Friday, January 31, 2020

Remembering our Members

What does an enticing genealogical society look like to you? Is it an academic atmosphere where wise speakers whose names are appended by initials like "Ph.D." address experienced researchers? Is it a place all a-buzz with the exciting chatter of people who just smashed through their latest research brick wall? Or a place where people seek to up their reporting game by professionally writing about their research progress—and learn how to better document that progress?

These and many other vignettes can represent the image of a successful genealogical society, and there's one reason for that variety: different people need different types of organizations to help them achieve their family history goals. Some people want more online resources, or the people to coach them through the wide variety of research options available. Others craze a more social setting, while some just want the "stuff" to get their work done better.

Bottom line: the best society for any given member is the type of place which addresses their specific needs. The reason why a person seeks out a genealogical society is what drives their decision to move forward and join. And that reason can vary widely from one person to the next.

Your mission as a society leader, if you choose to accept it, is to determine which membership options are most attractive to your prospective—and renewing—members, and to work as a team with the rest of your board to achieve that vision.

But how do you discover what it is that your members are seeking? That, in itself, is a type of research your board needs to engage in. Much like the quest for the "whole product" mentioned in the book I discussed yesterday, it takes getting to know what your customer wants, especially in that chasm of indecision where the prospective customer will either come to the conclusion that she wants to press forward to membership in your group, or decline taking that action.

Great ideas abound for integrating new members in an established group—even yesterday, reader Marian shared in a comment what her society may do to help welcome and integrate these new members. In fact, the way Marian put it--seeking cohesion among new members--is an apt way to put it: finding what works best for that specific group in its current membership goals. That's the quest of any board of directors seeking to offer a "whole product" experience to members.

In whatever way we develop an approach to facilitate the needs of our society members, we'll have to be facile at drawing out the feedback to guide us. Members' ability to communicate what they want out of a society may vary from person to person; as Steve Jobs demonstrated when shepherding Apple through the development of their earliest technological offerings, customers sometimes don't even realize what they'd like to see in a product.

Coming to conclusions about what prospective members might want from a society is definitely an art—but also a treasure hunt. Finding the best answers can be golden for a society—until the terms change, or the membership shifts, or the world of genealogy brings us new options. The organization needs to reflect the requirements of its current as well as prospective members. However, before members can experience buy-in in a local genealogical society, they need to feel that the input they provide regarding the direction that society takes is appreciated—and applied. 


  1. Our monthly meeting for January was a "sharing" meeting. Even though it was January in the Midwest, we had almost a full room for our program, themed Saints and Sinners. Lots of sharing of those interesting family stories that were not mentioned for a few generations. The sharing meetings are very popular.

    Personally I have found that the interesting speaker is not always a Phd. An interesting path to a story by an "amateur" can be even better.

    1. It's interesting to see how popular those "sharing" and discussion groups can be for genealogical societies, Miss Merry. Thanks for sharing the info on your experience. I've heard similar reports from other societies. I think that is confirmation that many people want to see more of the social side of genealogy.

  2. I wish there was an active group around here, it would be fun to talk with like minded people:)

    1. I know a lot of people are quite satisfied being the solitary researcher, but I think it makes all the difference to be able to talk genealogy with other enthusiasts. Wish those online forums were still active--at least that would be a replacement option, but even that isn't quite the same as it used to be.


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