The Regency Society of America www.RegencySA.org THE FOUNDER’S GUIDE To Creating a Regency Group Copyright©2012 Regency Society of America
Written by Stephanie L. Johanesen Images and text in this booklet are the intellectual property of the Regency Society of America (RSA) or its subsidiaries (unless otherwise noted) and may NOT be taken or used in any way without the express permission of the RSA
t was late December 2006, and I was in the middle of my annual Jane Austen period adaptation marathon. I was slabbed out ungracefully on my sofa, waiting for the next episode of P&P 1995 to spool up, and out of the blue, I wondered if there were other regency obsessed people like myself in this world. I imagined there had to be one or two at least. All I wanted at that moment was to find myself seated in a Queen Anne chair wearing a regency gown, leaning over to gossip with a friend while cooling myself with an elegant fan. I would do this while the room before us glowed in glistening candlelight, swirled with silken ball gowns and the sweeping tailcoats of regency dancers. Well-under a year later, there I was sitting in a chair by a candelabra, gossiping with other regency ladies while dancers in regency finery wove around each other in an elegant dance. It was a stellar feeling, I dare say. It sort of came to me that night what Iâ€™d accomplished without even realizing I had.
Winter Ball 2007 Astoria Oregon
I confess at this moment that I never anticipated the ORS (Oregon Regency Society) would become what it has. I thought perhaps Iâ€™d have a modest clutch of 3
acquaintances to meet with on a periodic basis to sip tea and talk Jane, perhaps, or to work on costumes. But as I began to research the idea of starting a regency group, I began to find all these scattered specialty groups that had not really made any effort to get together; in spite of having a passion for the same short period in history. The ORS began as a lark; a notion—nothing more. I sat down the next day after my Austen-athon. I pondered that perhaps a group such as this existed already. So I started Googling. I found no specific groups in my area that did what I had in mind, so I bought the domain for the website, and started building the page. It was a humble beginning. Of course with websites, you have to get the word out, so I spent an entire afternoon online researching. At that time, I knew nothing about regency or English Country Dance; but the research on dance led me to the dance groups, and to JASNA, and to all number of other sites that touched on the regency in one way or another. I then began to make a shameless sweep of email addresses. I got onto the local JASNA mailing list and used their list to announce the ORS’s existence. I found community forums and regency costuming sites, and all manner of blogs and I collected emails and contact information until I was nearly blind from staring at the monitor. It was a lot of work. And that was only the beginning. I do not let anyone trivialize how difficult it was to get the word out. Some people have put that effort into question, but trust me; it wasn’t easy—no matter what people say. Today, if you type ‘Regency Society’ in Google, the ORS and the RSA are the top two on the search results list. That’s something I am very proud of, and it was a result of dogged and unrelenting plugs and promotion of the group to anyone who would listen. I became a chronic spammer. I sent emails upon emails to local and nonlocal places alike. The English Country Dance people, the Napoleonic people, the dandies and the costumers, reenactment groups from different periods, LARP groups, local home-school groups, (it’s a wonderful historic and social activity for young people to participate in), churches and music and dance groups, I put announcements in community boards all over the 4
internet. It was open season. I was dispensing spam like automatic gunfire. People began to join, in a trickle. By March of 2007, Iâ€™d already started looking at sites for a ball or assembly. I didnâ€™t know then how easy it would have been to set something simpler up beforehand like a tea or a picnic. I merely decided to jump in feet first. I was determined that an event would bring more people together, so I began the process of planning the first Winter Ball. I found a wonderful location. I immediately set a date and ordered tickets and made sure I announced it everywhere including the website. I put it on community calendars, sent press-releases out to local papers and radio shows. But I was starting to panic. I knew money had to be raised to pay for the string trio, the food, the setup materials and the location, etc. So I arranged for an event to occur that August to raise funds for the November event. I was fortunate to find Rev. Kevin Yellâ€™s amazing historic property in Oregon City; the Ainsworth House and Gardens. It was there that the ORS had their very first event.
