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Now That You've Attracted Those Members, Keep Them! - FGS Wiki

Now That You've Attracted Those Members, Keep Them!


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[NOTE: this page has not yet been formatted.  If you are interested in assisting in the care and maintenance of the FGS Wiki Content, please contact Thomas MacEntee at publicity@fgs.org.]
+
== INTRODUCTION ==
  
[[Category:Strategies for Societies]][[Category:Putt, Dawne Slater]][[Category:Membership]]
+
Congratulations! Your society's membership has
 +
grown steadily over the past several years. The
 +
organization is now comprised of a large group of
 +
local people who regularly attend meetings, plus a
 +
number of members living in remote locations that
 +
count on the society for genealogical news from
 +
and about your area. How can your society
 +
effectively serve both types of members? Too
 +
many times those who perceive that a society is
 +
not meeting their research needs silently decline to
 +
rejoin. What can you offer that will encourage
 +
them to continue as members year after year? This
 +
paper will provide some ideas about how to best
 +
serve and interest members ... and keep them
 +
coming back for more!
 +
 
 +
 
 +
== MAKE MEMBERSHIP VALUABLE ==
 +
 
 +
An important way to keep members renewing is to
 +
give them the feeling that they are getting their
 +
money's worth when they make out that check for
 +
dues each year. The society's goal is to have
 +
members think that they really would be missing
 +
something valuable if they dropped their
 +
membership. The challenge to this plan is that
 +
members' needs and wants vary greatly. Following
 +
are several ways to make a society valuable to its
 +
members:
 +
 
 +
'''Publish Useful Periodicals'''
 +
These are
 +
important for all members, but are one of the
 +
most valuable benefits offered to those living in
 +
remote areas. With this in mind, many societies
 +
produce two periodicals, a timely newsletter
 +
containing society news, announcements of
 +
upcoming meetings, queries, lists of acquisitions
 +
to the society's collection, and wish-lists of
 +
materials and equipment; and a journal that
 +
publishes records from the area and perhaps
 +
methodology articles. The newsletter is aimed
 +
primarily at local members, while the journal is
 +
significant to everyone, including remote
 +
members who do not attend meetings or regularly
 +
use the collection. An added bonus to printing
 +
previously unpublished records and methodology
 +
articles in the society's periodical is that this
 +
information is timeless; sales of back issues to
 +
both members and non-members can help pad the
 +
treasury.
 +
 
 +
'''Conduct Meaningful Meetings'''
 +
Social gatherings where members share their personal
 +
genealogical interests are fun and worthwhile
 +
occasionally. But think twice before holding thisNow That You’ve Attracted Those Members, Keep Them!
 +
Page 2 FGS Society Strategies, Set I Number 13
 +
type of meeting every month! Members may not
 +
feel a loss at missing a few of these social events,
 +
while they would missing an educational program
 +
that may help them further their research. A mix
 +
that works well for many successful societies is to
 +
intersperse educational programs with workmeetings and social gatherings.
 +
 
 +
Members or other local individuals with a
 +
genealogy-related expertise are good candidates
 +
for presenting the educational lectures, but also
 +
consider hiring a state- or national-level expert on
 +
a topic of interest to your members. Survey
 +
members to determine their interests. The quality
 +
of program presented by a well-known speaker
 +
usually is well worth the expense.
 +
 
 +
Occasional work meetings might include shelfreading to organize the society's collection,
 +
indexing, cemetery reading on fair days, or
 +
research on queries sent to the society. Besides
 +
breaking up the routine of lecture meetings, these
 +
sessions have productive organizational or project
 +
completion results.
 +
 
 +
Social meetings of the society need a structure or
 +
theme. Consider having a holiday party, dress as
 +
your favorite ancestor, tell about your black sheep,
 +
bring your favorite memento to show and tell, or
 +
have a lock-in at the society or public library.
 +
 
 +
'''Provide Workshops or Tutoring Programs'''
 +
A goal of many societies is genealogical education.
 +
Call on members to teach beginning, intermediate
 +
or advanced workshops, or hire an individual or
 +
firm to present one. Consider offering members a
 +
discount to attend the workshops.
 +
 
