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 or perhaps a few stories of societies that are struggling to maintain what they already have. Even amongst all this “doom and gloom,” I do hear a few rare stories of genealogy societies that are thriving and growing larger every year. Not only are they attracting more members, these few societies are also offering more and more services to their members with each passing year.
Why do the majority of societies flounder while a handful succeed?
I hear all sorts of “reasons” why societies are shrinking these days. I suspect they are not true reasons but are merely “shoot from the hip” excuses. 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. Why is it that some societies thrive and even expand while others shrink at the same time?
I suspect 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. Our ancestors witnessed and perhaps participated in similar problems years ago in other industries. Indeed, in recent years, even those of us alive today have seen similar declines and occasional reversals in a number of business endeavors. Perhaps the answer to future growth of your genealogy society may be found by first looking back at the history of similar problems in other fields of endeavor.
Here is the first question to ponder: What happened to all the railroads in North America?
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