First Event 2007 Ainsworth House & Gardens 5
I cooked the meal, and Kevin helped set the place up. I found a delightful English Country Dance caller who had everyone dancing astonishingly smoothly within moments. I expected about 20-25 people and over 50 showed up. Nearly everyone was in costume. It was far beyond my expectations. I got so overwhelmed seeing the lines of dancers I had to stop and hide the tears a couple of times. I had no idea that this
was the start of something amazing. The ORS now has almost 300 members from all over the State of Oregon, Washington and even California. For the first winter ball, people came from as far as Port Angeles and Seattle Washington, and Arizona (our AzRS sister society was kind enough to attend our first big ball). Starting and sustaining a group is without a doubt a lot of work and goodness me do not be fooled, it’s a lot of drama. People will come along with good intentions and noble, reliable energy, and some will come along wanting to ride coat tails and try to turn the fun into drama or try to take over for the sake of credit alone. But where there are groups of people, there will be turmoil. If it can be overcome, and you get to the point where you can pass some of the work and responsibility onto others who understand and value the original vision, who don’t want to turn the group into a personal fiefdom, and who will put the members’ experience first above their own wants; you will never find a more gratifying success. And all the craziness is entirely worth it. It can be done. It takes work, and hopefully, with the help of my guide, fewer headaches and less stress. Once in a while, someone comes to me and says something that makes me feel even better about the all the sweat and tears. One of our newer members (now a leader I might add) pulled me aside a few years ago at an event and said to me: “Stephanie, I just wanted to let you know that if it wasn’t for this group, I would still be introverted and shy. This group has brought me unexpected friendships and has taken me out of my shell. So I thought I needed to thank you for that.” I spent my drive home sniffling because I honestly see this whole thing as a selfish desire to surround myself in beautiful regency things and beautiful regency people and regency manners. Having someone point out how in spite of my personal motivations, the efforts I made resulted in so much more. It was humbling. I digress. If you’re toying with the idea of starting a chapter of the RSA in your state, I suggest you read this little guide and use it to your best advantage. This will cover the good, the bad and the ugly. It will outline with a measure of certainty, exactly what this project will entail, and challenge you 6
to take the task on if you dare! It will help you set up a framework for your website, and give you tips on how to get the word out to people in your state, and it will give you plenty of low-cost, easy ideas to get the event-ball rolling in your region. You can use the RSA resources to your advantage by listing your new group with us, participating in the RSA main website, and insuring your own websites and blogs are getting the attention they need to grow your group. It’s an arduous process to get the ball rolling. It can be discouraging, but once you get those first five people; the first ten people; the first fifteen and twenty people, it will grow like wildfire. The more options you offer people to learn about the period, to dress up in the costume, to understand and be comfortable with the dance—to get together and create a core membership that will ultimately be the pillar supporting your expanding group, the faster it will grow, and the more you will be able to afford to do grander and grander events. Even if your group remains small and only does simple events, the RSA welcomes you. We are a (inter)national community and we are here for you. So read on, and don’t hesitate to ask questions on the RSA forum and to comment on the RSA main website if you need support from experienced chapter leaders, or the leadership of the RSA itself.
FINDING YOUR IDENTITY
Branding is the foundation of starting a group. You need to establish an identity for your chapter, and that means coming up with a name. It’s as simple as picking a name and then buying a web-domain to go with it. The RSA does not have any specific requirements of its chapters in name choices. Some regency groups merely created a blogspot page to act as their main web-presence, and that is perfectly fine (and it’s free and can be easily assembled and designed). The nice thing about Blogger is that you can create a blog-style opening page, and have links/buttons leading to pages to describe your group, to provide links, to point visitors to photos of past events, and upcoming events as well. I recommend you visit some of the existing RSA Chapter pages such as that of the Oregon Regency Society, the Tennessee Regency Society or the Virginia Regency Society. These are active groups that update their pages frequently. It will give you a good idea of where to start. The name you choose for your society does not have to be matched to the RSA. It can be anything, but you want to make sure that it’s clear what the group’s mission is by its title. It can be something simple, and obvious like like the [state] Regency Society (example: the New Hampshire Regency Society –NHRS) or you can have Regency Society of America – [state] Chapter (and then abbreviate accordingly RSANH for instance). It can be anything you like ultimately, as long as it isn't too fussy or long (shorter is better). That also applies to your domain. People don’t like typing out half of a novel to reach a .org location—so try to abbreviate in an intuitive way for your domain. RegencyNH.org, for instance, or NHregency.org. Try to stick to .org rather than .com. For one, you will find a broader variety of available .org addresses than .com ones. Secondly, you are going to create a not
for profit organization, not a commercial business, so it’s only logical you pick a .org domain.
