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Thread: Clan Societies - Where are they going?

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    Clan Societies - Where are they going?

    Should you be a Leslie then you might consider helping out with the CLANZ newsletter. Barry Leslie has done the newsletter for many years but he has huge health problems which makes it almost impossible to sit at the computer for any length of time. Despite the pain he is in he has continued to produce a very informative newsletter.

    At the end of the day someone in the clan needs to step up to the plate of helping to produce the newsletter or it will cease to exists and thus information about the clan, especially in Australia and New Zealand, will cease to be available. He has asked for help for several years and yet no-one has stepped forward. You can read the latest newsletter at:
    http://www.electricscotland.com/familytree/newsletters/leslie/index.htm

    It was reading the current CLANZ newsletter that made me once again think of clan societies.

    This is really symptomatic of a wider problem within the clan system in that few are stepping forward to get involved and help their clan. Often it is the older clan members that do most of the work and few younger members are stepping forward.

    It has always been my view that few Clan Chiefs really deserve our support as they were often the ones that kicked people of their lands which lead to huge emigration from Scotland to all over the world. However a clan is a family and even though a clan chief doesn't deserve our support the clan society is still a way to keep connected to family ties.

    Let's look at clans... the Clan Chief's power was in the number of men he could bring to battle. That meant in most instances the chief had to engage his clan members to ensure they stuck with him. However, after the Battle of Culloden, the raising of men for battle was no longer of interest. Most of the chiefs found they could make more money from their lands by replacing their people with sheep. However, if you really examine this time period it has been shown that in most cases they would have been better off if they had encouraged their people to farm their land better. Quite a small farm could not only have fed the famiy but given them some cash crops to pay their rent.

    See http://www.electricscotland.com/history/crofting/ for further information.

    I confess that in Scotland I was totally ignorant of Scottish clans until my father purchased a book about Clan MacIntyre which I read but promptly forgot about it. It really wasn't until I came to North America that I realised the depth of interest in Clan roots. In fact the first Highland Games I attended was in Florida and I was totally amazed at the sheer number of Scottish flags flying and the large number of clan tents. I remember writing at the time that "The Scots are alive and well and living in America."

    Alas these Highland Games are also closing their doors as the people that organise them are getting old and can no longer continue.

    I am often told by members of Clan societies that they have difficulty in retaining members or getting new members.

    I have no magic crystal ball as to how to improve the situation but it does seem to me we also need to look outside the clan to help enthuse clan members. To me my first pride is actually being a Scot as the Scots have achieved so much all over the world. Some 75% of Scots have no clan allegiance at all. Of the current generation of Scots in Scotland some 800,000 have left Scotland to work in England, Wales and N. Ireland. You often hear of their pride in being a Scot but very rarely will you hear them saying they are proud of their clan.

    I'm not really aware of any clan society doing much to portray "Scottishness" as being part of their clan. When you read the history of the pioneers you will read of them having a soft spot for their "Auld Country" but again rarely do you hear them saying anything about their clan.

    However all that does not mean the clan society can't prosper but I think they need to move beyond their clan to do so. They really need to show what relevance they have in today's society.

    As I see it most clans seem to charge around $25.00 for a years membership and all most offer is a quarterly newsletter. Yes some will put on events but often not that many turn up for them. Most newsletters I've read have much to say about the Highland Games they've attended and in some cases that is the bulk of the newsletter. I'm really not sure that that would enthuse most clan members.

    The trouble really is that Scotland as a country is not engaged with the clans. Scotland does have a huge opportunity to use Highland Games events to promote Scotland for tourism and business but they simply don't do that. To me that is the height of stupidity. Nothing of modern Scotland is shown at most Highland Games. This to me is a wasted opportunity.

    To me it's a drill down matter. First you need to enthuse people of their Scottish roots and only then work on the clan side. A clan society is just like any other membership society in that to have a good membership base you need to offer something that makes members want to continue to be a member and see a benefit in being a member.

    I can't help but wonder if anyone has bothered to do a survey of their membership to ask the hard questions. Like how are we doing? What benefits do you see in being a member? Is there anything else we could offer that would help to increase the benefits you get from your membership. Would you pay a higher annual membership fee if we provided X or Y? How about phoning them each year to have a chat? How about persuading them to pay a special monthly fee that over say 5 years would actually pay for them and their families to have a holiday in Scotland? So a two week holiday would cost say $3,500 then how about them paying $50 a month towards that trip? Open a trust account where the money would be secure and they'd have confidence in paying in towards that.

    Again how about raising the annual fee to $200 and then think what that could buy so you send each member a special annual gift. Perhaps a set of 6 whisky glasses with a bottle of special malt whisky. Like do you track family memberships? How many of a family do they have and what are their ages and sex? You could then customise a gift so everyone in the family gets something. I am sure that if you got this going then bulk purchase would reduce the costs.

