Community Building May 21, 2020

What stack would you choose for a paid/members-only community?

Charles Watson @sircharleswatson

I've been thinking about this lately and curious what you would do.

Would you build from scratch, or string together a bunch of tools like MemberSpace/Discourse/etc?

  1. 6

    Hi @sircharleswatson! Hopefully this will be helpful (and sharing from trialing MULTIPLE platforms).

    What we want to offer is a community that encourages interaction and sharing, events, courses + learning, a knowledge center, groups (both private and public), private messaging, and different levels of paid.

    What we tried, but didn't like:

    • AccessAlly - we went with this option at first because it seemed to have everything we needed in building a custom WP membership/learning site, but the backend was clunky AF.
    • Multiple WP options stitched together (Memberpress, Ultimate, Paid Memberships Pro, etc) with LearnDash/Slack/etc - everything had to have extra plugins to work and, after a while, things just broke with every adjustment.
    • Kajabi - at first glance, this looked like an AMAZING option with everything we needed, but when we were setting it up, it started to feel too much like a "lead generation" site rather than a warm, welcoming community. It prioritizes funnels over fun!
    • We looked at memberbee, teachable, thinkific, podia...and checked out the stack that Alex Hillman (with Amy Hoy) uses but it requires lots of development skills.

    What we ended up going with:

    • Mighty Networks - I really love how the platform focuses on creating engagement and fostering strong community ties. There are private groups, topical discussions you can follow, private messaging, threaded polls and links, article integrations, etc. It also has great event and course integration and a gorgeous mobile app.

    The biggest thing it's missing is the knowledge center.


    • Active Campaign - for email newsletters/announcements (we tried ConvertKit and it was hard to design nice emails) - we're hooking it to Mighty through Zapier integrations.

    We are still looking into the best way to organize a knowledge center (may just use Google Drive or Dropbox?)

    I'll check out the other suggestions below as well, but the more we use Mighty (we're getting comfy with it internally and with a small, private group), the more we love it.

    Hope that helps!

    1. 1

      Thank you for the detailed breakdown, that is very helpful!

      Along with Mighty Networks, do you still have some kind of real-time communication setup as well? (i.e. Slack)

      1. 1

        @sircharleswatson Mighty Networks has several real-time communication channels built in:

        • a "feed" where people can share thoughts, links, media and polls (or comment on what others are sharing) - allowing for threaded discussions
        • real-time all-member chats - in the main network as well as under groups (like a FB or Linkedin group - Slack, like channels)
        • private member chats

        All of these can be turned on and off for various parts of your network.

        That being said, Slack is definitely a lightweight communication tool, so we're going to gauge whether we'd use it separately or not.

        1. 1

          Awesome! Thanks for the info! 😁

  2. 5

    Hey Charles, Ward here from MemberSpace 👋.

    Obviously I'm biased, but we have lots of customers building a community using us + a 3rd party integration.

    Right now we have SSO integration with but we also have it coming soon for 💪 At the moment you would need to use our Zapier integration though:

    If you're looking for more of a community directory, we have a direct integration with

    I'm happy to walk you through a demo or answer any specific questions you have, just shoot me an email ([email protected]).

    1. 2

      I just read this morning that MemberSpace kept it's partnership with MakerPad. This stack combo would be great for any NoCode folks out there.

  3. 4

    this is a great question! subscribing to the post. +1!

  4. 2

    great question!

    I've been running my 'mvp' community on Substack, but I'm now migrating to Ghost (blog/newsletter) + a forum of some kind (I'm still deciding...I've applied for early-access to Circle & Comradery - thx @rosiesherry!)

    1. 2

      Comradery looks really interesting. I was also looking at Flarum last night.

      I keep seeing mentioned everywhere but I can't find any information about it haha

      1. 1

        i've just found out Circle can be accessed right now (just tagged you in another post)

    1. 1

      What's good about Panion?

      1. 1

        All the people are completely keyword searchable based on interest, gender, location, age, language, distance from you, etc. Plus the interface is super intuitive and it does pretty much everything FB groups does but a whole lot more with events and encouraging people to gather around different interests and groups.

  5. 1

    Come check out :-) We have pre-built signup (aka free members) and payment landing pages and popups for any CMS + user account menu. You can do multiple pledge/membership or priced subscription tiers and configure site settings (aka gating, customization) for any tier of registered or paying user.

  6. 1

    Hey Charles! I'm a Co-founder of Outseta— We offer an all-in-one platform that gives you all the tools you need to run a paid membership community. The platform offers recurring billing, CRM, help desk, and email tools. Happy to chat!

  7. 1

    Used Misago to launch It’s a modern community forum, would be very easy to add a payment wall to signup. Hosting is virtually free compared to other solutions.

    1. 1

      I also launched it in an hour too.

  8. 1

    We tried to do a no-code solution for The Agent Nest and it just didn’t work. We just had so much content, and a unique way of displaying it. Most no-code solutions got insanely messy as soon as you tried to get a little out of the box.

    We ended up settling on VueJS, with ButterCMS providing the content. We are extremely happy with this setup.

    I’m so glad we bit the bullet and actually put together a custom solution with code. We are so far ahead of our competitors simply because we have the power to customize anything we want.

    1. 1

      This is a great insight!

  9. 1

    Hey Charles,

    IMO it totally depends on the types of community. But using discord or slack to create a paid community is a joke. using it is ok, but that shouldn't be THE STACK.

    I think the problem with mightynetwork is that they are very chaotic for users. It's hard to create intimacy on that platform. Maybe you will wanna check out It has this function called dialog, it is like a chat+forum. it allows your community to engage.. and the event management feature is very naturally intergrated into the community. If you are building a community, check out man.

    1. 1

      So you recommend something that's not available yet and has nearly no information on their website?

      1. 1

        not necessarily, a good community builder want the best for his community. Best in a way that fits the most. Sometimes the platform that fits the most are not on the market. It's a normal phenomenon, but its always good to keep your eyes open for better platforms.

        the question u just asked happened million times in history. and I think it's a reasonable doubt. When ford came out with automobiles, ppl were asking: so you want me to get this thing instead of a reliable fast horse? But here we go lol, we all driving now.

  10. 1

    For the past year we were working hard on such a solution and now it's live in closed beta:

    It's a fully embeddable forum/community solution that supports rich user profiles, no code integration, real-time threads, and much more.

    Please let me know if you have any questions!

  11. 1

    Are you looking to build a blog with content only accessible to members, or do you have a forum/thread type site in mind?

    1. 1

      Probably both haha. I'm kinda just exploring all of my options right now. :)

  12. 1

    To start I’d look at

    • BuddyBoss (off the shelf community with good support and can use the Wordpress plugin ecosystem)
    • Mailchimp (for email digests. Has a free tier)
    • Integromat (automate posting community content on social media using the community’s RSS feed. Has a free tier)
  13. 1

    Check out Geneva — best I’ve seen by far

  14. 1

    String it together. Limit invites strictly to email addresses linked to payments.

    1. 1

      What tools would you use in this scenario? :)

      1. 1

        I just signed up for a paid group, first time I've don this. It's a combo of Slack + but I bet you could use any decent forum. I think they use stripe for payment.

        1. 1

          Did you compare Circle with something else as, for instance, mighty networks?

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            I was just commenting on another group I am a member of, I didn't put the stack together.

        2. 1

          Cool! What group is it if you don't mind me asking?

  15. 0

    From scratch.

    Heroku or selfhost with dokku

  16. 3

    This comment was deleted 3 months ago.

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