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Creating a Member Handbook - FGS Wiki

Creating a Member Handbook


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[[Category:Strategies for Societies]][[Category:Freilinger, Robert]][[Category:Membership]][[Category:Publications]]
  
 +
 +
== INTRODUCTION ==
 +
 +
Your society has a story to tell about its purpose,
 +
projects, programs, and plans. The story is best
 +
told through a Member Handbook given to all
 +
new members and prospective members who
 +
express serious interest. Explaining the “Why
 +
and How” of such a handbook is the purpose of
 +
this paper.
 +
 +
 +
== WHY PREPARE A HANDBOOK? ==
 +
 +
The preparation of a member handbook benefits
 +
the reader and the society. A handbook educates
 +
new members about how your society works
 +
and can motivate prospective members to join.
 +
In short, it can “sell” your society while encouraging participation. It is easier to be involved in
 +
an organization when you understand its goals
 +
and activities.
 +
 +
 +
== WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED? ==
 +
 +
Keep the writing focused on your purpose and
 +
the audience. Explain why the organization
 +
was formed, what activities are being done, and
 +
why and how others can help. The audience
 +
is anyone who does not already know these
 +
things. Some topics to include:
 +
<ul>
 +
<li>Welcome. A welcome letter from the
 +
group’s leadership sets the tone for the rest
 +
of the booklet. The letter also lets readers
 +
know, in general terms, what they can expect
 +
from the booklet.
 +
<li>Officers. List positions and contact details.
 +
<li>Mission & Goals. A compelling mission
 +
statement and clearly stated goals belong
 +
here. Both should be focused enough that
 +
people could see there is little duplication
 +
with other organizations. Spell them out in
 +
specific terms.
 +
A mission statement might be: “To make sound
 +
genealogical research methods and sources
 +
interesting and accessible to everyone with a
 +
connection to our county.” A goal might be: “To locate, catalog, and
 +
preserve genealogical sources of this county.”
 +
<li>Accomplishments. People want to associ-
 +
ate with successful organizations, but they
 +
won’t know how productive your organiza-
 +
tion has been unless you tell them. Here’s
 +
your chance to brag a bit. You need not
 +
repeat what you have in other sections of the
 +
booklet – just pick out the highlights:
 +
“Our library team provided over 2,500 hours of
 +
volunteer service in 2012.
 +
<li>Organization. Use a chart or descriptive
 +
text to explain how the group is organized.
 +
Identify which positions are elected and
 +
which are appointed. Provide the dates for
 +
elections and tell who does the appointments. Give a brief description of the
 +
general duties of each office or board
 +
position.
 +
<li>Financial Statement. Members want to
 +
know their money is being used in the most
 +
effective ways. Is the money advancing
 +
programs directly related to the mission and
 +
goals? Or, are your programs prospering in
 +
spite of having very little financial support?
 +
The latter can say volumes about the level of
 +
commitment of your volunteers.
 +
<li>Membership Benefits. It is human nature
 +
to want to know, “What’s in it for me?!” Let
 +
readers know the great things you are doing
 +
just for members. Make them sound as
 +
attractive as they are. Perhaps your
 +
organization offers member discounts on
 +
products or entry fees to workshops?
 +
Regular publications like a journal or news
 +
letter? Opportunities to submit free ads or
 +
queries? Or an annual, members-only
 +
social event, such as a picnic?
 +
 +
Think of your new or potential member as
 +
needing to choose between two genealogical societies. Tell them what makes your
 +
society unique. Point out the extra value it
 +
offers to members.
 +
<li>Programs or Projects. Briefly describe
 +
research trips, indexing or data collection
 +
projects, or workshops your group conducts.
 +
Share the excitement and explain the value
 +
of these ventures and tell how members can
 +
assist.
 +
<li>Volunteer Opportunities. Help readers
 +
see that what is good for your organization
 +
is also good for them. Explain your volunteer program. If there is a volunteer co-
 +
ordinator, list that person’s name and contact information. Perhaps your organization
 +
offers a mentor program whereby
 +
previous officers answer questions and
 +
advise new officers. If so, give contact
 +
information for a person who is willing to
 +
discuss this in more detail.
 +
 +
In addition to making opportunities known,
 +
use this section to honor some outstanding
 +
volunteers:
 +
“Our library team consists of dedicated volunteers like Mary Jones, who helped in the public
 +
library’s genealogy section for more than 400
 +
hours during the past year.”
 +
<li>Internet Resources. Many people join a
 +
local society to get help in their research.
 +
They may have used the Internet, but that doesn’t mean they have researched properly.
 +
Listing and describing some of the better
 +
sites while adding a caution about on-line
 +
skepticism will be helpful.
 +
