- Talked to students to find out what their challenges were
- Created a wide range of solution ideas
- Shared those ideas with students and also educators to see if they got excited about any of the ideas
- Took the best idea and started creating a prototype (which we called our "MVP" or "Minimum Viable Product") which in our case was just a very brief description of the service we hoped to create.
- We took the MVP back to educators to ask them if they'd sign up to try it out (We called it a "pilot")
- After we got four educators to agree, we setup a very simple website with the minimum features possible (our next "MVP") and ran a program in four classrooms.
- We then started recruiting volunteers to answer questions. We started with our personal networks. "Friends and family", as they say.
- We kept expanding that way: classroom to classroom, volunteer to volunteer. For the first year, most weeks were absolutely quiet on the site. It was not an overnight success. It took a long time (maybe 18 months) before we started to get people joining who we'd never met before, and before we started to see students reading the advice who were coming in on their own through online search engines (99% Google). We still had to spend a lot of our time doing a combination of marketing and community management to help the community grow. At some point things changed and we started to see activity constantly and consistently without us being involved in making it happen. This was the point where we reached "critical mass" and when "inertia" started to take over. I can't point to a specific point, but I'll guess that it was somewhere plus-or-minus when we hit the 10,000 registered users mark.
- We've done a ton of other things along the way to build our nonprofit organization: we filed for 501c3 nonprofit status with the help of a pro bono lawyer, we learned how to fundraise for donations, we built a corporate partnership program that brought in new volunteers and grants, we hired contractors and employees, and more.
For me, as a leader in the organization, I've had to spend a lot of my time and attention spreading the word through1:1 phone calls, cold emails, public speaking, and on social media. The good thing is that I *LOVE* to talk about this organization, so it's something I really enjoy and have enjoyed for years! There are many ways to lead a nonprofit, but this is part of my style that I bring to my role.
I'm happy to answer any other questions you might have about how we started CareerVillage.org, and/or why, and/or about nonprofits in general.