Societies from across Michigan gathered at the Pinckney Community Library on June 16th for great discussion, sharing and “what works” information from a variety of society leaders. “Strengthening Our Societies” was fun, successful and educational!
The morning began with a panel discussing how to obtain volunteers and encourage their engagement in various projects and board positions. Panel members Tom Koselka, Barb Curtindale, and Brenda Glover Leyndyke (Vice President Dan Earl introduced them, below) as well as a variety of leaders in the audience discussed membership surveys, development of a policy/procedures manual (to help new volunteers), personal 1:1 outreach and building relationships that foster engagement.
Key learnings or “take aways” from the morning session included: working within schools to generate the next generation’s interest, building rapport with local library staff, and having one-on-one discussions with potential volunteers/board members to encourage their participation. A number of societies spoke to the benefits of encouraging membership by putting key resources being the “membership wall” on websites so that there is an obvious membership benefit.
The afternoon session increased the size of the panel, adding President Katherine Willson and Janet Romas. This session offered ideas for promoting the society.
Suggestions to societies included questioning what marketing is done to promote the society. How would someone know that you exist? Where would they find out about you and where you meet? Do they even know that attending your meetings is FREE? Are you reaching out to be a more diverse society – if you look around the room at an average meeting, are most of those attending older, white adults? What about other ethnic groups, teens, etc.? Promotion of the society in the local paper with a story of interest perhaps about pioneer families or special projects that need help can generate locals into attending a future meeting. Do you have an email that is monitored so the public can reach out? Do you mentor new members, so that they are comfortable with their contact with the society? Do you have job descriptions for the roles that you are needing to fill? If you are recruiting, what are you asking them to do? Have you tried livestreaming a meeting?
To improve member engagement, survey them for what programs they want. How could you increase diversity in your membership by choosing presentations from African-American presenters or an ethnic group specialist? Perhaps society members would offer one hour of free consultation to “mentor” a new member with their genealogy? It could be part of a membership promotional offering to get new people to join! Does your society ask people to sign in as they come in the door, collecting their emails? USE those emails to market your programs (MailChimp is free!) and monitor the response.
So much was shared, learning and the networking was great! If you missed it, President Katherine and VP Dan will be sharing notes from the sessions, so watch for that information.