interests.me's two founders, Helen and Paul, were running voluntary groups in their different communities in Surrey and Kent, and were finding communications the hardest part of the job. The problem was it was difficult to communicate with a broad local audience who were using many different channels to find out about what's going on locally. To reach everyone would take lots of time, as the sheer number of communication options was overwhelming.
They scratched their heads wondering what tools existed to help voluntary groups with their communications.
As software developers, they wanted to find out what other local voluntary groups really needed. So they held focus groups, where voluntary groups told them that they wanted to improve their communications with existing members (using email) and also with the community at large (often using social media). They wanted it to be so simple that any volunteer could use it.
Helen and Paul decided to use their technical skills to create a tool that didn't yet exist - something that would help voluntary groups to communicate in a multi-channel world, ideally both online and offline, and in less than 1 hour a week.
So they started by building an email newsletter tool specially designed for the local voluntary sector - without advanced features, but really easy to use. They made it modular from day one, so that content could be re-used in other ways - posted onto social media, published online, and even perhaps used in print newsletters.
Once they had attracted over a hundred groups using the tool in a town (Woking), they knew it was time to aggregate the content published by these groups, and create a community-wide website, calendar and weekly email. This pulled together all the community content in one place, and also made it easy for each group to share another group’s events or news, on social media or in their emails.
It helped local organisations to avoid their events clashing with other local groups, and helped communities to feel more ‘joined-up’. It gave residents one place to go to find out what’s going on in their community.
Finally, they knew there was more community content ‘out there’ and they found ways of making the community calendar more complete by linking to information on Eventbrite, Meetup, and on Facebook pages. The community calendars could finally be the go-to place for all community events.