Monday, 17 June 2019

The Future for OGS

To ratify the Actions of the Board of Directors for the period through June 21, 2019.

It's an agenda item for the Annual General Meeting of The Ontario Genealogical Society, something  I've not seen before.

The world has changed substantially reflected in reduced society memberships at a time when one might expect retiring baby boomers to swell the ranks. That's not just in OGS, not just in family history societies.

This precipitated the Society launch of a brand, Ontario Ancestors, legally registered as a business name for use by The Ontario Genealogical Society.

It's not unusual for businesses to have a variety of brands. Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker are General Mills brands.

But in the case of Ontario Ancestors, it's not a product under the company umbrella, it's the whole organization and so appears as a re-brand replacing The Ontario Genealogical Society. The Board of Directors denies this — "a re-brand was not the intention."

What was the intention? Ontario Ancestors distinguishes the Society from US Societies that also use OGS — Ohio, Oregon and Oklahoma. The hope is the brand will sell better in the large US market and bring in new members.

The new brand surely won't be successful as just a cosmetic change. How will the organization evolve to serve the more distributed membership as well as the existing membership and society at large?

OGS has not been static. Province-wide or rather more than province-wide services like the eWeekly Update and webinars are examples of services recently introduced. There is a growing social media presence. Is that enough?

At the heart of the society are Ontario-based volunteers, and volunteer fatigue is a major issue. OGS Branches have closed, or struggle along with the same people in leadership roles. There's a hollowing out. Attend any meeting and you'll hear a plea for people to fill vacant positions, often to an audience many of whom have already done their time.

That's despite the established finding that volunteering provides benefits like better health, living longer, emotional support, less social isolation and, feeling of contributing to a greater good.

The move to market the Society in the US is unlikely to bring in volunteers at the branch level. Is the future of OGS as a stronger centralized organization with weaker branches?

Pro or con Ontario Ancestors I encourage you to attend the OGS Annual General Meeting to be held on Saturday, June 22nd at 10:00 am at the London Convention Centre, London, Ontario. Express your views, politely — Directors are volunteers too — but firmly.


Linda Lowrey said...

This is a great summary of the situation.

Steve Fulton said...

Thanks John for your posting. I too would encourage all members to watch the AGM in person or virtually. You will find the link to view the AGM on the Main Page of the Society Website.

Finally, thanks for your last comment, let's be polite.

Steve Fulton, UE

Linda Reid said...

I agree with your comments, John, but I think the time to consult the membership was before the re-branding, not after. There is wide-spread disillusionment within the Society but no one at the top seems to care. The strength has always been in the branches and that is where the vast bulk of the volunteers have worked. I have one ancestor born in Ontario (my Dad). My husband has none. The name "Ontario Ancestors" doesn't resonate with us at all. I wonder if we will see the rise of more BIFHSGO-type societies?

Don Ross said...

I agree with the comments: I expressed my disappointment to one volunteer at an Ottawa conference that I will try to join more individual societies and skip the OGS. I like working with the individual groups like BIFHSGO, Lanark, UEChapter, QFHS, and have made donations to Bruce Grey, and archives like Osgoode, Brockville, where I visit, I get to know people and now they are very responsive, which is rewarding for all of us.
If anything, OGS should have changed to OGSfO to put Ontarien or Franco-Ontarien at the end. Unfortunately OGS by changing to attract membership from the USA will likely lose membership in the province.
Don Ross