The Night School: A ‘magical’ membership seven years in the making

Featured in this Story of Awesome: The Night School

Launched December 2019

Launched
December 2019

140+ Members

140+
Members

Paid <br>Membership

Paid
Membership

The Night School is a paid membership site that guides seekers to develop a personal spirituality and wellness practice that incorporates herbs, crystals, astrology, and more.

The Spark: No longer satisfied with offering bits and pieces of her work on different websites and platforms, Maia was searching for a dedicated community space for her followers.

Maia’s Mighty Moment: “I look at this as a time to get to know my people. To build trust and goodwill. To create a community that feels really supportive. Because that’s going to pay us back in the long run.”

For over seven years, herbalist and author Maia Toll had been trying to build a community where she could guide people toward caring for their inner, sacred selves with medicinal herbs, essential oils, crystals, astrology, and more. But despite her best efforts, she just couldn’t find a solution.

Her idea for a community space started when she opened Herbiary, a multi-city natural wellness store. Maia had put together a monthly subscription e-booklet for her customers, “Your Wild and Wonderful Witch,” where she offered insights and stories and linked to remedies and materials for purchase.

Her audience grew rapidly. Soon, with the help of her in-store team, she found herself expanding the e-booklet into a WordPress site, renaming it Witch Camp. But the site was cluttered, convoluted, and hard to maintain. Shortly after, she found herself back at the drawing board.

In search of a home for her community, Maia experimented with a variety of solutions: A bulletin board style platform. A learning platform. Then WordPress again. Before she knew it, she had nearly 200 followers—but no real home for them:

“We had been struggling to find a platform that really points people toward the community nature of what we do.”

Frustrated, Maia was running out of options. Then, she stumbled upon Mighty Networks in her research. Quickly, she started figuring out if she could make a Mighty Network fit what she had in mind:

“Before, we hadn’t had the proper tools for building a community. So we came to Mighty Networks with the idea that we could both build a community for our people AND be able to scale up and bring more members in.”

With a Mighty Network, Maia would be able to bring her community together into one place and offer them resources, lessons, and more in an aesthetically pleasing space that was easy to navigate AND easy to grow. Plus, her members would be able to access the community on both the web and native mobile apps—any time, any place.

With her new discovery, Maia was ready to start building.

Creating a connection between science and spirituality

Right away, Maia started working on bringing her revamped community, The Night School, to life. Her first step? Moving her existing community members into the new space.

But there was just one problem. A number of her community members had started a Facebook Group to connect, which was separate from the online course platform Maia had been using to share her content. Others—including Maia—weren’t comfortable with using Facebook and were chatting on the lesson pages.

Maia wondered how she could bring all these people together:

“Because there were a lot of strong feelings about Facebook, everyone just ended up in two separate rooms. It was kind of like having a party and some people are in the living room and some people are in the kitchen and they’re not talking to each other.”

Maia decided to get more specific about who she would bring over. She wouldn’t try to recruit every single person from each of those groups. Instead, she would identify who would be the most motivated to join The Night School (and who would be most likely to engage):

“I'm actually trained as a Clinical Herbalist and I've worked with hospitals and doctors, so I’m used to trying to find a connection between science and spirituality. And that’s really influenced who’s attracted to our network: People who are spiritual but not necessarily religious. People who are looking for pathways into their own sense of self. So we're a very woo-woo network that's not very woo-woo.”

From there, Maia chose to focus more on her initial members, and less on finding brand new people to join her community. In lieu of heavy marketing, she made sure people who found her website or social profiles could learn more about The Night School and join if they thought it was a good fit:

“A lot of people find me on Instagram or check out my website because they’ve read one of my books. So while we haven’t done a huge push yet, I make sure that if people are looking for me, they’re going to find The Night School. It’s on my website--we have a "Welcome Mat" that flashes up and immediately says, "Do you want to join The Night School?" I talk about it on Instagram. It’s our way of taking it slow before we open the floodgates.”