 +
Plan a tutoring program, matching members
 +
versed in specific areas of genealogy with those
 +
wanting to learn techniques in those areas, such as
 +
computers, military or land records, geographic
 +
specialties, and ethnic topics.
 +
 
 +
'''Produce a Locality Research Guide'''
 +
This can be an important benefit for remote members doing
 +
"armchair research" or planning a trip to the area.
 +
It also can be cited as a perk in the society's
 +
promotional material to potential members.
 +
Include a description of the records that exist for
 +
the area covered by the society, as well as
 +
addresses, telephone numbers, and hours of
 +
record repositories. Other notes might mention
 +
ease of access to records, availability of parking,
 +
rates for copies, facility policies, etc. Addresses
 +
and telephone numbers of local hotels might be
 +
included, as well as a list of nearby restaurants.
 +
Include a map. If a booklet is beyond the
 +
capabilities of the society, consider producing a
 +
typewritten guide and combining it with materials
 +
from the local Visitor and Convention Bureau as
 +
a packet.
 +
 
 +
 
 +
'''Provide Free "Advertising"'''
 +
Allow members
 +
free queries in periodicals - a limited or unlimited
 +
number, depending on available space. Encourage
 +
member participation in a surname card file or
 +
pedigree chart book.
 +
 
 +
'''Help Members Make Priceless Connections'''
 +
Name a chairperson for the surname card file or
 +
members' pedigree chart book. This person
 +
should look for connections as he or she files the
 +
cards or forms. The same individual could
 +
monitor the sign-in book at the society or public
 +
library for matches between members and nonmembers. The goal is to make the member think,
 +
"Gee, I wouldn't have found Cousin Sally who
 +
has the family bible, if I hadn't joined the ****
 +
society!"
 +
 
 +
'''Provide Limited Free Research in Local Records'''
 +
Have volunteers provide a certain
 +
amount of research in local records for members.
 +
For example, the society might send a coupon
 +
each year to renewing members for one hour of
 +
research. A bonus might be to offer five hours of
 +
research to any member renewing for three years
 +
at once. This is a very valuable service for remote
 +
members unable to travel to do research in local
 +
records.
 +
 
 +
'''Begin a First Families or Pioneer Program'''
 +
Local and remote members can participate in this
 +
worthwhile type of project that brings together
 +
individuals working on the same lines as it
 +
preserves information about early settlers for
 +
future generations of researchers. Encourage the
 +
highest level of scholarship in order to collect the
 +
most accurate data and preserve the society's
 +
reputation. Consider giving society members a
 +
substantial discount on their application fee as a
 +
membership benefit. [For more information, see
 +
the wiki entry on First Families Programs.]
 +
 
 +
'''Be Professional in All Arenas'''
 +
Don't let members think that their dues are going to a "flyby-night" organization.
 +
 
 +
== CREATE OWNERSHIP IN THE SOCIETY ==
 +
 
 +
One way to retain members is to foster in them
 +
"ownership," the idea that it is "their" society.
 +
Make them CARE. Ways to do this include:
 +
 
 +
'''Give Members a Voice'''
 +
At meetings, encourage
 +
discussion and ensure the atmosphere is open and
 +
accepting. The responsibility of the president or
 +
chairperson is to maintain control and not let "naysayers" discourage others from volunteering ideas.
 +
Give remote members a voice through the society's
 +
periodicals. Publish the topics of meetings ahead
 +
of time and publish excerpts from correspondence
 +
regarding the issues.
 +
 
 +
Queries give members a voice. If someone writes
 +
a lengthy query of local interest, he or she could be
 +
encouraged to write an article about the family for
 +
the society periodical. People often like to see
 +
their own names in print, as well as their family
 +
information.
 +
 
