Upgrading to Society 2.0

Too hard.

Too costly.

Those are two simple but tenacious thoughts that stop many historical and genealogical societies from reaching for technological solutions to grow  in fundraising and membership.

This sort of thinking carries a cost, though, said Thomas McEntee, genealogist, blogger and safe to say, definitely not a technophobe. Speaking Thursday at a Federation of Genealogical Societies- sponsored lunch at Rootstech 2012, McEntee gave compelling reasons to believe that growing an online presence is essential to keeping an organization healthy.

The new members societies need to grow are not going to be pushing paper, McEntee said. The younger generations are growing up with social media as a fait accompli, of course, but Baby Boomer retirees are likely to be computer literate in unprecedented numbers.

What is the result? “Technology is the new member bait,” McEntee said, adding flat out that as far as he was concerned, if it involves filling out a paper form and mail in a check, “I’m not going to join your society.”

After the tough love, he shared some examples of low-cost ways societies can get in touch with their technological side – including the obvious ideas like websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Not so obvious, however, is the notion that tech upgrades don’t have to break the bank. There are low-cost options to explore – some actually free, like webly.com, which will host up to two websites gratis. Or, to name another example, it’s possible to do a free online survey through GoogleDocs, McEntee said.

Other resources aren’t free, but may have friendly pricing options, like ConstantContact.com, an email-marketing service that offers a price schedule geared to nonprofits. (McEntee cited examples from societies who use email blasts to deliver their newsletters.) Another interesting idea was TechSoup.org, where 501c3 organizations can find software and equipment at low cost after undergoing a qualification process.

It was an eye-opening and ultimately optimistic look at high-tech approaches without high-end price tags.

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One Comment on “Upgrading to Society 2.0”

  1. Thomas is right, as are other presenters such as Josh Taylor and Curt Witcher. Technology is a way for a society to boost and engage its membership — especially distance members! If a society is based where my ancestors lived, but that society has little/no online presence, not only is it difficult for me to find them; they won’t even know that I exist. How many societies are missing the boat here, and don’t even realize it?


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