Survey results indicate people leave societies because little value offered

Unhappy woman_Microsoft WordWhile the most important reason to join a genealogy society may be camaraderie, the top reason people decide not to renew their membership has less to do with networking with people and learning from other genealogists and more to do with what they receive for the cost of their membership.

According to the results of last week’s survey, What were the main reasons you did not renew your genealogy society membership?, the number one reason people quit a society, whether it is located locally or far away, is because little value is offered for the cost of the membership fee. The unfriendly atmosphere ranks as only the number 10 reason people leave.

When asked for Other reasons why they did not renew, the number one reason survey respondents gave was that they forgot, were not reminded, or could not pay online. (Are you listening, societies?)

The results of this latest survey are somewhat in contrast to July’s survey about why people join societies. While about 60 percent of respondents had said they join a society for the people, in the latest survey only eight percent of respondents said they leave because of an unfriendly atmosphere. This low percentage is likely because most societies are friendly, and I hope that this is the case.

The respondents were less in agreement about their reasons for not renewing. The number one reason — little value offered — was selected by less than 25 percent of respondents, compared to the 60 percent who chose the number one reason for joining.

In the July survey about joining a society, between 40 and 60 percent of respondents agreed with the top 10 multiple-choice answers. In the latest survey, however, the opinions are more wide-ranging, where only eight to 22 percent of respondents agreed with the top 10 multiple-choice answers.

Background
Even though both surveys were held during peak summer months, the survey conducted in August about why people do not renew attracted only 302 respondents, compared to the 490 people in July who responded about why they join. This response rate probably makes sense and suggests that more people join societies than quit. If not, our societies would be facing an impossible deficit in membership numbers.

The August survey asked respondents three questions:

  1. In how many societies are you currently a member?
  2. What were the main reasons you did not renew your local society membership?  (44 multiple-choice answers)
  3. What were the main reasons you did not renew your long-distance society membership? (26 multiple-choice answers)

The majority of respondents — 66 percent – currently belong to one or more societies with 28 percent belonging to between three and five. Almost 30 percent of respondents do not belong to a genealogy society today, but have belonged to one in the past. Five percent have never been a member.

Frustrated in the past with a genealogy society?

Frustrated in the past with a genealogy society?

Top 10 reasons not to renew
In local societies, after the number one ranked answer, little value offered for membership, respondents expressed their disaffection with how the society was managed, such as the same people had been running the society for too long and the society was not adapting to new methods and technology. People also said they had not been learning from their society, the lectures did not interest them, and there were no useful resources. Reason number 10 was because of the unfriendly atmosphere, followed by not feeling welcome at the 11th position.

In long-distance societies, after the number one ranked answer, little value offered,  two of the top reasons for not renewing were lack of resources and learning opportunities. While the number six reason was because the membership fee increased, this reason was much less significant for local society members.

Local societies
1. There was little value offered for the cost of the membership fee.
2. The society had been run by the same people for too long.
3. The society was not adapting to new methods and technology.
4. Personal reasons (health, family, job, travel, finances).
5. Did not like how the society was managed.
5. Not learning from the society.
5. Preferred to spend money on subscription websites.
6. No plan to increase online resources for members.
7. Too busy.
7. Monthly meetings did not interest me.
8. Ancestors not from the area where the society was located.
8. Location of society not convenient.
9. Lectures not interesting.
10. No resources useful to my research.
10. Unfriendly atmosphere.

Long-distance societies
1. There was little value offered for the cost of the membership fee.
2. No resources useful to my research.
3. No learning programs that benefit long-distance members.
4. No plan to increase online resources for members.
5. Concentrating on another area of research.
5. Personal reasons (health, family travel, finances).
6. Membership fee increased.
7. No longer learning from the society.
8. Preferred to spend money on subscription websites.
9. Joined another society or belonged to others.
9. Newsletter did not interest me.
10. Joined to connect with local researchers, but none was available to help me.

Members not friendly
Looking at the next five reasons why people do not renew their membership at a local society, respondents said they felt unwelcome and the members were not friendly. They also chose the lack of learning opportunities for another reason. After the top 15 reasons, the sample size was too small to include those results in this summary. Less than 15 people chose each of the other reasons.

As for the reasons why people did not renew their membership in a long-distance society, apart from the top 11 reasons, less than 15 people chose the other reasons, which did not provide a sufficient level of response to be considered.