Developing your brand. Now it’s time to start looking at branding. You will need a logo or some type of branding. Not everyone has a background in graphic design, so if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask any of the RSA leadership members for guidance. But you want something that is classical, period-inspired and recognizable. You can also surely find someone locally to help you for free if they too have an interest in this group. Don’t spend any unnecessary funds having some expensive logo made. You can start simply and wait until someone in your group comes along who can flower it up for you. This shouldn’t cost a thing. Then you need to create a website with the basic essentials on it: * *
Your group identity/logo A blurb about who you are as a group, and what you do. · be sure to mention all the activities you do; so you can include as many types of people as possible. The good thing about the regency period is that no matter what walk of life you follow, you all fall into a civil, polite society when you're doing group activities; it is what everyone expects, so you can have a mixed group of folks from all walks of life that gets along grandly. A contact page, and preferably a FREE membership. Provide as many easy ways to join as possible. · Harvest the email of every query you get, whether or not they join, they will likely get renewed interest if they are included in your mailings and are welcome to opt out if you are annoying them. Collect them on a contact mailing list (excel or some spreadsheety equivalent works wonders for mail merges).
For every event, be sure you blanket email everyone. Be sure to respect their privacy however, and BCC the mailing list. An events page. This is probably your most important page. You have to give your growing membership a reliable succession of events to attend. If it stagnates, your membership and newcomers will think the group is stagnating. Keep it updated as much as possible. · Set up your first event, no matter what it is. Give people something to aim for. Give them time to put together a costume. · When I started the ORS, I was annoyed at the beginning that few people were signing up for the group. When I complained about as much to an aunt of mine she told me to set it up and people will show up. She was right. I had something to offer members, and advertising the ball and the regency party gave people something to shoot for; and a reason to make costumes, etc. Membership shot up after I put the ball together. So set up an event or two immediately, even if they're small ones. · Your first events don’t have to cost you a penny (as a group). The first piece of advice I give to pretty much every single person starting an RSA chapter is: set up a tea! Most of the time, tea-rooms will charge you per person. You can either advertise a regency tea, and have people sign up and pay via PayPal or check ahead of time so you can pad a couple of dollars onto the total for fund-raising, or if you just want to hold a raffle during this event, then just have your new members pay the tea-room directly for the tea and you don’t have to deal with that bit at all. You just have to show up. Ask members to bring a period raffle item and a few extra dollars for the raffle, and voila. Everything’s covered. All you need is a roll of raffle tickets and some change. These are venues you don't usually have to pay for (or if you do, it’s a minimal charge you can split up between attendees). You just have to reserve seats and give the tearoom a little time to ·
prepare the service, etc. It's an easy way to launch your group, and a good place to hold raffles or a silent auction for regency items and to raise a little bit of money for your next event.
2011 Regency Retreat Newberg, Oregon Mary in an emerald spencer. *
A list of local and not so local resources for costumes and accessories. · This may require a little research, but you can find other RSA chapter links pages and shamelessly plagiarize them as needed. Nobody will get upset if it’s in the ‘family’. A Facebook group. · Facebook is wonderful for networking. You cannot deny that. Setting up a page for your regency group will connect you with not only people directly local to you, but also by connecting to RSA, and RSA’s affiliates, you can be sure that anyone who is regional to you who might be following our pages (and many, many people do from all over the world)
will find you. Do not rely entirely on your Facebook page, though, because not everyone likes social networking sites. A past events page where people can view photos of your events. Trust me, membership blossomed by leaps and bounds the moment I put photos of events up. People see that and want to be part of it.
You can expand your website from there, and add more and more details and links as you go along; but if you start by providing a central place members or prospective members can go, then you're off and running.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
In this section, we are going to talk about the art of blanket emailing; advertising your group around your region and finding your target membership. I'll also outline some of the best ways to keep your membership engaged and involved.
