Task-holders meetings are important to the Society, giving Volunteers the opportunity to meet others carrying out similar and important work as well as the Trustees and President and VPís. It is also an opportunity to exchange views and ideas, to look at issues and possible changes within the Society. There are 2 main subjects that have been raised and discussed to varying degrees and the views of task-holders about them would be important in helping to decide what could and or should be done. In the morning I gave a short presentation and posed the following questions.
Group Photo of the Taskholders Meeting, held at Dartford
Should we re-examine the way we recognise Membersí contributions to the Society? In particular:
A full and frank exchange of views took place which was very productive. The views were split about Honorary Membership and how, if it was to be continued, it should be used in the future. There was a consensus that the number in place was too high and there was a financial cost to the Society and its Members. If it was to continue there should be a limit on the number of Hon. Members. One suggestion was that the number in future should be limited to 10 or 1% of the Membership. Those who were Honorary Members at any such change would continue to be so and no new Hon. Memberships awarded until the number reached 10. It was realised that a Constitutional change would be required to remove the classification of Honorary Membership. There was a view that the Josephine Birchenough Memorial Award (JBMA), given by the President and Vice-Presidents, has a category where an award could be made to members who had carried out exceptional or significant service to the Society which could be used in place of Honorary Membership. It is something that the Society Committee (Trustees) should look at.
The JBMA was under used and a second category that exists could be used to replace the Certificate of Thanks that are at present awarded by the Society Committee. Under the JBMA system Members are able nominate other Members whom they believe deserve recognition for the work and service they have given to the Society and its Members. It would not require a Constitutional change and providing the Trustees retained the ability to nominate along with Members the prevailing view was that the Society Committee should look at this.
The prevailing view was that the JBMA needs to be publicised more and that the Society Committee (Trustees) should look at how this can be achieved.
The situation regarding the President and Vice-Presidents was not so clear with views split on different aspects. The responsibility for running the Society is that of the Trustees and it was generally agreed that the President and Vice-Presidents are an important resource of knowledge and give advice on specific subjects to the Trustees when requested. They can be asked to lead or take part in Sub-Committees to look into specific subjects. They also have an important ambassadorial role and in addition talk to members and highlight to the Trustees any potential Problems. They also provide an important overview of the Society and can give advice or comments to the Trustees. They receive all minutes of the Society Committee to enable them to do so. They also have an important role in forming the Presidentís Panel who consider and make the JBMA. The Presidentís Panel meets normally twice a year; to make the awards and to discuss the Society; but this year it has meet only once.
Since the present Chair of the Society has been in place the role of the President has been expanded to include Chairing the AGM. Some thought that the role of the Vice-Presidents was not clear but Job Specifications exist for both President and Vice-President outlining their role. No views were given about the number of Vice-Presidents that there should be nor about the process for their appointment and the number of terms they should serve.
The Trustees meetings and involvement of skyping was mentioned but had been turned down in the past in favour of face to face meetings. This would need a constitution change. David Cufley quoted the use of this method had allowed the Guild of One-Name Studies to have out of area and overseas members on their Executive Committee. Someone technically able or out-sourcing would be needed to proceed.
The afternoon session was presented by David Cufley, President.
Competing to stop decline:
This part of the day also provided much discussion, though there were some different views expressed there was a general consensus about many of the points.
There was a unanimous view that a Members only area of the website was not only a good idea but was something that was needed. It would be of great benefit of all Members. That the Society Committee (Trustees) should endeavour to bring this about.
The idea of the Journal being made available electronically and subs changed to reflect the additional cost of paper copies. This did not receive much support as task-holders preferred paper copies. However it was seen as an advantage for overseas members.
The use of PayPal and other methods of payment including automatic renewals were discussed. It was felt it would need the Society to hold a credit card. The use of Genfair and Parish Chest was mentioned in regard online payments. Parish Chest is in the process of changing ownership.
Social networking resulted in some split views. Those who do not wish to use it, those who were prepared to give it a go and those that did use it. The Society has a Facebook page, Flickr page and electronic newsletters and an email information service. All are open to Members and non-members. In addition there is the Rootsweb mailing list which is open only to Members. One task-holder mentioned that the mailing list had been very quiet of late and hardly used. One task-holder said that they did not know when events and drop in sessions were to occur, this was answered by the Editor and President, but Branches and Library need to inform the Editor, Webmaster and Newsletter editors of all happenings about the Society. By developing these and looking at other social networking opportunities this could not only benefit Members in general but out of area Members and those who live overseas.
Workshops were important and provided Members with an important resource, an opportunity to learn. The majority view was that the Society should look to expanding the Workshops; other locations within the area and at different times of the day. By doing this it could provide out of area Members with an opportunity to take part. There were split views about opening Workshops to non-members but it was not excluded in some cases provided members were given preference. There are financial and other considerations that need to be looked but it was felt that the Trustees should look at ways to support the Society Library and the Branches looking into this.
Library and the need for Contingency Plan. The future of the Society Library, its purpose and location were looked at in detail. The KCC intention to form a Charitable Trust to take over the responsibility for Libraries, Archives and Registrars has caused uncertainty about the future of the Library. If the result of this was that the Society had to relocate where would it go? If nowhere could be found what happen to the collection. The unanimous view was that if the Library had to move any new location could only be rented, buying is beyond the resources of the Society and leasing could be difficult financially and practically.
The location of any Society Library would always be difficult for some Members to reach and no location would be suitable for everyone. The Library Committee has submitted a Contingency Plan to the Trustees who were in the process of considering the report. The Trustees have agreed to set aside £5000 as a contingency fund should the holdings of the Library have to be put into storage.
It was recognised that changes in the world of Family History had brought about many changes and challenges. Commercial Companies and records on line were all factors that challenged Family History Society Membership numbers. Family History Societies had a lot to offer; knowledge of the area, experience and helping people in their research in a way that Commercial Companies and just using the Internet can not match.
How the Society recruits and handles the follow of non-renewing members was looked at. The Renewalís Secretary explained that she follows up resignations and non renewals.
Such was the interest about the discussion and views being expressed the meeting overrun and the meeting ended at 4.30pm.