone, and when current members are no longer talking about your community or inviting others. So now that you have decided to pull the plug, here are three ways to do that while preserving the relationships and value.
3 Ways to Successfully Shut Down Your Community
Communicate! Communicate!! Communicate!!!
Don’t cut things off and say goodbye. Communicating shows that you value the members of your community. Let your members know about the decision to pull the plug and how it could be a good thing for them. Instead of keeping them in the dark, get them involved in the process and prepare them for what’s to come by giving them the necessary information.
Provide Support for a Smooth Transition:
Deciding to shut down a long-running community is difficult. Members may find it hard to transition because they have formed strong bonds and attachments to your community. They may also rely on some of the tools you provide. As you close your community down, assist your departing members with finding new tools and/or ways to plug into another community like yours. One option is to find a partner community and give your members a free membership to help the transition. All of these actions will demonstrate that you care about them.
The fact that you are closing down is not an excuse to stop caring for your members. Provide refunds to members who pre-paid or have unused membership dues. Offer additional time with any tools they may have been using. By giving support until the very last day, your members will remember you and the community long after the community no longer exists.
Closing down your community can be difficult for the members. However, if you take these steps while saying your goodbyes, you’ll have a smoother transition, and members will be less affected.