Getting listed on other sites: First and foremost, you should also spend some time getting your group’s link placed other group lists. Sign up for the RSA main list. Request links on pages belonging to other groups around the country. The reason why this is important is that some groups have websites that are already well-established, and come up very high on Google searches. If someone from your state finds another state’s page first, and is able to find your page through them, then that’s a win. It takes a while for your page to work its way up the Google search list, and it’s based on clicks and activity; so you should take advantage of the established groups and their listings; people in your state will find you on there. And RSA group members are happy to help.
The art of spamming, touting and boasting. Now I am a spam hater, but I have been a ruthless perpetrator of spam since the ORS was incepted. I spent hours looking for groups around the country. I followed links from lists of other groups, and harvested hundreds of emails. I didn't limit my spamming to just the Americas, I sent emails to Australian groups and
European groups. If I'd found a group listing for some alien town on planet Andoria (yeah, so I’m a geek), I probably would have spammed them too.
So the first thing you do: 1) Notify other groups around the world. Submit link requests to their sites. Getting on an established group's page can direct in-state traffic to your site when Google hasn't quite found it yet. a) "Why would you send out notices to people outside the state?" you ask? Well, word of mouth is a powerful thing. The ORS received a member once because her friend in Iowa said: "I'm so jealous that you have a regency group there,” and the new member said: "What new regency group?" The Iowan lady responded that her ECD teacher had told her about a regency group starting up in Oregon and what a great idea it was and that there was a website. 2) Find regency-themed blogs and costumers, and notify them. If they’re locals, request a banner be placed on their blogs or pages in exchange for featuring them somewhere on your link page. We’re not here to make advertising money, we’re here to promote our passion, and that means supporting local vendors.
Duchess’s Feast 2011 A Post-Dinner Diversion
3) Sweep your state for ECD and Contra Dance groups. Harvest their emails and create a contact list just for them; you can use it to advertise dance-events with them. If you're really motivated, make up flyers and bring them to ECD group classes if need be. You can find most ECD group events at the CDSS (Country Dance & Song Society) website: a) http://www.cdss.org/newsletter/events.html b) http://www.cdss.org/cdss-group-affiliates.html 4) Advertise your group and upcoming events on the Republic of Pemberley and RSA Forum. 5) Find some newsgroups that are regency-themed. Yahoo groups like â€œThe_Real_Regency" are a prime example. 6) Find your local costuming guilds, and let them know. 7) Notify your local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms). 8) Put flyers up at local costume shops. 9) Notify your regional theatrical groups. 10) Notify any local Napoleonic, Civil War or 1812 Reenacting group that might operate regionally. 11) Notify dance schools. 12) Homeschooling sites; this has not only historical relevance for the kids, but also provides them with a good, clean, civil venue to socialize. 13) Put up a flyer if permissible at your local tea rooms, fabric stores, bookshops and libraries. 14) Contact your local JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) chapter. If there is none, look for Jane Austen book groups, reading groups, etc. 15) Contact information for your local chapters of the Red Hat Society; you can find info on the main website: http://www.redhatsociety.com I'm sure I haven't listed everyone I've spammed, but when you're online searching, you may find other appropriate groups or places that you can notify.
Keep your membership active. As your membership starts to trickle in, you must be on your feet. You must always have updates on your site, and keep it dynamic. There are too many sites out there that are stagnant and haven't updated with photos or events since 2004. Showing your activity shows members that you're busy and on top of it. Add a 'page last updated on: **/**/2012 on your front page. Also, keep them engaged by involving them. If your members are ECD callers, costumers, or any type of person who can offer something to other members, give them free ad-space on your website. It gives your membership a place to go for resources, and also supports your local artisans. Get some of your crafty members to hold workshops on behalf of your society. They gain the benefit from being introduced to your large mailing list, and you gain the benefit of being able to offer many activities available for participation. Bonnet making, fan-making, even converting a modern gown into something regency-like, whatever you like; let them offer up their own ideas.