Her first few members in place, Maia launched her network.

A membership dedicated to the magic of being human

Now, The Night School hosts nearly 150 members. And while Maia’s previous effort was split in two, The Night School is finally all in one place.

With a single-tier membership, priced at $19.99 per month, The Night School offers lessons via email, plus additional training and resources within the community. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Onboarding. New members get introduced to The Night School courtesy of a series of four articles inside the Mighty Network. The series works two-fold: it helps orient Maia’s followers to the way a Mighty Network works and it introduces the core concepts and philosophies of The Night School.
  • Night School Lessons. The bread and butter of The Night School are its “bite-sized” lessons, which are separated into themed Units, like Mystical Philosophy and Moon Medicine. Each Unit consists of 16 to 30 lessons, which are sent weekly by email, then posted on The Night School’s main feed to jumpstart conversations. When each Unit is completed, Maia and her team create a PDF of the entire Unit and archive in a post called The Night Library for reference.
  • Specialized Groups. Maia also invites members to opt into Groups for specific interests. Most of them are led by teacher-moderators who offer specialized training. For example, The Green Medicine Guild teaches members to make their own medicine, and The Star Society offers members a dive deep into astrology.
  • Retreats. Recent in-person events have been canceled, but Maia plans to let her teacher-moderators create their own in-person events in the future. She also has a few specialized retreats in the works for later this year and next year.

While Maia has focused on creating a resource-rich community for her members, she has learned that more content isn’t necessarily better:

“At a certain point, we were creating more and more content, but we were losing members. We finally used an exit interview to start asking, ‘Why are you leaving?’ And we found out people were just getting overwhelmed.”

Since then, she has cut down on the content, shifted to giving her members a chance to absorb the full value of what’s being offered, and given them permission to not complete every single thing. They even send emails with messages like, “Here’s how to approach this material if you’re in a busy time in your life,” and they get feedback from members that say, “Thank you so much for giving me permission not to have to do all the things.” Since then, she’s been able to retain more members—and they’ve been noticeably happier:

“I’ve found over time that most people have very busy lives and easily get overwhelmed when you’re heavy with the content. What they really want is a place to come together, find like-minded souls, and discuss what’s on their mind. And that has to be the focus.”

Paving the pathway to sacred living

Now that Maia and her team are settling into The Night School, they’re ready to start growing the membership. But they’re also taking stock of what their members need right now, staying focused on how to bring something valuable to her current members.

For instance, one of Maia’s main philosophies is that we learn all kinds of things over the course of our lives about ourselves and how we react in different situations and what works for us, but we forget half of them. So Maia offers her members guidelines around maintaining a “Book of Self.” It’s a concept that could prove especially helpful for the future should we need to reflect on how we made it through the current pandemic.

“We’re just taking the temperature of our people and focusing on giving them what they need right this minute.”

And despite having rolled out a new community in a rapidly changing time, Maia is grateful that she’s been able to give her people a dedicated space to come together, learn new concepts, and contribute to a strong, supportive community:

“I look at this as a time to get to know my people. To build trust and goodwill. To create a community that feels really supportive. Because that’s going to pay us back in the long run.”

3 key takeaways from The Night School’s Story of Awesome

  1. More is not necessarily better. Maia learned early on that offering her members a ton of resources was overwhelming them. She shifted to quality over quantity, allowing her people to pick and choose what they wanted to learn (and giving them the option to opt-in to Groups for added content).
  2. Get to know your ideal members. When Maia got started, her potential members were scattered across different social media and teaching platforms. Instead of trying to bring them all into her new venture, she got specific about what her ideal member looked like: the person who would be super motivated to engage in The Night School’s community and would, therefore, get the most out of it.
  3. Ask for feedback early and often. Once Maia started using an exit poll, she got a front-row seat into what her members were looking for. Integrating that feedback made it better not only for her members but for her ability to retain them as well.

Read More Stories of Awesome