Saturday, March 2, 2019

Society Management Day at NERGC 2019: Practical Ways to Meet Today’s Challenges

One successful Massachusetts Genealogical Council meeting saw
rapt audience members learn about DNA from Jennifer Zinck.
Photo courtesy of Linda MacIver.

Genealogical societies are challenged today with the declining membership of old gray heads like mine. The challenges we face include the rise of DNA, and the rise of the webinar and podcast. We’ve got mentorship, experience, friendship, and a regular reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and see other people face-to-face. How do we sell our society’s wonderful positives?

The speakers for the Wednesday Society Management Day are presenting ideas in four areas of proven excellence.

·         8:45a.m. – 9:30 a.m. – Registration and Welcome

·         9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. – Kelli Jo Bergheimer, “How Do We Start a DNA Interest Group?” Have you thought about starting any type of Interest Group for your society? Come and learn tips to build a successful program.

·         10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. – D. Joshua Taylor, “Creating, Packing, and Sharing Your Society to Non-Genealogists” (Speaker sponsored by NYG&BS). This session will discuss ideas and tools to assist you in introducing your genealogical society to your local community – especially for those who have little or no expressed interest in genealogy.

·         Noon – 1:15 p.m. Lunch, Daniel Horowitz, “DNA Matching Technology, A New Frontier in Genealogy.”

·         1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – Daniel H. Earl, “The Next Generation: Involving Youth in Your Society.” Who will be around to run your society in 25 years? This lecture will look at how to involve the next generation.

·         2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. – Jen Baldwin, “The Social Media Manager in Today’s Society.” What – exactly – is a social media manager and does your society need one? This is a growing professional field, and societies can learn to convert the position to assist your non-profit organization, and greatly expand your reach on social media.

I caught up with two of our speakers to learn how the success of these ideas and techniques affected their societies.

Dan Earl was the first to get back to me. He had a success story of his own. 

A society at which I have spoken, was in need of someone to help them with their society's Facebook page. They announced their needs at a meeting where the topic was DNA (which tends to bring in more people), a young millennial (about 22) spoke up and said that she'd be willing to help with the Facebook page, and has been doing a great job. By waiting to announce their needs at a meeting where 'fresh blood' would be attending, they were able to draw in more people. With their new social media director, they've been able to use Facebook and other social media to reach out to younger people and the average age of their society has dropped from 70 to 50 in less than a year.

Dan also pointed out that we can get young people involved in genealogy from the get-go. He shared a success story involving his daughter’s second grade class.

My daughter's second grade class was having a "culture week" where families could come in and talk about their culture. My daughter asked me if I could come and talk about Hungary (where my maternal grandmother is from). I of course agreed. My daughter said that some of the other parents (from Ghana, Italy, Greece, England) brought in food. Not to be outdone, I asked my daughter if she'd like to help me make some Hungarian cookies. She of course, agreed. We spend a couple of hours talking about her ancestors from Hungary and making cookies. When the time came for the presentation in class, she was very excited to share the cookies with her class and help me explain her family tree (that she insisted I include in the presentation because she thought it was 'so cool').

Josh Taylor was the next to share his success story. Josh is busy right now with bringing the society he directs, the New York Biographical and Genealogical Society, to the RootsTech exhibit floor in Salt Lake City.

The need for genealogical societies to be alert and remain in touch with their community is key. When the NYG&B became aware of the proposed restrictions to New York City's birth and death records in 2017 we worked hard to spread the message beyond our community. The situation required us to work with other organizations, which included fellow genealogical societies, commercial entities, historical societies, lineage organizations, museums, and others. The result was the development of new alliances and relationships that have continued to this day. In my session at NERGC, I will be speaking specifically about working to brand your organization to those outside of the genealogical community, a key aspect of responding to threats to records access, increasing membership, and further establishing the relevance of any genealogical organization.



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