Advice when contacting an intentional community for confident and clear communication!
So, you’ve found one or more communities that you’re dying to visit. You’ve read every scrap of literature you can find about the place online and now you’re ready to make contact. Houston, all systems go! You open up your email browser, wipe out a fresh email, and then…
What do you write? How much should you share? What if they don’t respond? Would it be better to call after all?!
Contacting an intentional community for the first time can feel daunting. Especially for a community you really like and would love to visit, the stakes can feel high.
Unfortunately, a too familiar story is that an eager person reaches out to a community that never replies back or at best gives a short terse response. If this has happened to you, know that you are not alone!
There are a variety of potential reasons a community may not respond to your inquiry, including:
- Them not being open to visitors or new members at that time
- A busy and overwhelmed volunteer contact person
- Changing of roles or unclarity about who is the contact person
- Out-dated contact information or a community gone defunct
- A very new community or the pipe-dream of visionary landowner
- Conflict or emergency in the group that’s taking up everyone’s attention
- Something about your message that turned them off…
While there are no excuses for radio silence or rude communication from a community, there are steps you can take to ensure your initial message is as thoughtful and clear as possible.
The tips and template below is your guide for how to contact an intentional community the right way… and get a positive response back!
7 tips for contacting an intentional community:
1. Keep it short and sweet
For a large community, your inquiry may be one of hundreds (if not thousands) of messages they receive every year. It could be someone’s full time job to respond to all the inquiries! But too often, this isn’t someone’s job. There’s just a volunteer who is trying to keep up with the communication while juggling whatever else is going on in their life and community.
Be kind to them and keep your message brief.
Brief, as in a single paragraph. Brief, as in a handful of sentences — tops. This isn’t the time to recount your saga of pilgrimage across the country in search of community or bemoan the loss of companionship that has made life without community meaningless. There will be time to share all that, but not now.
Reference the template at the bottom of this article for guidance, but essentially your message should contain the following information (not more, not less):
- Your reason for contacting said community. This goes in the subject line. Typically, “Visiting [Insert Name of Community]” is all that’s needed.
- Your name and further explanation for why you are reaching out. Keep it short and in a positive tone.
- Why their community specifically is a match for your interest, values, skills, situation. This is where you demonstrate you’ve done your homework (see below).
- How you found out about them (website, friend, social media, Cynthia’s matchmaking service)
- Your specific question (put this on its own line for greater visibility)
- How they can learn more about you if they like (hyperlink or attachment)
- A friendly sign-off — done!
2. Attach or hyperlink to more information
There’s a clever way to share more about yourself while still keeping your initial message brief. That is to attach or hyperlink additional content about you and your interest in the community. While not necessary, this can be a nice way for the person receiving your message to choose to learn more. They get to choose, instead being forced to wade through a lengthy email.
Here are some possibilities for attachments or links. Think about what’s best in your situation and include 1-3, but not more, in your email to a community.
3. Demonstrate you’ve done your homework
Please, don’t contact a community without first doing the research to learn all you can about the place and their options for visitors. Most communities have a website, social media page, or listing on ic.org or similar communities directory. There they will share about the opportunities for visiting, instructions for contacting, and whether or not they are open to guests right now.
To learn more about how to visit a community and the kinds of opportunities available, refer to the Visiting Communities Guide.
Include what you learn in your initial email to the community, where appropriate.
For instance, you may want to mimic words or language from their website. So if the community has a focus on biodynamic farming, mention “biodynamic farming” in your email, instead of just farming or gardening or permaculture or another term that you would use.
This is the time you want to show that you get them. That you are a good fit for them. That you may help further the values and activities that are important to them. Make your message about them, not you.
4. Make a specific request
Would you like to visit for a day? A week? Months?
Which specific program are you interested in? (Based on what they say is available on their website.)
What are your accommodation needs? Camping or indoor room?
When would you like to visit? Tomorrow? Next month? Another season? (Do check to see what times of the year or days they are open to receiving visitors.)
Formulate your request into a neat compact question and put it on its own line in your message. Make sure it is noticeable to a person quickly skimming the content.
5. Time your outreach wisely
It’s always best to inquire about a visit far in advance. This gives you and the community adequate time to plan and increases your chances of a positive response. An exception is if you are a local, in which case you can visit anytime that works for the community since you live nearby. For an overseas or cross-country trip, 2-4 months in advance is ideal. For a shorter trip or one where you have your own transport or other accommodation nearby, a few weeks of heads up is okay.
Always respect the answer of a community and never assume that it’s okay to show up because they didn’t respond.
In the case that you don’t hear back…
Take heart, this does happen from time to time and may have nothing to do with you or your message. Wait 1-2 weeks then try again. If you emailed, try calling, or sending another email with a polite message asking if they indeed received your first message. You may have incorrect contact info. Double check. Try a message on social media if they seem active there. Don’t be annoying, but also make sure you are actually reaching them.
And if all else fails, accept that it may not have been meant to be. Try another community in the sea!
6. Be strategic for cold contacting an intentional community
Here’s a way to warm things up when cold calling/emailing a community.
Even the most rural of communities have begun to get active in online spaces, especially since the pandemic. Most established communities have social media pages, YouTube videos, and some even host online events, such as education workshops, virtual tours, or meet-and-greets for prospective members.
If a community has any of these online offerings, take advantage of them!
It’s an excellent way to get to know the group without making a trip yourself and start building a connection if it is a place where you’d like to deepen your relationship.
For example, FIC (Foundation for Intentional Community) hosts monthly virtual tours featuring a variety of communities. You can join an upcoming one or watch the repeats on their YouTube channel. Then when it comes time to reach out to a community you’d like to visit, you can say that you saw their virtual tour and mention what you appreciated about it.
This goes a long way towards building a mutual point of connection when cold calling.
Similarly, if the community doesn’t have much online, how else could you go about finding points of connection? Any possible mutual friends who’ve visited or lived there? Any group processes, healing modalities, teachers, or philosophies you might share? For example, “I saw on your website that you do Circling regularly. I’m part of a Circling group in Austin…”
7. Think of this as the start of a relationship
Getting to know a community is like building a relationship. Put as much care and attention into your communication as you would when approaching someone about going on a first date. Put your best self forward, be authentic, listen, and share with respect.
Remember, most people living in community have chosen this lifestyle because they love it and are happy to share with others. Many will be excited to hear from you!
Below is a template you can copy/paste and adapt to your needs for use contacting an intentional community. Leave a line in the comments box if you end up using it and let me know how it goes.
Happy contacting communities and enjoy the adventure!
Template for Contacting a Community
Make a copy or print to fill out. Adapt the text to meet your needs and reflect your style of communication.
Visiting [Name of Community]
Hello [Name of Community or Name of Contact Person],
I’m reaching out because I’m exploring intentional communities to join and would love to visit your community. From reading your website, I’m interested in visiting because [share what inspires you about the community or how your skills/work/situation aligns with them].
I found out about your community through [the directory at ic.org, my friend so and so who has lived/visited, attending one of your online workshops/events, etc].
Is it possible to visit at some point?
You can learn more about me on my [website, social media page, classified ad on ic.org, etc].
Looking forward to hearing from you!