(+) Facing Up to the Long-term Future of Your Genealogy Society

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

NOTE: This article contains several personal opinions.

I travel a lot, and I spend a lot of time with officers and members of many genealogy societies. Most everywhere I go, I hear stories of societies that are shrinking in size and even a few stories of societies that are struggling to maintain their existence. Even amongst all this “doom and gloom,” I do hear a few rare stories of genealogy societies that are thriving and growing larger. Not only are they attracting more members, but these few societies are also offering more and more services to their members with each passing year.

Why do so many genealogy societies flounder while a handful succeed?

I hear all sorts of “reasons” why societies are shrinking these days. I suspect many are not true reasons but are merely “shoot from the hip” excuses offered with no statistics or research to back them up. Common excuses include, “It’s competition from the Internet” or, “It’s the economy” or, “People just aren’t interested anymore.”

To be sure, competition and economic difficulties and even lack of interest exist everywhere. If society members and officers do nothing to offset these factors, inertia sets in, and societies suffer. However, these factors affect all societies. The question persists: why is it that some societies thrive and even expand while others are shrinking?

I think the answer is a combination of many factors. However, some of the causes and perhaps even a few of the solutions become obvious when we look at history.

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