<li>Advertise Your Society’s Home Page. Tell
 +
readers they can locate other society Home
 +
Pages through Society Hall at <http://www.fgs.org/cstm_societyHall.php>. Society Hall) is an on-line directory of genealogical
 +
and historical societies, family associations, libraries and archives, and genealogical vendors that are members of FGS.
 +
FGS members organizations may provide detailed information on their activities, publications, products, and services.
 +
<li>Relevant Organizations. Tell readers about
 +
other regional, state, and national level organizations designed to help them. Every
 +
society should be a member of the Federation and so FGS’s purposes and member benefits
 +
should be stated. Include the addresses and
 +
Web sites for the Association of Professional
 +
Genealogists<http://www.apgen.org> and the
 +
Board for Certification of Genealogists
 +
<http://www.bcgcertification.org> to help educate
 +
readers about genealogical services and
 +
products.
 +
<li>Standards. A great way to help new genealogists get off on the right foot is to provide
 +
<li>Bylaws. Publishing the bylaws in the booklet gives members a permanent reference and
 +
meets the requirements of some organizations to provide this to new members.
 +
</ul>
 +
 +
 +
== PRODUCTION ==
 +
 +
Most of us have access to a computer and a
 +
printer. Compile and type the information in a
 +
word processing program and do a preliminary
 +
printing of five or six copies.
 +
 +
Target some key people, such as your publication’s editors or proofreaders, officers, members
 +
with publishing experience, and just as important, at least a couple of non-members who
 +
represent your target audience. Ask each of these
 +
folks to read for content, interest, accuracy, and
 +
completeness.
 +
 +
Comments from this team of readers will
 +
increase the professionalism and the value of
 +
the booklet. After incorporating the team ideas
 +
into the text, print a few copies to distribute to
 +
current board members. Board approval must be
 +
obtained before you print or distribute the handbook in quantity.
 +
 +
 +
== PRINTING ==
 +
 +
Try a printing utility software program which allows you to easily
 +
print your document in a booklet format. With
 +
the software installed for any printing jobs, the
 +
cost of printing the booklets becomes just the
 +
cost of paper, print cartridge or toner, and
 +
staples. Use one color of paper for your cover
 +
and another color for the pages.
 +
 +
Print only as many copies as you need for a given period. For example, if you normally
 +
have no more than five new members a month,
 +
you might only print ten or fifteen for the two- to-three month supply. If you need more than
 +
twenty-five copies at a time, you may want to
 +
print a master copy and use a copy machine.
 +
 +
The information in the booklet stays up-to-date
 +
because you produce them only as needed.
 +
Include a header on each page that gives the
 +
name of the society, the title of the booklet, and
 +
the date of the “edition”. As new copies are
 +
produced, revise this date. This is important so
 +
that readers can identify the most recent version
 +
of the handbook.
 +
 +
 +
== DISTRIBUTION ==
 +
 +
Now that you’ve done all this work, how will
 +
you distribute the handbook?
 +
<ol>
 +
<li>Send it with responses to the serious
 +
inquiries you get regarding your organization.
 +
Include a membership application, too. If you
 +
don’t hear back within two weeks, send a
 +
follow-up notice.
 +
<li>Make it part of your new member welcome
 +
packet – and yes, there should be a new member
 +
welcome packet! This packet can include flyers
 +
about upcoming events, a volunteer application,
 +
a sheet with research tips for getting started, and
 +
maybe a listing of repositories in the local area:
 +
general holdings, addresses and contact
 +
numbers, and hours.
 +
<li>Provide a copy to current members. Some
 +
members may not be aware of all the organization’s programs. But even if they are, it is
 +
always good to reinforce the goals, objectives
 +
and accomplishments in a reference work they
 +
can keep close at hand. Encourage feedback
 +
from these members: they can help make this
 +
book an important asset to the society.
 +
<li>Use this booklet to make your society
 +
known to other agencies, organizations, and
 +
opinion leaders. If the booklet becomes too
 +
detailed for the audience you’re targeting, the
 +
project will not be in vain. It will give the in-depth information needed by your officers and
 +
public relations team.
 +
<li>Add a PDF version of the handbook to your society's website. Advise members via e-mail or at meetings when a new version is available so that they can download and print a fresh edition.
 +
 +
 +
== ENJOY THE RESULTS ==
 +
 +
The process of collecting the information for
 +
your member handbook will trigger a close look
 +
at the organization. This may even result in
 +
some changes for the better. But most
 +
importantly, the Member Handbook will be your
 +
society’s ambassador, in the hands of people
 +
who need to know about the organization.

Revision as of 19:11, 14 August 2013

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