    How about a one of joining fee where when they join they get a book about their clan, a clan badge, a T-Shirt or Golf Shirt, a tartan tie or scarf, a lapel pin, and a book about the Scots? How about providing them with a memory stick on which you place a pdf book or books about Scotland and the clan along with lots of great pictures of Scotland and clan lands and perhaps a Scottish singalong? How about a signed letter from the Clan Chief?

    Frankly you can do very little for $25.00 so you need to think out of the box about how to not only engage your membership but keep them engaged. That in my mind needs a joining fee of at least $100.00 and a membership fee that reflects an annual gift to them of perceived value.

    I once got a suggestion that each member should get a special certificate of membership that would be signed by the clan chief and sent to them in a tube so it could be framed and in that a personal letter from the chief that was signed by him or her. Then there would be enough of a border around the certificate that each year you renewed your membership you have a wee sticker sent to you to put around the certificate showing the number of years you'd been a member.

    And then you really need to have a much better web site where you can post great hi-res pictures of events you put on or attend. But you also need to get that site updated on a regular basis so it's worth their while to visit at least once a month if not more often. A picture in a newsletter is often not that interesting as you often can't make out the people in it and limited space doesn't do justice to an event.

    You also need to engage your membership and encourage them to get in touch when they've done anything significant. Like did their son or daughter do anything special at school that they'd like to boast about? Has the father started a new business or joined a new company? Would any of the membership be willing to offer advice on any special topic to a fellow clan member?

    And topics on the clan web site need not be restricted to clan affairs. Where a member has special knowledge on a topic perhaps they could do an article on that topic that would then go up on the web site?

    You also need to know that while Scots are a friendly bunch they often know little about clan matters. I often think more time should be devoted to educating local Scots on the role of the clans and telling them how important Diaspora Scots see them. That could mean if a local Scot with links to Clan Leslie might then contact the Clan Leslie Society in New Zealand as he is going there for business and can get some advice on the best place to stay or possible companies to visit. All that would be needed is someone willing to devote a wee bit of time.

    So why are your members members? What motivated them to join and why should they continue to be members? You need to find out and do something with the answers.

    Alastair

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  3. #2

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    Re: Clan Societies - Where are they going?

    It's a tricky problem, Alastair, and one that is faced by service clubs and churches all over the country: declining membership, lack of volunteers and commitment, aging participants and the like. Nobody has fully analyzed it and nobody has come close to solving it. Sometimes the organization is its own worst enemy in terms of succession: cliquish, unwilling to update or change, insular; sometimes it's just that people are so busy there's no energy left to get involved in anything more than struggling along day to day. A lot of it is that with all the connections of social media today, people just don't need the human connections that belonging to a group of people brings. Then there's participation costs, legal liabilities, child-raising responsibilities, etc., etc., etc. And particular to the clans of course is that many of us proudly descend from Lowland ancestry with only tenuous connections to a highland family. I personally am very active in two volunteer organizations and a regular church-goer, so I'm not making excuses for myself, but certainly see the bigger problem you've identified. Thanks as always!

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    Re: Clan Societies - Where are they going?

    The problem as I see it Rick is that not enough research is being done with members or even non members. When it comes to non members then there must be an opportunity to ask people at Highland Games just like some people do market research on the street. To my mind that is where an organisation like COSCA should be able to help. However the clan societies need to talk to them to make that happen. Only when you know the issues can you really address them.

    And I certainly agree that all the points you raised are valid and that is partly where you need to enthuse people and keep them enthusiastic and engaged but that can only come when you understand the issues.

    Alastair

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    Re: Clan Societies - Where are they going?

    One of the major causes of the shortage of volunteers these days is the fact that in most families both the parents work full time. In my younger days usually the mother worked part time and in my mothers day most were stay at home mums.

    You see it in all fields. Schools have problems getting volunteers to man their canteens and, in fact, are now employing paid workers which obviously puts the prices up.

    Also, because the mother also works full time she needs more help from the father at home and with the kids activities which means that there is a shortage of volunteers in the fields where men traditionally serve, eg coaching kids sports.

    Every family these days seem to need 2 cars and a mansion to live in which means, of course, that they need to earn the money to support this lifestyle. The young ones want to start off the way their parents ended up instead of working to build up their assets for years (like their parents had to do).

    Elda

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    Re: Clan Societies - Where are they going?

    I agree lifestyle is at the root of a lot of problems we see these days Elda. I'm not sure what the answer is to volunteering although some time ago I posted an article on how young people are actually doing a lot of volunteer work although I guess that is in part due to high youth unemployment.

    In some respects if they ran an important event that should give them a good additional to their CV and might even encourage them to make a self employed career choice in that market.

    Part of this article was also to question how clan societies might make a change to encourage more to retain membership and others to join. I still think some serious research is needed on that front but many individual clan societies would be challenged to do this and hence my suggestion on how an organisation like COSCA could get involved on their behalf.

    Alastair

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