08 August 2013

More members?

Most societies with which I'm familiar, be it for family history or genealogy, are experiencing declining or stagnating membership. New recruitment barely keeps up with those who drop off for lack of interest, declining health, or death. That's despite the demographics, the baby boomers who should now be well into the stage where they become interested in their family history are not flocking to join our societies. Why not?

It could be that they don't see the society as offering anything they can't get online, and can't get at a better price if not free. If so you need to look at your society programs.

But more likely they just don't know of your existence. The society has failed to get the message across, drowned out by the incessant buzz of messages of all kinds we receive in the 21st century.

Earlier this year I went to the Zoomer show in Ottawa aimed at the 50+ community. It was buzzing when I was there, full of people in just the right demographic, prime candidates for genealogical society membership. None of those societies were exhibitors. I was told that the price of a table, something like $800 for the two day event, was beyond their means. Does it make more sense to spend $50 to reach 300 people, many of whom are already members (preaching to the choir) or well aware of your society existence, or spend $800 to reach say 7,000 new people?

There's an interesting example in Ireland of how this could be extended. For the third year a Back to Our Past event is being held. It's advertised as a stand-alone event. If you dig you'll find that "While it is a dedicated event in its own right, it has the major advantage of being part of one of Ireland’s most successful and established public events, The Over 50s Show, the lifestyle show for Ireland’s seniors."

A Zoomer show is coming up in Toronto, which has a catchment area population much greater than Dublin, toward the end of October. Will any family history of genealogical society, or any of the Toronto area businesses in the field, be participants?


GeniAus said...

Zoomer - don't think that word has reached Australian shores yet but they are just the people our Australian societies need.

Patricia Greber said...

Thank you for the post - I have shared it with my Society's Facebook page. I hope it generates a discussion!

Christine Woodcock said...

For most of the Socities in Ontario, the $12 per member gain wouldn't be worth the $800 outlay of a table. They wouldn't be likely to get 70 new members based on a one or two day event. The unfortunate piece for Ontario Societies is that membership is contingent on purchase of a provincial membership first at a pricetag of over $60. However, OGS should certainly be there with info on ALL of their branches. Good idea, John!

JDR said...

A way to make this more affordable is to split the cost. For OGS branches, where the provincial organization gains five times as much as the branch, there is an obvious argument for help from the provincial office. Societies should budget for recruiting new members, and have a plan.