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Background: Recently, Gail Dever posted a survey trying to determine the most important factors that explain what motivates people to join genealogical societies. She published the results of her survey on her blog, Genealogy a la Carte.
Do the results ring true for you? Do you recognize areas where we could do a better job in the Hamilton County Genealogical Society. Send your comments to Kathy Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will publish them in a future post. Thanks to Gail Dever for allowing us to share her post.
Are you listening, genealogical societies? Here are the results to last week’s survey question: What are the most important factors that make you decide to join a genealogy society?
Due to publicity on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, 490 people participated in the survey that provided 37 multiple-choice answers. More than 40 people checked the Other box and provided additional responses.
Many thanks to all who participated and to those who promoted the survey.
Focus on camaraderie, resources, and newsletter – at an affordable price
According to the results of this survey, if your society wants to increase membership, it should focus efforts to build camaraderie, encourage members to share and learn from each other, develop the library’s resources, maintain/increase the content and quality of its newsletter, provide lectures, and offer an affordable membership fee.
Most important factors
The top two reasons people join a society are for the people. While genealogists often do much of their research alone, it perhaps comes as no surprise that close to a majority of respondents — about 60 percent — join societies for the opportunity to meet people and learn from others. Forty-five percent also said “research assistance and guidance” is an important factor and 40 percent join because members are friendly and helpful.
The number three reason genealogists join societies is to “improve my research skills” (54%). As for organized opportunities to learn, only lectures appear in the top ten. Is this because lectures are often free for members? Is it the frequency of lectures that encourage people to join?
Cost is also an important factor, suggested by 45 percent of respondents who selected “affordable membership fee.”
Other top ten factors are the library’s resources (47%), newsletter (46%), and remote access to members only databases (40%).
1. Opportunity to network with people passionate about genealogy – 61%
2. Opportunity to meet knowledgeable members to help me – 59%
3. I want to improve my research skills – 54%
4. Society focused on area where my ancestors lived – 48%.
10. Remote access to “members only” online databases – 40%
Learning opportunities not a huge factor
Other learning opportunities, such as conferences (36%), workshops (34%), and webinars (24%), appear in the top 20, however, they are not among the top factors one may expect, given the amount of work and cost required from a society.
While only one if five respondents chose message boards (21%) and free queries (20%), significantly more people (31%) prefer the ability to post to a surname research database.
Member discounts and advocacy attract few
Way down the list are member discounts, ranging from 10 to 18 percent. Although many respondents indicated they join societies to network with other genealogists, they appear much less interested in field trips (15%) and social events (11%). Very few respondents join a society for its advocacy program, partnerships, or board of directors.
11. I want to help fellow genealogists – 36%
11. Conferences – 36%
12. Workshops – 34%
13. Ability to post to surname research database – 31%
14. Email communication with members about activities, resources, and news – 25%
15. Webinars – 24%
16. I live near the society – 23%
17. Message board for members – 21%
18. Variety of special interest groups – 20%
18. Free queries – 20%
19. Member discounts on lecturers, seminars, and workshops – 18%
19. Volunteer opportunities – 18%
20. Society is a leader in the field of genealogy – 17%
21. Field trips – 15%
21. Member discounts on conferences – 15%
22. Member discounts on commercial databases – 13%
22. Society partners with other organizations – 13%
23. Member discounts on books and magazines – 12%
24. Recommendation from a friend – 11%
24. Social activities – 11%
24. Society recognizes volunteers’ contributions – 11%
25. Member discounts on research – 10%
26. Other (these factors will be listed tomorrow) – 9%