Recently a state genealogical society put out a call for webinar proposals indicating speakers were to waive all or part of the speaker’s fee and that it would be negotiated after the presentation. The reasoning? Because the society is a “small non-profit” and they wish the presenter to assist with “ensuring the continuation of webinar programs.”

Paying speakers little to nothing for the 40+ hours it takes to develop and execute a one hour presentation is downright disrespectful.

Seriously graphic via Bitmoji

Non-profit is no excuse

The Economic Research Institute reports the 2016 top ten non-profit executive compensation packages range from 7-13 million dollars. (1) The post provides links to additional information about income, cost of living and compensation packages in 1,000 industry sectors.

If other non-profits can significantly compensate executives, surely non-profit genealogy societies can figure out how to adequately pay speakers who are providing the high quality presentation content that makes attending society events attractive.

Closed-minded boards

Mr. Myrt’s 14 year experience with a 500 members local genealogy society left him frustrated by board members who believe non-profits cannot charge for events, bring in a profit for say an annual conference, adequately compensate speakers for travel, or pay a fair honorarium.

There were several occasions where Mr. Myrt and I paid for the featured speaker’s hotel and travel expenses from our own pocket.


Yet, we could not in good conscience, ask a colleague to speak for a mere pittance.

We also hoped the society board would see the benefits of top tier presentations.

Run genealogy societies as a business

Societies worth their salt utilize 21st century technology to accomplish education goals. At the bare minimum they should:

  • Provide a colorful, robust and frequently updated website.
  • Engage a proactive publicity team.
  • Create free Gmail accounts for each officer and committee chair.
  • Store all paperwork in the free Google Drive associated with each account, providing continuity as staff changes.
  • Develop a strong social media presence. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the current biggies.
  • Play nicely in the genealogy sandbox. Twice weekly curate content to members and social media accounts spotlighting noteworthy people, events and articles from colleagues in the genealogy community at large.
  • Recognize growth will come through contact with the younger generation via mobile devices.
  • Produce 2 minute short-subject videos promoting genealogical best practices using free YouTube resources.
  • Create eye-catching branding graphics for each video and upcoming event.
  • Hold in-person meetings at no-cost facilities such as the local public library.
  • Provide virtual attendance using free meeting technology. Current choices include Zoom and YouTube.
  • Upgrade to digital handouts storing them on the free Google Drive associated with the program chair’s society Gmail account. Share a “view only” mode link with the associated branding graphic.
  • Recognize a member benefit to digital handouts is that all hyperlinks are clickable.
  • Switch from hardcopy newsletters to digital, storing them in the newsletter editor’s free Google Drive associated with his society Gmail account. Share a “view only” mode link with the associated branding graphic.
  • Streamline the business portion of monthly meetings by having the treasurer and other reports stored in the cloud and shared in “view only” mode as above.
  • Provide more time for Q&A interaction between members and the speaker since the business meeting is shortened to less than 2 minutes. 🤗
  • Accept membership fees, donations, conference registrations, etc. using PayPal that also includes major credit card processing for those without PayPal accounts.
  • Accept Venmo for payments as above.
  • Transfer money to and from PayPal and Venmo tied to the society’s bank account to pay speakers and vendors.
  • Consider video uploads to YouTube provide closed captioning once the video is fully rendered.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

These suggestions are merely what comes immediately to mind.


A genealogy society may serve tea and cookies at meetings, but we need to move away from the ‘coffee clutch’ mentality.

Saving money using 21st century tools, releases funds to adequately compensate speakers who provide the major draw to society events.



(1) Urbaniac, Jason. “Top 10 Highest Paid CEOs at Non-Profits” ERI Blog, undated. ( : viewed 10 Sep 2019).