Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Engaging Offsite Members: Volunteer Opportunities

For many societies, Offsite Members represent the majority of their possible volunteer base. While these folks may not be able to act as board members or bring snacks, they can contribute more to their societies than just dues. While it might be obvious that Offsite Members are those people who support your society from another state. A less obvious group includes those members who are in your own back yard, but don’t attend meetings. Check out these project ideas to get your creative juices flowing. By tailoring a few volunteer opportunities to engage this large pool of supporters, you’ll build a more vibrant society experience for all.

Conversion Projects

Last week, Amy Johnson Crow wrote a great article on how to mine your old newsletters and publications for blog content. You can read here if you haven’t already. Accessing that older content can pose a challenge though. Let your Offsite Members help you solve it.

Scanning old newsletters and publications converts your physical content into a more usable digital form. In most instances, those scanned documents will now also be search-able. For those few projects where a scan won’t make an adequately search-able document, volunteers can transcribe that material into a new usable format. Hosting this now searchable content on your members only section of your website or converting it to sellable e-books breathes new life into old content and has the potential to increase your revenue streams.

Indexing projects are always a great way to convert existing content into a more usable form. Your own collections are a wonderful place to start but aren’t the only options. Free sites like and have specific programs for indexing the digital material on their site. Subscription services like allow users to annotate their collections. Those annotations then become part of the searches returned for a name. Your local library’s genealogical section is full of unindexed material they could use your help with.

Enlisting Offsite Members for these kinds of projects offers your society a much larger pool of volunteers to work with. This, in turn, means each volunteer can be assigned a small, manageable part of the project. (I’ll be writing more on Micro-volunteering later in the year.) Add a level of competition or reward for project completion and you’ll see these types of projects really work for your society.


Your newsletter editor is laboring every month to find enough content. Yet many members write for their own blogs. All society members represent a great source of written content. Most of them though, will need encouragement to write the kind of full-length articles required for blogs and newsletters alike. Instead of asking just one or a few members to produce content for your publications, reach out to a variety of members for a commitment of one article per year of membership. Out of state Offsite Members have just as much genealogical information to share as the member who makes every meeting. There are plenty of general interest topics that can be covered regardless of where someone is located. But for the creative, those Offsite Members have valuable information to share with your Onsite members as well. My home state of South Carolina is a great example. It has experienced several major out-migrations. I’d love to read an article from my fellow SCGS members from Mississippi on how to find my South Carolina ancestors there.

Social Genealogy

Speaking of out-migration: your Offsite Members live in the places your Onsite Members need research. The opportunity exists for creating reciprocal look-ups that allow Offsite Members to contribute research where they are located in return for research where you are located. Or even contribute on a Random Acts basis. Instead of the usual inbound Query in your newsletter, consider creating an outbound Query or “Can You Help” section focused on locals seeking the assistance of the larger membership pool.

Ready to take on a larger project? We are genealogists so naturally we love to do genealogy! With the proliferation of both free and subscription genealogy on the web it is now easier than ever to work together on genealogical problems from a variety of locations. The founding fathers of your community came from somewhere, and likely left for somewhere as well. Take the "mug book" idea to the next level with society projects based on the research talents of all your members.

And So Much More

These are but a few ideas of projects you can use to engage with your Offsite Members. They are a part of your community and deserve your consideration. By creatively engaging their talents and energy the whole society benefits.

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 Webinar Series: How to Keep Your Volunteers Happy, Helpful, and Engaged

FGS is pleased to announce the re-launch of its webinar series. FGS is committed to continuing education for societies and the individual genealogist alike.

The first webinar of the new slate will feature Amy Johnson Crow on "How to Keep Your Volunteers Happy, Helpful, and Engaged." An author, Certified Genealogist and regular speaker at FGS conferences, we are certain Amy’s webinar will help societies learn the tools necessary to keep those much needed volunteers actively participating in your organization.