Local societies
11. Did not feel welcome at meetings and/or lectures.
12. Concentrating on another area of research.
12. Society did not offer special interest groups that interested me.
12. Lectures and courses had become stale and dated.
13. Members not friendly.
14. Had exhausted all of the society’s resources.
14. Membership fee increased.
15. Joined another society or belonged to other societies.
15. Opening hours were not convenient.
(Other reasons received less than 15 responses.)

Long-distance societies
11. Did not like how the society was managed.
(Other reasons received less than 15 responses.)

This latest survey generated several Other reasons for not renewing, and these will be published on Sunday.

Thank you to all who took the time to participate in this survey.

Survey results: Part 2.

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8 Responses to Survey results indicate people leave societies because little value offered

  1. Barbara Tose says:

    Thanks for this, Gail. Both your surveys have been very interesting and timely for me, as the new president of BIFHSGO. There is much to ponder from both and perhaps a few more questions to ask our membership!

  2. Julia says:

    Thanks for doing this! We’ve been discussing the first survey and waiting anxiously for the results from this one. Sadly, our society just realized that we hadn’t been doing a good job on reminding people to renew, so we hope our reminder letter this week will help!

    • Gail Dever says:

      I was surprised at the number of people who wrote that they simply forgot to renew and received no reminder or not enough reminders. It appears that one reminder may not be enough.

  3. Terry shepherd says:

    Twice I have tried to join genealogical sites related to two clans I belong to. Both times, I received no answer nor any indication that my check was received. It would help to pay on line. I still have no idea what happened to my checks. I have emailed many times.

  4. Sorry I missed the call to participate in the survey. I must keep up with my reading better. Anyway, I am about to leave the local society and agree wholeheartedly with your comment “disaffection with how the society was managed, such as the same people had been running the society for too long and the society was not adapting to new methods and technology.” I tried for a long time to affect changes but in most cases it was like blowing into the wind. I don’t know about other local groups but they can easily become just social clubs. Ours seems made up of many small committees who prefer to continue to do their own thing rather than look at the overall picture of why enrollment is declining and new people are not being attracted. It’s the tails(s) wagging the dog.

  5. Regina Quackenbush says:

    Maybe I am just lucky in my local Society, but I have found the members helpful, interesting, and just plain fun to be around. I still consider myself to be a novice, so that may also color my opinion that we have a great group of people. We have “round-table” discussions focusing on specific areas of interest to small groups of us and have speakers on many subjects, including an amusement park that has operated in our area for over 100 years. We have tours – cemeteries, museums, nearby gold-mining towns, etc. I think we get out of a society as much as we give to it – we have to participate in the society, not just expect to be spoon-fed information. Perhaps being located in a metropolitan area helps – we cover 4 counties to the west of Denver CO, but draw members from the whole area.

  6. Pam says:

    A little background…I’m the editor of a state newsletter, member of a state board, leader of a local society SIG, and a blogger who writes about using MS Word for genealogy. In addition, I’m a remote member of societies who contributes articles for publications. As someone who is on the “giving end” of this exchange, I’ve got to say I get frustrated when I see these types of results. So often the people who complain the loudest are the ones who have done nothing to contribute. I want to see a survey limited to people who have gotten off their butts and done something! What causes someone to volunteer? What causes someone to write an article? What causes someone to run for office? Maybe if we got this information, we might have the info we need to light a fire under “under performing” members and engage them in a new way.

    • Gail Dever says:

      I hear what you are saying. On the other hand, I have many friends who have tried to volunteer at their genealogy society, but the executive members fight hard to let anyone new join them. They have a closed-door policy to all new ideas and offers of help — yet they complain that no one wants to volunteer. Several of the volunteers are shunned by the longtime executive. I have run into a similar problem with one society — even after donating 20 to 30 hours a week for them.

      As for the results of the survey, I think they provide interesting food for thought and should help generate a discussion around the board table. Perhaps some societies will consider setting up their own surveys. I am a member of several societies and surprised that no one has ever asked why I chose not to renew when I did — and I am not alone.

      In April, during National Volunteer Week, I ran a series of blog posts about recognizing and “hiring” volunteers. Perhaps they also generated discussion among society leaders. Search “volunteer” to find the posts.

      Thanks for commenting.

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