A newsletter or blog Another sign of an active group is can be a semi-reliable real-paper, snailmailed newsletter. You may be the only contributor and you may be paying for the mailing in the beginning, but it is important for members to get that reminder in their mailbox. It also helps keep the members who are not online (and there will be a few) up to date on your Society's events. A blog also acts as a wonderful way to keep your membership involved in whatâ€™s going on. From posts on costume tips to event announcements, the blog often is as popular; if not more so than the website. Keep members updated via email as much as possible. Let them know you're working on stuff during quiet time, and send them emails that they can easily forward to friends when you have an event.
Photos Whenever have an event, post photos. Get a Flickr account with permanent links so your photos donâ€™t turn into meddlesome red Xs. Our membership numbers jump every time we post photos from a recent event.
Spring Assembly 2008 Miss BrontĂŤ examines fans
THE NUTS AND THE BOLTS
So you’ve got your name; you've got your website, and you've even got a few members. Now you need to start thinking about opening a bank account so you can start accepting ticket fees and donations so you can pay for other events.
Managing money and an EID Now there are several options. If you want to open a personal account to do this, you can. But I recommend you get a separate account to manage your group’s money. An account that receives its own statements of deposits and withdrawals that are not intermingled with personal transactions, it just makes life easier. In order to get a bank account (in most cases) you need and EID (employer ID). Yes, I know, you’re not an employer, but as an organization you can still get an ID number that will not only allow you to open bank accounts but also in some cases, allow you to purchase wholesale items. You need to be careful to specify that you are not-for-profit so they don’t expect tax information from you. You can get these online through the IRS. The website will give you a provisional number instantly. https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jsp You need to be sure to indicate that you are a non-profit group or club; read the application carefully as you fill it out. You will be issued a number on the computer, and you will also receive a document from the IRS in the mail. You can use this number to open bank accounts and also obtain access to wholesale services. 18
Not-for-profit status You may also want to look into eventually obtaining 501C7 status (club/membership group); this is a not-for-profit mutual beneficial status. This requires that you submit your group's bylaws, your organizational tree, your enrollment forms, a budget summary (which has a spending threshold) and other documents. It's about $300 in fees for this process but allows you to function as a legitimate organization. Keep an excel sheet of your earnings and your expenditures; how much money you take in is relevant. Tip: try to get an attorney into your membership too, it can't hurt. ď Š
Structure and procedure Are you going to have a board, a committee, or a president? Will you be using parliamentary procedures; setting up bylaws, and all those things? Mind you, these things arenâ€™t entirely necessary. You can easily just function as a group of people who pay their own way to set up events and such. But if you want to create the group as something structured and managed, you need to plan these things. You need to identify roles of participants and leadership, and start breaking it down so when people start coming in, you can recruit for those positions. All of this will need to be outlined in your club bylaws.
A code of conduct Because you are bringing people in from pretty much all walks of life, you need to have a standard code of conduct for the people in leadership positions. Sometimes these are simple agreement forms which are completed and signed by leadership. It can also just be one of the sub-parts of your bylaws. Either way, you need to establish what your leadership members can and cannot do while representing your group publically. This is important.
In some states you can register as a Non-Profit Reenactment Club/Group which can also provide the opportunity to bid for grant money for certain historic and educational funds. You are tax-exempt as long as you are not storing money in large amounts for long periods, or taking a salary for your work. Keep the membership funds cycling by having lots of events. Keep track of all funds provided by members.
Seed money I will not lie; even being frugal, you may have to use personal funds to start this group up. However in time, you can reimburse yourself whenever possible. Personally, here are some things that fell on me that I haven't reimbursed myself for (nor do I plan toâ€”I look at it the same way I look at the money I spend on costumes for this group. Itâ€™s part of the fun. Mailings (Stamps, copies, etc) Domain & Web costs Printing of Membership cards Some venue costs Food for some of our events Raffle items (donated) Compensation for underattended event (not enough tickets sold to cover costs) Printing of ball tickets and other printed items Decorative Items Event insurance.
