Friday, 1 November 2013

GenChat - 31st October 2013

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Yesterday I was given a friendly nudge via Google+ and reminded to join in with #genchat over on Twitter.

Usually these happen in the early hours here and I am forced to set an alarm clock and retreat to the study in my pajamas with a cup of tea. Truly, be thankful it does not involve video!

To celebrate Halloween this was a special Gen Chat extravaganza asking
  "What should Genealogy Societies be offering?"
With a question like that I simply had to take part!

The question and discussion (all via Twitter in 140 characters or less) was broken down into several components -

  • 1. What do you find that your Society does that is really helpful
I belong to several societies. Several have not embraced the online market well, others have done it and not brilliantly and others have done it and are developing

  • 2. Is your Society affiliated to a large state (or equivalent) organisation
Typically, here in the UK, Societies are members of the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS). The reality is that really if you have an organisation that is perhaps not locality linked, but perhaps specific to a research group and you are attempting to grown your membership outside of the home country then joining organisations such as the FGS in the US would be a good option.

  • 3. What would you like to see your Society offer?
Now on this question I am not going to answer it in a direct fashion. I am simply going to list some random thoughts and observations

  • Modernisation  -Several of my long term UK societies have just celebrated their 40th birthday.  Firstly Congratulations and thank you to the volunteers and members who have contributed.
    • Have those Societies had a review of their Constitutions?
    • Is the structure of the Society suitable for a 21st genealogical research world?
    • Is that Society retaining members and gaining both new and younger members?
  • Succession Planning - For any organisation to continue, progress and evolve succession planning is vital. 
    • Do you have a team of volunteers who produce your newsletter? Or is it the case that every time the editor or treasurer steps down you almost have to break someones arm to get them involved?
    • Has Mavis and Harold been involved for so long that when they are perhaps forced to slow up, and relax the organisation grinds to a halt?
    • Set about looking around the committee table - yes look at the ages of the members, the people who travel some distance to attend, the person who is always late, the person who spends an hour doodling and says nothing. - Are those people needing support, help. Are they bored?
  • Volunteers - Do you recruit volunteers constantly or just when the need presents itself?
    • The Constitution states that you need X to function, but that does not mean you do not need others. 
    • Are you encouraging and engaging others to link into your succession plan?
    • Do you say thank you to your volunteers?
    • Is the work easily spread? Or is one person buckling under the strain while six others are putting their feet up? 
    • Do your volunteers feel valued?
  • Social Media - Here in the UK we have an advert on the TV with kids in the back of the car asking "are we there yet?" in that dreadful singsong voice that only someone with no children would hate!
    • So ARE YOU THERE with Social Media?
      • Twitter
      • Google +
      • Blog
      • Face Book
      • Hangouts on Air
    • Is the difference between social media outlets and a web page known?
    • Do you meet online?
      • Committee 
      • Members
  • Red Tape - Is your Society held back by red tape?
    • Was the constitution written years ago with no subsequent updates and a committee meeting of volunteers looking like the board meeting of ICI?
  • Embrace Change - 
    • The way to survive is to adjust and adapt to change.
    • Change requires leadership.
      • Do you have a good leader?

Hit the link to be taken to see the Gen Chat Schedule

Further thoughts

The above thoughts are my mine and mine alone. I have been a volunteer to various Societies over the years and believe in giving something back. The statements above are not about young or old volunteers. Genealogy welcomes everyone and is for everyone, but we need to both progress and value those members who have contributed so much, in terms of knowledge, willingness and time.

* Disclaimer - Harold and Mavis are fictional individuals!


  1. Oh yes, familiar thoughts: succession planning, transparent and accessible resources, valuing of volunteers, what is offered to New visitors, distant members etc. Some do well, others not so much.

  2. Feeling frustrated with a society this week.I'm tired of marking time, want to march forward.

  3. Most of that I would go with (in an ideal world I wouldn't touch Facebook with a 20 foot bargepole). But the rest of my society's exec will not back it, so I'd be on my own.


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