Please register for How to Keep Your Volunteers Happy, Helpful, and Engaged on Jun 23, 2015 8:00 PM EDT at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Brought to you by GoToWebinar®
Webinars Made Easy®

This webinar will remain publicly available for 30 days. After 30 days it can be found in our Members Only Area. Not a member society? Please consider joining us for this and other great content at

Monday, June 8, 2015

How to Turn Society Newsletter Content Into Blog Posts

How to Turn Society Newsletter Content Into Blog Posts via
"...your society is probably sitting on a gold mine of material..."

Your society's blog is one of its most valuable means of communication. It can reach anyone — members, non-members, potential members, people who never thought before about being a member, but discovered you're a useful group to know.

One of the challenges to having a successful blog is finding good content. Posting notices about your meetings is good (and necessary!), but a steady stream of meeting announcements isn't going to keep people coming back to your blog. You need something more. Fortunately, your society is probably sitting on a gold mine of material — the back issues of your society's newsletter.

Republishing is Ok

Some people hesitate to republish material from their newsletter. "Won't people be annoyed to read something they've already seen?" Here's the thing – most of the people reading your blog never saw that item in your newsletter from 4 years ago. In other words, this is brand new material for them.

For those people who were members back when you published it the first time, it will be a refresher. (Of course, there's always the possibility that they didn't actually read it the first time, so it's new for them, too!)

How to Turn Society Newsletter Content Into Blog Posts via
(Photo Credit:

Go Green – Evergreen, That Is

As you're going through your old newsletters, look for "evergreen" content. That's the type of material that isn't time sensitive, but is relevant whenever someone reads it. Look for articles that cover things like:
  • Libraries and archives in the area
  • Where to find certain types of records
  • Uncommon sources
  • Unusual or humorous records
  • The history of your county
Basically, if it's still useful to people, consider blogging it. 

Work With Your Authors

Depending on the agreement you have with your authors, you might not have permission to go ahead and republish it on your blog. Before you do anything, contact the author of the article you want to republish and get their permission to do so. Otherwise, you could be infringing on their copyright; you don't want to do that.

When you publish it on the blog, give that author credit. Give them a byline either at the beginning or at the end of the post.

After you publish it, get back in touch with the author and give her the link to the post. Encourage her to share the link with her social media followers. (Even if she isn't on social media, she'll appreciate seeing how it turned out on the blog.)

Reformatting and Updating

You'll likely need to do some reformatting to take the article from your print publication and make it shine online.
  • Add hyperlinks where appropriate. If the original article said, "Visit our website," make that a hyperlink to your website.
  • Add headings to break up long text. People tend to scan when they read online. Headings give them points to stop.
  • Add images. Blogs are visual. Good images not only help your readers understand and retain the material better, they are key for sharing on social media. No image = nobody will pin it on Pinterest. Poor images = less sharing on Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Update anything that needs updating. If the original article says the library is open until 9:00pm, but now it's only open until 7:00pm, change it. 

A Marketing Opportunity

Besides giving the author's name, give your society a plug. Be upfront that this came from one of your newsletters. It turns it into a mini ad for your society. Consider this at the end of the post:
"This article is by Sarah Jones and originally appeared in our newsletter, "Climbing Your Tree," in June 2010. The newsletter is one of many member benefits. If you're not a member, please join us!"
Be have "join us" as a hyperlink to the membership page on your website.

Don't Let This Be Your Only Source

Just like you don't want your blog to be only about upcoming meetings, you don't want to turn it into nothing but old newsletter materials. Mix it up with new content. Do a quick tour of the public library. Highlight a volunteer. Show photos of a local cemetery. It doesn't have to be pages long. It just has to be meaningful to your audience.

Dig Out Those Back Issues

Your blog is the most visible publication your society has. You need to have good content there to keep your readers interested and returning for more. The more often they return, the more likely they are to join at some point, buy your products, and attend your events. Instead of letting your blog go dormant because you don't have "new" content, use some of the great material that you already have. Your old newsletters are a great source to keep you going.

How to Turn Society Newsletter Content Into Blog Posts via
(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

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