Genealogy Organizations Need To Focus On Only One Thing: VALUE!
There has been a bit of chatter within the genealogy community lately about why folks join genealogy/history/ancestry societies and organizations as well as why they leave them.
In my opinion there is really only one reason folks join a genealogy society and that reason is value. Likewise, it seems to me that there is also only one real reason folks leave them, which is that they perceive they are receiving no value for their dues.
While this may not be universally agreed upon, I believe when a person is asking themselves the question "Should I join this genealogy organization?" they are conducting a mental calculation of the amount of the annual dues versus what value they will receive for that amount of money.
Similarly when it comes to that all important renewal time the question gets asked again, but this time it is far more pointed and empirical. While the decision to originally join was based in part on faith that your dues payment would be 'worth it' the renewal question is based not on faith, but on your concrete and very specific experiences.
Life is expensive, so unless you have a wallet with unlimited access to a huge stash of unused cash no one is looking to just give their genealogy money away. So the renewal question comes down to this: You paid your hard earned money to the organization about a year ago and did you, or did you not, get your money's worth!
Value appropriately is often defined differently by each of us. To some it may be the opportunity to learn new aspects of genealogy. To others it may be unique online resources that an organization offers in its 'Members Only' webpages. It could be programs that offer valuable insights, good speakers, and/or fresh new materials. Perhaps to some value is defined simply as the opportunity to meet and mix with like-minded genealogy fans. But no matter what your definition of value the question is always the same: 'Was it worth my money?'
When genealogy organizations fall into a rut disastrous results in membership numbers can often be observed. If organizations think that they can simply keep doing the same old things they have always done, offering the same resources in the same formats or manner that they have in the past, inviting the same speakers over and over again, etc. they cannot. At least they cannot if they want to survive and thrive. If they stay in their old, worn ways sooner rather than later the answer to the renewal question becomes a resounding 'NO'.
Please do not think I am against genealogy organizations having traditions such as an annual holiday gathering, special clean up/work day at the local cemetery, etc. However, when the calendar for the New Year looks suspiciously similar to the calendar for last year and the year before that there is trouble brewing.
Life is busy and very few folks are looking for things to do just for the sake of having something 'to do'. Each time we are confronted with a meeting we ask ourselves the value question: 'Is this going to be worth my time, money, and effort?' Will it be worth the cost of the petrol, perhaps having to get a babysitter or caregiver? What else is on my calendar for the coming weeks and is this meeting worth the time I will invest in it or are other upcoming meetings offering me more value for my time? Again, it all comes down to value.
So now is the time to take a look not only the organizations that you are investing your genealogy money in, but if you are a leader of any such organization, pull out your plan for 2015 and make sure it is fresh, that you are offering new data in new ways, you have been listening to your members when they tell you what they want, and above all you are offing real value for their hard earned money.