Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Creating a Member Handbook

Your genealogical society is a business and it has a service to sell. It has a story to tell about its purpose, projects, programs, and plans. That story can best be told through a Member Handbook given to all new members and to prospective members who express serious interest. It also can be posted on your society's website for anyone to access to learn more about your organization.

The preparation of a member handout benefits the reader and the society. A handbook educates new members about how your society works and can motivate prospective members to join. It's easier to be involved in an organization when you understand its goals.

Your by-laws represent the operations of the organization, and they can be placed on your society's website, but a friendly handbook can be written to more easily engage the interest of the reader.

What should be included in a member handbook? A welcome letter from the group's leadership is a great start, followed with a list of current officers, their positions, and contact information. A compelling mission statement and clearly stated goals help people understand your society's purpose. A list of accomplishments can illustrate your society's productivity and successes.

Membership benefits are an important feature of every society's story. Share a full list of benefits. Discuss the types of programs and field trips that are offered and describe the educational and recreational benefits. Help readers also know what special interest groups exist, and describe the opportunities to volunteer.

Your Internet resources, such as web page, blog, and other online facilities, can help communicate your message to the reader. Share links with other genealogical resources in your area such as libraries and archives.

Your member handbook can be published online to save money associated with printing, storage, and mailing. It also allows you to keep the publication up to date, and eliminates production and maintenance of a stockpile of quickly outdated materials.

Learn more about other best practices from the FGS Society Strategy Series papers. The papers are free to FGS Members in the Members Only area of the FGS Web site, or printed copies can be ordered using the order form at the FGS Store on the FGS web site at

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