Marketing Toolbox for Forming Cohousing Groups
This document assumes you have a start-up group of folks interested in cohousing and you’re ready to start attracting more members. It is NOT meant to guide you through creating your community, only the marketing.

Learning

In order to attract others to cohousing, you will need to know a lot about it, both the movement overall, and the details of the community you are creating. Click here for more on how to learn about cohousing. (/knowledge) As part of your marketing program, plan educational events that will help your members and prospective members learn more about cohousing. 

Roles
  • Email – Designate a person to respond to emails who is a people person and is on their computer a lot. The ideal person will respond to emails the same day they are received, in fact, within an hour or two! When someone is excited about your community they’re eager to hear back. Don’t make them wait.
  • Web Design – If you’re lucky enough to have a graphic designer and/or someone in your group who knows how to build a website in any of the tools mentioned obviously snag them. If you don’t, consider approaching a community college, school or business to help you pro-bono. Alternatively, you can hire someone who has created websites for other cohousing communities – they can probably duplicate a lot of what they have done to save time and cost.  
  • Event Planner – You will need to host marketing events on a regular basis.  
Your Name

You will need to choose a name from which will grow a logo. Most communities choose a working title that is clearly not expected to be their long-term community name.  Make it descriptive of what is unique about your community (location, age, etc). This name leads to a domain name, used for your website, and likely also lead to your email address.

If you don’t have a name yet but want to start getting email create a free Gmail account that’s general like location-name-cohousing@gmail.com.

Branding

This goes back to the question of your community’s name selection and then creating a logo.
Once you have a name and logo they will be used in assorted ways including:
Registering a domain name for your website ($15/year)
Creating emails associated with your domain name
Creating a free MailChimp account where you’ll collect interested names/emails and then send emails using a template using your logo
Creating a free Facebook page
Print collateral
Possible printed materials

Online Marketing Tools

Public facing Facebook page to help spread word and announce meetings

Meetup website to get folks together for cohousing conversations

Create a listing on the cohousing.org directory and consider classified advertising.

Join the FIC directory (Foundation for Intentional Community) https://www.ic.org/. Update directory listings as you have more information about your group.

Printed Materials

There are many inexpensive sources for print materials, including:

https://www.moo.com/us/

https://www.vistaprint.com/

https://www.printingforless.com/ (use code RP1NEWS97 for $40 off)

Business cards are inexpensive and may be helpful for everyone to have while networking

Postcards – can include additional information and fit easily on an info table.

Create a PDF brochure to email to folks and print small quantities as needed to put in coffee shops, etc. That keeps costs down and makes it easy to update frequently without waste.

Places to Post Info

Suggested places to put your postcards/business cards/flyers:

  • Public bulletin boards
  • Libraries
  • Food co-ops, grocery stores, farmers markets
  • Cafes (leave in stacks too, if you can)
  • Community centers, senior centers
  • Churches
  • Schools, after school and day care centers (for intergenerational groups looking for families)
Website Options

Websites can be a big can of worms. If you have someone who already knows how to create websites, go for it. There are annual fees for domain name ($15/year) and hosting ($100+/years) and without a skilled community member, can be expensive to get designed if you’re having to pay for it. They require regular maintenance. Of course there are cheaper ways to go but they also have a downsides including learning curves and costs as well as who owns your content when you want to move.

What should be included in a website?

About your community is the most important – location, stage you’re in, values, steps to get involved

About cohousing in general (link to resources)

Make it easy to navigate and friendly – photos and bios of those already committed make it relatable.

Easy way to contact you 

Learning more about this subject: 

This page offers an overview of website steps: https://www.blockbeta.com/websites.html

This page offers descriptions of various website building tools such as Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and WordPress: https://www.blockbeta.com/website-builder-tools.html

There are also some cohousing specific options out there including:

https://cohousing.site/

Marketing Events

Plan regularly scheduled information events. Locate a venue in the geographic area you want to build in or nearby areas where potential members might live now.  Free meeting spaces may be available through a library, church or other public building. Be careful to choose a space that is comfortable and easy to find. Remember this will be a first impression for many people.  

Have sign-in sheet (make sure to get their emails!)

Use name tags and visuals.

Do introductions, adhere to agenda and end time.

Consider obtaining a few copies of books on cohousing to have on hand for events.

Promote via free community calendar listings in print and on blogs.

Partner with natural allies for co-promotion and hosting events.

Ideas for other events:

Visit existing cohousing communities in your area (see www.cohousing.org/directory)

For forming senior groups, consider putting on a Study Group 1: Aging Successfully course

Host a screening of a cohousing-related movie or TED Talk (such as Happy), and discussion afterwards

List Building

Create a MailChimp account (free for first 2000 names)
Collect interested people’s emails in this list and use it to promote informational events and your progress
Send something brief out on a consistent basis with updates. Every month or two is adequate.

Cohousing Flier

Coho flier for professional printing

For best results, we recommend professional printing.  The file above is formatted “full bleed” for this type of printing.  We recommend printing a large order to use over time and adding a 2 1/3 X 3 3/8 inch label that is printed with your community contact information and upcoming events.  There is room for the label on the back of the flier.  

Coho flier for home printing

Although not ideal, sometimes home printing is necessary. The file above is formatted for home printers.  Printers vary. In some cases using two-sided printing will result the back being upside down. We recommend printing a test copy. If needed, print one side at a time and position paper for correct orientation. 

CohoUS thanks Dick Margulis for graphic design and Richard Getler, Jes Gordon, Karen Gimnig, Adam Johnson, and McCamant Durrett Architects for the photography

Cohousing Slide Show

Slide Show for Informational Meeting

Instructions: 

  1. Access the google slides show at the link above.
  2. Make a copy of the slide show on your own google drive.
  3. Changes can be made to suit the needs of your community.  Please keep photo credits with photos, and credit The Cohousing Association for the content of the slide show. 
The Cohousing Association thanks the following contributors for the content of this page:

CohoUS Staff, Sheila Hoffman

Stories

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