During Society Day at the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2012 conference, I attended "The Shape of the 21st Century Genealogical Society" led by George Morgan. Here are some of the main points I gleaned from the session:
Societies struggle because they need to move forward. Morgan noted that about 2% of the genealogical and historical societies out there do not have websites. The necessary tools for the 21st century are dynamic websites (no stale pages, lots of updates), blogs, green publications (e-newsletters, etc.) and technology and innovations along these lines.
To attract new genealogy society members, offer a combination of traditional and technology programs. Supplement in-person speakers with webinars. Also form special interest groups (SIGs). These could be based on research interests like world locations, ethnic groups, software or technology.
Morgan also urged societies to reach out to and work with other community organizations. He suggested a "Research-a-Rama" as a way to partner with local libraries. Members and community guests can learn about the society, the library's materials and some new skills all in one event.
Other ways for societies to connect with the community include getting involved with schools, scouts, community groups (Rotary, Elks, etc.), ethnic groups and more. Also, partner with other societies for larger events and programs, bigger profile speakers and to reach a larger audience.
Be sure to advertise each and every genealogy society event though a variety of channels. There are lots of free community papers out there, events boards at community centers and libraries, and even television and radio.
Takeaways from this session all pointed to increased community involvement for a society's success and growth in the 21st century.