11 February 2015

FGS conference 2015, Day 1, Focus on Societies

After hearing Deena Coutant at the opening session, I decided to hear what she had to say in her next session, "Communicating on a Shoestring Budget: Cost Effective Solutions for Societies." She exposed us to communication ideas that were either free or low-cost (she used the word "cheap," but I believe she meant "low cost.")

One of the take aways from this session is that we must evaluate not just to cost, but also the cost-effectiveness of our choices. For example, sometimes acquiring the free version of a tool might mean a steep learning curve for our volunteer work force. That could mean frustration. In some instances a low-cost solution might be easier to implement and bear greater dividends long-term.

Coutant outlined several options for a variety of services including email, online calling, online calendars, file synching and sharing, webinars, video and social media.

Bottom line? Set clear communication goals for one's society and evaluate/implement just one or two changes at a time. Start slowly, spread the message and watch one's group grow.

I use Blogger for this blog, but sometimes, I wonder if Wordpress might have been a better choice. Rorey Cathcart spoke on "Wordpress for Your Society: No Blogging Required." She provided a broad overview of the Wordpress platform and suggested that it would be a good choice if one were going to update one's society's webpage. Wordpress is flexible and easy to use post-set-up. 

She outlined the pros and cons of using Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org. The .org option would be preferable if a group wanted to use its own domain name. It's a bit more complex to set up and would require a hosting service.

Wordpress provides options for numerous widgets and plug-ins. One may add plug-ins such as Shareaholic for social media links, MailChimp for notifying subscribers of new content. One may be able to sell books from one's site or add analytics for determining who is visiting the site and what they like about it.

It's always a pleasure to hear Judy G. Russell speak. She makes the most difficult subjects interesting by bringing a bit of levity to the discussion. Her topic this morning was "The Ethical Genealogist." She identified several areas of concern including public trees, family websites and DNA testing. 

Her rules? Things we learned in kindergarten: tell the truth, play nice with others, and don't tell tales out of school.

She showed that, for the most part, familiarity with the codes of our major genealogical societies (our alphabet soup: BCG, APG, IAJGS, NGS and FGS) could guide us when there are questions. 

The Jetsons were not one of my favorite television shows in the day, but J. Mark Lowe has found, apparently, great lessons from space boy Elroy Jetson. He shared what we may learn from Elroy in "Sure Fire Ways to Involve Elroy Jetson (and others) in Your genealogical Society." 

Mark presented many good ideas responding to the evidence from a Department of Labor survey that showed that most people who volunteer started doing so after approaching their organizations on their own (43%), being approached by organizations (23%) or being introduced by a friend, relative or co-worker (14.7%). 

Mark stressed that we need to be ready for our new volunteers and make sure they (and we) have fun.

I ended the day with "Save Your Society! Recruit and Retain Society Memberships," presented by Dr. Shelley Murphy. This was a nice presentation that seemed to take some of what I'd learned from speakers earlier in the day, develop it further and present some concrete steps for implementation. Dr. Murphy suggested some introspection for our societies: are our programs successful? how do we communicate? 

She outlined thinks to think about as we develop a recruitment plan, including: do we really want new members and are we prepared to plan orientation for them?

We should have a team develop a recruitment plan to be vetted by the membership. With implementation, we should make sure to evaluate it periodically for its effectiveness.

Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis with brainstorming. Set goals. Think about and develop partnerships. Write grants.

At our meeting provide opportunities for people to share their stories/successes. Develop marketing flyers.

So much to think about. I'm stoked!

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