13 June 2012

How to attract more members to your society

I've written before about the paradox in our societies; demographics are with us, more and more people are arriving at the age where they typically become interested in their family history. But I continue to hear of genealogy and family history societies reporting declining membership, and some are closing. Board members, from the few members that volunteer to serve, sit around the table scratching their heads over this anomaly. What can be done? Is it, as some suspect, that people think they can get everything online these days and are just not joiners as was the way with the previous generation?
Perhaps we set up too big a barrier to joining? Did you consider taking an idea from those selling services on the Internet? It's called FREE TRIAL. People are more likely to try a service if they can do so for free, even if the trial does not provide full capabilities. Ancestry will give you a free two week trial. Legacy Family Tree provides free basic genealogy software. Try them and if you like them you'll probably purchase. And if you don't like it – does any company really want to have dissatisfied customers.
What would it cost your society to offer a free one-year basic membership to those newly joining the society? Basic membership could exclude the more costly items such as those printed and mailed to members, the same information would be provided online.
What do you think? Could it work? If your society has tried this, or you have other suggestions, please share your experience in the comments.


Christine Woodcock said...

Part of the problem, John, is that the fees that the local societies do generate are so paltry and so vital to the viability of the local societies, that if they did offer a free membership, they would still end up closing for lack of funding.
You're onto something, we just need to figure out how to do it and keep the local societies afloat financially at the same time

Anonymous said...

Ontario Genealogical Society branches have the added problem of requiring members to belong to the main society, which has a fairly high membership fee. Branches offer fairly good services for the money they get, but many people don't see head office giving good value for the basic membership fee.