1) On What Should Genealogical Societies Offer? My 11 Suggestions (posted 13 November 2013):
a) Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith noted: "If each local society could accomplish these 11, Randy, there would be no need for talk of them "disappearing"!! Thanks for sharing your excellent list! ;-)"
b) Geolover offered: "I'd add interface with local/County/regional library, Archive or other repository. Do they have a place for patrons to pick up a brochure describing the Society with contact information? A meeting room? Would it make sense for Society members to be present at regular times to provide genealogy-research help? Is there a buried manuscript collection that Society members could volunteer to index? Could the Society provide support such as raise money for a microfilm scanner/reader?"
My comment: Excellent suggestions.
c) Dawn Watson commented: "Thank you for these comments. We've just started a new regional society (Southern Appalachians Genealogical Association) and are wrestling with the question of what benefits and activities we can offer. This is especially difficult for us because our members (all three dozen of them) are scattered across the continental US. But, your suggestions provide a good starting point!"
My comment: My comments were more along the lines of an in-person meeting society with programs and such. What you describe would be significantly different. I will be interested to see what your SAGA offers.
d) homesteadgenealogy said: "Sounds like an inspiring discussion today! I agree with Geolover's suggestions about forming some sort of relationship with a local library or archive - what a great way to raise awareness of the group, and I especially love the idea of members volunteering to index long-lost manuscript collections that could then be shared online. I could see this going even further, if a library does not already have a genealogy section on their web site and would like assistance in building a list of their available resources. A local library or archive might also be grateful for society volunteers who could assist with out-of-state look-up requests."
e) Drew Smith noted: "In our local society in Tampa, we either already do these things (although in many cases we could do them more often or better), or I would like for us to seriously consider doing these things.
"The only one I think I would disagree with is the newsletter. I think that news should be released on the website and/or Facebook page as it happens, not to wait for a monthly newsletter. Newsletters made sense in pre-Internet days when you had to collect information for a month and mail it out in a batch (what you could afford in postage)."
"I would add that societies need to advance with the technology. I often hear complaints of the lack of 'young members' and I think that virtual events, offering your speakers via Skype or G+ hangout or some other live platform would be a great way to start engaging us 'kids.'
My comment: That's the challenge right there for "traditional" societies - how do they accommodate the working mothers, fathers, and students who are passionate about genealogy research. The other major challenge is "distance" members who cannot attend meetings but like the services a society provides, including a newsletter, webinars, databases, lookups, etc.
g) Michigan Girl said: "Randy, Thanks for talking about an important subject. I belong to several genealogy societies from one coast to the other and over in Scotland. We are very fortunate here in San Diego to have several good societies. I feel fortunate to live here as our San Diego Genealogical Society has wonderful seminars twice a year, with well known speakers. And, we have informative monthly meetings, also with good speakers. Being part of these societies has allowed me to meet and learn from some very wonderful, experienced genealogists. And, what could be better than talking to others about our hobby/passion/addiction and knowing they won't roll their eyes? LOL!"
My comment: I agree with you - SDGS and CVGS are two of my model societies that do almost everything I listed.
h) Kevin Ralston of Heritage Forensics opined: "Many of these things I've considered and run through the mill on, and the primary problem behind some of these suggestions is funding. A GenSoc either doesn't have the money or isn't willing to pay for anything.
"Nobody likes working for free and many of the websites GenSoc's have are great examples of what you get for free (most of them suck... sorry, but we all know its true). In many cases, these "labor of love" projects have a way of become full time monsters. Since nothing is for free, somebody has to bear the cost of it.
"I would stop everything I'm doing to work exclusively with GenSoc to implement many of these suggestions, but unless they are willing to make these things happen, it never will.
"Although I do not participate in GenChat, the things you've outlined are quite literally almost verbatim a conversation I had with a couple others in mid-Oct (hmm...). I know how to do most of the things suggested, but again (and this is something I've stressed til I'm about sick of talking about it) nobody like to work for free.
"Overall, the GenSoc as a whole needs to evolve to survive. Otherwise, they will become a thing of the past struggling on a few members if that. I would like to see them change, this would impact the industry in a big way."
My comments: Very few "traditional" local genealogical societies have paid staff - nearly every local society is run by volunteers and the society has a limited budget. Revenue for 100 paid society members typically runs $2,500 to $3,000 a year, and things get done through a dedicated volunteer team that wants to "own" the society's activities. Monthly programs (venues and speakers cost), yearly seminars (venue and speaker cost), newsletters, all of it gets done well by those volunteers.
i) Julie Goucher offered: "Randy, I took part in this Genchat and wrote about it here http://anglersrest.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/genchat-31st-october-2013.html
"Here in the UK, we are I believe behind Societies in the US - we have not embraced online facilities as much as we should, that is because we do not typically have the logistics of geography in the same way as the US and Australia.
"I belong to the Guild of One Name Studies and the Society of One-Place Studies, both of those have embraced online issues.
"Many of the FHS here in the UK do offer monthly meetings, typically evenings and after a day of being on my feet or in meetings etc I want to get home to dinner!
"When I consider some of the UK FHS it is about modernisation, reflection and succession planning, sadly most have not looked at this, which is a great shame.
"GenChat provided a great medium for pondering on these issues and I have thought of several more since I wrote my blog post."
"On page 137's 6th line, after 'linen, yarn' is 'hemp' before 'flax'. You probably know that hemp was widely cultivated for its fiber, particularly for weaving material for such non-refined items as sacks and ticking."