Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chapter Revitalization

In Pennsylvania, we currently have 99 DAR chapters.  A large number, compared to most states in the nation, I suppose.   Although it puts us just under the number 100, the required number of chapters to be classified as a ‘large’ state.  Since my membership ten years ago, I have been aware of a few chapters that disbanded or merged with other chapters due to decrease in membership or loss of interest.  I have only seen the creation of one chapter in my state during that time.  Looking back on our state history, we have had over 50 chapters disband, with the first one in 1908.  That doesn’t even count the ones that have merged.  When I discovered this statistic, I was shocked!

What happens to those daughters from a chapter that disbands or merges?  They may become Members At Large, they may transfer to another chapter, or they may resign.  Unfortunately, many of them end up resigning or being dropped from our roll due to lack of interest or a lack of feeling connected to a new chapter.    

This weekend was our annual district workshop, led by our District Director.  One of the sessions, given by our State Organizing Secretary, provided the participants a time to discuss how to revitalize our chapters to avoid these problems.  Here are some of the very good ideas that were shared.

·         Hold your meetings on Saturdays in order to allow the working woman, and often Junior, to attend.
·         Vary your chapter meeting location to hold the interest of your members.  Take field trips.
·         Promote your programs.  Get everyone excited to attend.
·         Use your chapter members’ talents when considering programs.  A member that presents is one that is involved.
·         Keep your chapter meeting dates the same for consistency.  For example, meet the second Saturday of each month.
·         Provide opportunity for members to participate in all three of our objectives: Historic Preservation, Education, and Patriotism.  Make your chapter have ‘Something for Everyone’.
·         Don’t neglect your older membership.  Create a hospitality committee to visit the shut-ins or the ones in a care facility. 
·         Gather a team of chapter members to help the Registrar.  Often times, prospective members are overwhelmed when asked to find documents to prove their lineage.  Not every applicant enjoys research.  If your team of genealogists can find the documents for the prospective member, it is more likely she will join before she loses interest.  Also take advantage of your Lineage Research Chairman in your state.  She may be able to help find proof as well.
·         Get your new members involved right away:  put them on a committee or make them a chairman.
·         Create a “Daughter to Daughter” program among your members, having an active member adopt an inactive member and keep in touch with her.  She should invite her to meetings and send correspondence to her via mail, email, or telephone.  Birthday wishes are also nice.
Your chapter does not have to do all of these suggestions to be successful.  However, you may want to adopt one or two of these strategies to begin your revitalization in membership.  Does my chapter do all of these things?  No.  However, we have made some positive changes recently.  We are growing with over 55 new members in the past two and a half years.  I have a feeling that my chapter, the Jacob Ferree Chapter, will be around in the far future.  Good thing, because I plan to pass my pins onto someone special someday, and I truly hope she will be able to wear my Chapter Bar.    
An example of a Chapter Bar...not my chapter, but someone's. <grin>

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