 +
'''Tap Hidden Talents'''
 +
A common complaint
 +
among society leaders is that a small number of
 +
busy individuals does all the work! To change this
 +
and as a bonus to help others feel "ownership" in
 +
the society, be ever-vigilant about spotting people
 +
who are good writers, speakers, leaders,
 +
organizers, workers, etc. These people often hide
 +
their qualities well, so look closely! Ask
 +
questions.
 +
 
 +
Pay attention to what members do as an
 +
occupation or in other aspects of their lives. For
 +
example, a stay-at-home mom might be your 4-H
 +
project chairperson because she works well with
 +
children. An accountant might be your next
 +
treasurer. Someone who makes points eloquently
 +
at a meeting could be a speaker. Writers are
 +
harder to spot. Watch for those well-worded
 +
query-type letters coming in. A potential
 +
periodical editor might lurk among them as well.
 +
Remember that no written rule states that
 +
periodical editors have to be local members! If a
 +
remote member is willing to do the job, material
 +
can be sent to him or her. A computer enthusiast
 +
or someone who works in the field might be
 +
willing to set up a home page for the society, or
 +
to chair a computer interest group.
 +
 
 +
'''Tackle Worthwhile Projects'''
 +
Have a variety
 +
of ongoing projects to cater to a difference in
 +
interests. Some may like to read cemeteries,
 +
others answer queries, others index the census.
 +
People like to feel their work is important and has
 +
lasting value. Don't just ask for volunteers for
 +
these projects at society meetings. Ask people
 +
individually whom you think might be interested
 +
and do a good job.
 +
 
 +
'''Consider Term Limits for Officers and Encourage a Change in Committee Chairs Periodically'''
 +
This keeps the society fresh and
 +
allows new faces with new ideas to come
 +
forward. Change can breathe life and new
 +
excitement into long-term projects. Be on the
 +
lookout for people who might serve the society
 +
well but are too modest, too shy, or too busy to
 +
volunteer.
 +
 
 +
'''Experiment with Ephemera'''
 +
As a rule, genealogists like "stuff." They wish their ancestors
 +
had saved "stuff" from the organizations to which
 +
they belonged! Ephemera promotes ownership and
 +
allows people to show off their affiliations. The
 +
popularity of college and professional sports logo
 +
items is an excellent example of this phenomenon.
 +
Consider ordering a supply of lapel pins with the
 +
society's logo (very inexpensive) to be sold for $5.
 +
Bookmarks, tote bags, pencils with a society logo
 +
are just a few items available. Many other
 +
attractive items can be ordered in every price
 +
range.
 +
 
 +
'''Sponsor Contests'''
 +
Encourage members to write
 +
essays on their family lineages, black sheep
 +
ancestors, most unusual heirloom, or most
 +
serendipitous find. These gather material for the
 +
society's periodicals while getting members
 +
involved.
 +
 
 +
'''Give Awards'''
 +
If people do a good job, let them
 +
know! Create standing awards and allow special
 +
awards. These might be given at the holiday party
 +
in December, or at a summer cook-out. Don't
 +
forget to consider your remote members for
 +
awards, too. They might receive a citation for the
 +
most interesting ancestor of the year or a well-written periodical article, for example.
 +
 
 +
'''Establish a Correspondence Committee'''
 +
This committee answers correspondence promptly,
 +
makes referrals and sends out literature. Consider
 +
sending sympathy cards when there has been a
 +
death in the immediate family of a member.
 +
Quick, competent, and courteous attention to
 +
correspondence demonstrates to members and
 +
potential members that they are important to the
 +
society.
 +
 
 +
 
 +
== CONCLUSION ==
 +
 
 +
It costs very little money to establish traditions
 +
that will keep a society important in the eyes of
 +
its members. What it does cost is time and effort to
 +
reach out to those who might not volunteer on
 +
their own to help. As more individual members
 +
become involved in their society, not only are
 +
there more hands to help with projects, but more
 +
hearts to share in the organization's ownership
 +
and to have a stake in its success. Above all else,
 +
meet your deadlines, stay within your budget,
 +
take advantage of your volunteers, and meet your
 +
member’s expectations of a professional
 +
organization.

Latest revision as of 07:43, 30 August 2013

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