20 September 2020

Who to Choose for OGS President — Steve Fulton?

Q1. What are the biggest challenges (no more than 3) facing the Society in the upcoming term and how will you deal with them?

As you requested the three biggest challenges within the Society for the next couple of years, in no certain order are membership, the future, and lastly finances. There are many issues with-in the Society but these are the ones that consume most of my time.

Over the last year, our Society has faced the future as we have been forced by COVID-19 to adapt or shutdown. We as a Society have answered that call with the assistance of TSIC in the transition of switching over to a virtual existence, allowing staff to remain employed and Branches/SIGs to connect with their membership in an education and resources experience. We as a Society must move quickly to adapt to new opportunities and situations as we move forward. My counterpart would like to move into a strategic board, I do not believe we are there as of yet. We don't have enough volunteers to fill the many roles we have and not having a working board is not the right thing to do now. We will eventually get to that point, but right now we have Policy & Procedures dating back to 2007, which have been a major issue for Governance within the Society and have faced issues because of this. How are we going to develop a strategic plan for the future with no foundation? I am not saying that a Strategic Plan is not the right thing to do but let's get it into order. The Society Bylaws have been updated just recently, next the basics of the Policy & Procedures, and then continue moving forward. Let's walk before we run.

I have asked the Society Board more times than I can remember, "What if we woke up tomorrow with no members, would we still be viable?" I truly believe we would but without members who would guide us and we would be missing those who we serve. Membership has truly been changing over the last few years as members only have so much "Genealogy Money" and more opportunities come on-line for them to invest into. This has created a member who comes and goes every other year as they seek out new resources in their Family History research. We have to change the way we deliver our resources and membership advantage. In the last year, we have developed the ability to create Members Only at the Branch/SIG level in a secure and viewable format. With this, Branches/SIGs can now slowly release resources as they work on projects instead of waiting until the end, making the resources more valuable. Over the last two years we have seen a transition each year of over 800 members not renewing but over 800 returning or joining for resources and member advantages. I believe this will continue into the future as a majority of our members become a "Smash and Grab" type of member and we need to continue to develop opportunities and ideas to retain these members for the future.

Finally, is finances and as a Registered Charity this has some major challenges now and into the future. Doing a quick search on Google of Registered Charities in Canada, there is listed 85,000 Charities and combined with non-profit there is over 170,000 in Canada alone. This is a massive number and getting recognized within all these different charities is difficult if not impossible. Even though we are the largest Genealogical Society in Canada, we don't have the emotional attachment as many of the other charities have such as The Royal Canadian Legion or The Canadian Cancer Society. People donate based on how life is served, and to be honest, our membership fees make up a very large part of our income, however, doesn't come close to paying all the bills. We as a Society need to start to develop other ideas that will assist in the effort of paying the bills and even maybe reducing membership costs. As there are a couple of ideas on the table for this opportunity, we must continue to focus on this and develop these ideas that will bring the needed revenue to the Society. Let's be honest, the Society is going to run out of investment funds sooner than later and though we as a Board have developed an Alternative Revenue Program, this has barely touched the surface of the needed revenue. We as the next Society Board need to focus on this and making our finances stable for the immediate future prior to any other plans.

Q2. What innovations can the Society undertake to help people researching their Ontario ancestors?

Your final question talks about innovation and what can the Society undertake. With the current trend, we must continue to develop virtual opportunities for members and the genealogical community, and continue to develop members' only, on-lines webinars, and educational sessions. Along with this, we need to investigate other ways to engage members in both a virtual and in-person way as well. Preserving family records, digitizing books, and family histories are some of these objectives as we have just signed an agreement with FamilySearch. Our Society Library, which we have just resigned a 3-year agreement with the Toronto Reference Library needs to be made available for all and not be closed off with very limited access. With the opportunities we have developed, we will see this dream come to life. Along with projects like the Vernon's Directory Project, we can make these resources available to all for their research no matter where they live.

Final Thoughts

No matter the outcome of the AGM this coming Saturday, the members of the Society are truly the winners. Over the many years, those who have come up through the ranks of the Society Board, have felt an obligation to take on the role of President unprepared and really as a caretaker of the Society. The role allowed for one term for two years and this was simply not enough time to get anything started let alone finished. This time members get to choose and no matter what happens, I will continue to serve and support the Society and its Branches/SIGs and the members at the grassroots level. This role, as President is not a part-time role but a position that requires the attention of someone who is ready to take on the position fully, to make decisions and be committed to the cause no matter what. I have not made everyone happy in the decisions but the decisions have always been for the good of the Society.

I thank you for your time and encourage you to join us on the 26th of September, to guide your Society to success.

1 comment:

Linda Reid said...

Thank you, John, for drawing this election to the attention of OGS Members. It has been many years since members had a choice of candidates for President. OGS itself announced this information in an attachment to an email that many members didn't open.