Community Building Tips & How-Tos

How to Host a Neighborhood Gathering: Tips from a Chief People Gatherer

Written by Helen Lee

We recently caught up with Sarah Harmeyer, Founder and Chief People Gatherer at Neighbor’s Table, for her best tips on how to host your own neighborhood gathering. Sarah, who has hosted over 3,500 neighbors in her Dallas, TX backyard, now travels the country hand delivering custom-built community tables, often staying on hand to help neighbors host their first gatherings. Check out the interview below!

Tip 1 Start with the Right Mindset

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Sarah Harmeyer of Neighbor’s Table kicking off the Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When guests attend an event in my backyard, they often say how meaningful it is. Nine out of ten times, guests rave about the people that gather. My goal is to help each other see the very best things in each of us, and offer a space for connection.

I can provide a great meal or even decorate a pretty table, but it always comes back to people experiencing each other.

  • Plan ahead so you can be present.
  • Start with humility and friendliness.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Be earnest about learning names and something about your neighbors.
  • Tell people what you hope they experience at your event.
  • Encourage interactions and suggest putting phones away.

Tip 2 Break the Ice

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Conversation starter card at our #PoweroftheNeigborhood tour gathering in Brooklyn, NY.

Whether you’re hosting a neighborhood block party for fifty or meeting five people in a Neighborhood Favorite coffee shop, it helps to have a few ice breakers on hand to get neighbors who may not know each other to loosen up, start talking, and find common ground.

  • Provide name badges / stickers and markers.
  • Make the rounds not only introducing yourself, but introducing neighbors to one another.
  • Play music as people start gathering. It can help with conversation.
  • If hosting a larger group, put conversation starter questions on the table for people to pick up.
  • If your group is 30 people or less, try to have one group conversation at some point in your gathering.

Tip 3 Assign Party Tasks

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We tend to feel more invested and less awkward when we are able to contribute in some way – big or small. From planning to cleanup, invite neighbors to be a part of the experience. Some tasks might include:

  • Greeting people as they arrive.
  • Leading the ice breakers.
  • Creating a kid zone.
  • Sharing a toast.
  • Keeping beverages stocked, glasses filled.
  • Serving food and dessert.
  • Loading the dishwasher.
  • Emptying trash and recyclables.

Tip 4 Make It a Potluck

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Jessica Bueler (at left) of St. Louis, Missouri at a Welcome Neighbors STL supper club event benefitting refugee families from Syria.

When you don’t know your neighbors well, make it a potluck and ask them to bring a dish with a story. It invites creativity! Maybe it’s a Lebanese dish your family always shared at holidays, the cupcakes you had the night you were engaged, or the easy dish you always made in college. It’s a fun way to get people talking and to learn about each other! My tried and true is tacos with all the fixings – a can’t-go-wrong-favorite in Texas! Chili and cornbread is another easy one for a big crowd.

We all have an internal desire for connection. It’s what we long for, not even realizing it sometimes. Somehow the act of sitting elbow to elbow around a table, sharing a meal, is something that can bind us. We listen more, and talk kinder there.

Tip 5 Get the Word Out

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Abraham Walker of Alexandria, VA for a night out with the Dads and Guys Group.

I’ve had neighbors over for cookouts, backyard concerts, holiday parties, and many other reasons to gather. I’ve even had leftover wedding cake from my sister’s wedding and invited people over to have a slice or two! Nextdoor is a great way to get the word out about what I’m up to with my neighbors.

  • Create a theme or purpose for your neighborhood gathering along with a fun name (e.g. Coffees with Neighbors, Portsmouth Polar Bear Potluck, New Neighbor Happy Hour).
  • Post an event on Nextdoor (here’s how). It’s a great way to put out a neighborhood-wide invitation with all the details. I often use an attention-grabbing photo and include a website or video link if I want to share additional info. 
  • Share the event link via Nextdoor, Facebook, Twitter, and email.
  • Whether you run into a neighbor walking the dog or riding the elevator, good old word of mouth works great, too.

A huge thanks to Sarah Harmeyer for these great ideas. Share your tips and stories in the comments below – we’d love to hear! Interested in a Neighbor’s Table of your own built by Sarah? Learn more at neighborstable.com.


At Nextdoor, we truly believe that cultivating kindness and creating meaningful connections result in strong and vibrant neighborhoods. That’s why, in 2020, we will be hosting #PoweroftheNeighborhood gatherings and meeting neighbors around the world. Read more about what we’re up to in CEO Sarah Friar’s recent Note to Neighbors, and apply here to win a neighborhood gathering of your own

💚 Follow @Nextdoor on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – and subscribe to the Nextdoor blog for company news, more pro tips, and inspiring stories from neighbors around the world! 💚

16 Comments

  • Glad to see my dads group make the article. Next month we celebrate our 1 year anniversary since we started the group on NextDoor.

    NextDoor makes it easy to find people we have something in common with who live in or near our community.

    • Abraham, this article would not have been complete with you and the Alexandria Dads / Guys Group! Thanks so much for everything you do to bring neighbors together. That’s what it’s all about! 🙌

    • Hi, I’m Deborah Fowler and been a long time member of Nextdoor but do I have not frequent my post often but am ready to be all in…however I can not down load picture can you talk me through this? Thanks

  • good morn’n Helen need some info on how to start a Nextdoor community in Baja , California. Is it possible to do and if so how can I start a community. Alittle info, my wife and art recently retired and move d to a community So. of the border , all US / Canadian expats . would like to introduce Nextdoor here to keep everyone I formed .

  • Go outside and sing this song loudly!
    It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
    A beautiful day for a neighbor,
    Would you be mine?
    Could you be mine?

    It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
    A neighborly day for a beauty,
    Would you be mine?
    Could you be mine?

    I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
    I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

    So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
    Since we’re together, we might as well say,
    Would you be mine?
    Could you be mine?
    Won’t you be my neighbor?

    Won’t you please,
    Won’t you please,
    Please won’t you be my neighbor?

  • Don’t forget our “Meet at the end of the drive way” this coming Sunday to sing Amazing grace to honor Jesus for Easter Sunday services.

  • I love the whole idea and execution of these gatherings, but I have been sheltering at home for 4 or 5 weeks, and it’s painful how vacant life feels without family, friends, neighbors, event strangers. Might this be better published when we are not longing to be together? I went out last week and whenever I saw 1 or 2 people walking dogs, or themselves, I rolled down the window and called, “Hello Humans.” It made them laugh, and they waved and called back, but it felt as reviving as stepping out the front door between the downpours.

    • You always have someone! Heads up! We will make it through! My number if you’d like to talk 765-772-6675 Christine

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