Most DAOs are 'permissionless' so as soon as you're contributing, you're in! That said, there are different levels of engagement so, like most things, the more effort you put in, the more rewarding it will be. Here are the most common steps:
(For this article we will refer to Aragon's $ANT token and use the example of the Aragon Network DAO, but the principles here will apply to most DAOs on Ethereum).
Navigate to 1inch or Uniswap, connect your Web3 wallet and swap $ETH for $ANT (having double-checked the contract address on Coinmarketcap).
Once the discussion time has elapsed, make any required amendments to the proposal and submit it for a formal vote on Aragon Voice or Snapshot.
DAOs are Permissionless!
Joining a DAO is embarrassingly easy compared to legacy organizations. In fact, if you own any ERC20 token you are probably already a member of a DAO, and if you own Aragon's $ANT token, you definitely are. Even without a token, you can still be an active member of a DAO community. This is because DAOs - and crypto in general - embrace the notion of 'permissionlessness'. This doesn't mean that all of your contributions and ideas for proposals are guaranteed to be accepted, but there is rarely a joining process and certainly not any required characteristics or an interview / secret handshake / 12 terms of boarding school to be endured first. Regarding tokens, a DAO's token is your ticket, membership card and vote ballot all rolled into one, but before we reach that stage, there's the small matter of community-building.
0. Find your Tribe
Before getting busy with proposals and community calls, you'll want to decide where in the DAO universe you want to spend your time. For this, directories such as DAOlist and DeepDAO are great places to begin exploring.
DAO communities are as diverse as one can imagine. Some, like BadgerDAO, are Web3-specific collaborations between developers building Decentralized Finance (DeFi) products; others, like Friends with Benefits (FWB) are next-generation social networks. In terms of culture, finance & investment DAOs like Barnbridge tend to be - as in the real world - fairly conservative; others like Bored Ape Yacht Club, less so... Projects like Decentraland are fairly mature and have very well established protocols, meaning that smaller changes stand a better chance of passing than big ones. On the other hand, these DAOs do tend to have large treasuries, so a well-researched proposal could attract significant funding. Other DAOs are scrappy as hell and you could be involved in formative projects from day one.
Whichever tribe you gravitate towards, don't be afraid to ask 'dumb' questions: most people are humble enough to remember that they were in your position once, and, most importantly, you'll cut your learning time in half.
1. Read the Charter
Once you have found a DAO to explore, it is a good idea to read any introductory documents first. DAOs are generally Purpose-led Organizations and will usually have a written set of objectives and principles that guide the community's activities. For the Aragon Network DAO, this is the Aragon Network Charter, a document that sets out members' rights and responsibilities, as well as the correct procedure for proposals, elections, and voting.
2. Join the Community
As soon as you are familiar with the Charter, dive straight into the community chat and introduce yourself. Most DAOs use Discord but Telegram is common too. To get an idea of what to expect when you join, read What is it Like to Join a DAO?
3. Get Involved
It is true that if you are a developer, you will find a niche in almost any DAO. However, DAO software is nothing without the four 'c's of Web3: Community, Culture, Collaboration and Coordination. These require an army of skilled operators to manage: designers, project managers, strategists, content producers, presenters, community managers, researchers... the list goes on. The DAO space is not yet as diverse as the real world, but it's getting there, and the earlier you get involved in any capacity, the better your long-term prospects.
4. Draft a Proposal
So, hanging out in Discord is great, but if you want to get the most out of joining a DAO, eventually you will want to formally propose something such as a new investment, website upgrade, community project, etc., or something for which you want to get paid. In that case, the DAO Charter will usually set out the steps that need to be followed. For the Aragon Network DAO, the process is to first post your idea in the Forum for a minimum of seven days and link to it on Discord as a sentiment check. This gives the community time to scrutinize the draft, ask questions, point out potential problems, and request any revisions. Be sure to include as much relevant information as possible in your proposal and anticipate any questions that might be asked.
Anyone may post on the Forum, but to advance to the next stage of a formal vote (sometimes called a 'signaling' proposal), one must have some of the DAO's token to unlock access to voting platforms like Aragon Voice or Snapshot. This is also true if you want to vote on someone else's proposal, and in that case your voting power is usually determined by how many tokens you have.
At present, most DAOs exist in the Ethereum ecosystem, which means that the easiest way to obtain them is as follows:
First purchase some $ETH via a well-established platform like Coinbase, (or, for the more privacy-conscious, a peer-to-peer platform such as LocalCryptos)
Connect your Web3 wallet to 1inch or Uniswap and swap your $ETH for the relevant token. Note: It is good practice to copy / paste the contract address of the token from Coinmarketcap rather than searching for a ticker symbol such as 'ETH'. This is because two different tokens may use the same ticker.
5. Submit your Proposal
Having waited for the required seven days, taken all of the community feedback into account and purchased the DAO token, you can now submit a formal signaling proposal on Aragon Voice or Snapshot.
Congratulations! You have now definitely joined a DAO. Welcome to the future of collaboration, work and governance! For further reading, have a look through our Education series.