On Wednesday, August 29, 2012, I attended the Plenary Session of the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference in Birmingham, Alabama. The event was sponsored by findmypast.com.
FGS president Pat Oxley shared that FGS has a new website. Also, there is a new Bylaws Workbook for genealogical and historical societies. The price is right at $4.99. (affiliate link)
Curt Witcher shared about the Preserve the Pensions project and encouraged donations to the effort.
D. Joshua Taylor of findmypast.com was the Plenary Session keynote. The topic was "Transforming Your Society into a Dynamic 21st Century Destination."
Taylor challenged each audience member to envision his/her society as a destination. He used hotels, inns and lodges as examples. How is your society perceived from the outside? Is it a fancy high-end hotel? A comfy small inn? A dump? Or a mishmash building that's not well defined?
How is your society perceived within the community? Do they even know you exist? Taylor stated that societies must be present in their communities. They can do this through participation in local events. This includes volunteer service and charity. It doesn't always have to be about advertising and marketing your society. Add value to the community and give back. It will raise local awareness of your organization.
Taylor also stressed how important it is to associate with hotels, restaurants, libraries, etc. Your society should be a front-line resource for genealogy tourism. You should be the foremost source for local historical information. Reporters and local media should know who you are and come to you first when they need the facts.
Is your mayor aware of your society? Are your government representatives? Share their family history with them so they can experience the joy of knowing one's roots and appreciate the need for records access.
Support your local libraries. Hold combined research and genealogy events open to the community. Have a variety of programs and activities for new and experienced members, as well as those just curious about genealogy.
If your society is declining in membership, don't ignore the numbers. Those people didn't quit genealogy, they just quit your society. Reach out to them and ask why they left. Accept their feedback in a positive and constructive manner and use it to make improvements.
The takeaways from this session:
1. Get out in the community.
2. Anticipate future developments. Your society should be in a position to ACT, not just react.