2011 Pittock Picnic Elegant Miss Alecea.
Mind you, other members have also invested in the ORS as well, one state chapter leader for instance spent a large sum acquiring the linens, candelabras, serving dishes, china and all other items she thought we needed for our events. It definitely eliminated the need to pay rental fees; and she was pretty wise about getting these items at Goodwill and swap-meets and such. You can ‘sell’ these items to your group as time goes on, reimbursing yourself as needed if you must have these items. But they are not necessary to have a good, lively, fun regency group. You just need to know that making those kinds of personal investments may be paid back at a slow rate, if at all. I myself have resigned myself to the fact that I may never get some of my investment funds back. It's just part of the deal and that’s okay with me. These are things you need to consider. Most costs are sort of nominal, individually; but they add up. If you are strapped, you have to be sure to have fund raisers to afford your events. Find a sponsor if need be.
A Regency Tea 2008 Sherwood, Oregon Miss Suzannah Shines.
Venues cost money. We will talk about establishing partnerships with venues to save you money in an upcoming section. A good venue partnership can save you having to make early deposits, and some might be willing to work with you as you get your ticket purchases flowing in.
Food , mailing, advertising, printing, even supplementing your raffle items will all cost money. Depending on your creativity and your cunning, you can find affordable and even no-cost ways to achieve these ends if you really want to.
Fund raising: Get someone (or yourself) to donate costume items that you can list on eBay. Have someone donate hand-made items like reticules and fans for raffles; raffles and silent auctions are great fund-raisers. Before an event, go around to your vendors (fabric stores, tea-rooms, specialty shops) and ask for donations; tell them you will feature their business card and their business name with the event. Create a CafĂŠpress or Zazzle page with your logo on various items to sell on your website: o http://www.cafepress.com o http://www.zazzle.com Hold a period fair, sell tables to members and vendors alike.
Venues and Events Here are some ideas for venues: Look around for historic homes, venues. Let them know you are a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization right away, and that you are poor. Ask them if you could possibly get deals on unsold days or odd days. See if they might be willing to be a sponsor, and settle for half your ticket sales for some free promotion on your website and publications.
Establish relationships. Get to know people who own or manage venues. Perhaps your organization can be 'partnered' or 'sponsored' with certain locations. "[Fakename] Gardens, home of the [your group] Regency Society". Your society stands for good, civil society, literature, history and arts and more wonderful things; use that to attract a sponsor. Libraries and government buildings are often lovely inside and available for decent fees. The Pittock Mansion Masonic temples are usually very Portland, Oregon affordable, depending on their location, and many are very nicely appointed. Community centers Local churches are always welcoming and extremely affordable. Private and public parks and gardens (for picnics) Small craft-shops and fabric stores for workshops? Universities and colleges for workspace and event space Social clubs / Private clubs Tea rooms Wine shop or winery. Talk to your local chamber-music group and see if they'd be willing to provide you with a 'night of music' for your membership.
SOME EVENT ADVICE
If you are completely broke, you have options, but you also have limitations.
Pittock Picnic 2010 A picnic pork pie and spring greens.
1) Most venues require meals to be catered or to be store-bought because of liability issues. So if you're planning to do the food yourself, or planning a potluck, be sure your venue is okay with that.
2) If you are anything like we are, paper plates and plastic silverware doesn't cut it for balls, however renting is not cheap. You might want to think about getting a few totes of china plates and silverware to have on stock for your events. Goodwill and Deseret often have sets upon sets of dishes, platters, bowls, silverware, tea-cup sets, candelabras, stemware and more for ridiculously low prices. They don’t even have to match. Having oh, I’d say enough for fifty people would not cost much and could be used over and over again. As long as you’re willing to store it, haul it and clean it. These things aren’t CRUCIAL to your event being spectacular, but as your group grows, you might want to think about creating a bank of such items so you can take your events wherever they need to go. 3) Sell your tickets prior to the event to provide the cash for purchases. Use Paypal, accept checks, do what you can to make payment easy for members. 24
4) Solicit donations for fund raisers while advertising the event. 5) Buffet style will reduce the need for 'staff'. 6) Pay someone's kids $10 per hour to collect and wash plates as the event goes along so it's all done by the end of the night will save you a lot of headaches after a long, tiring night.
Duchess’s Feast 2011 Ranks of deliciousness.
7) Avoid alcohol at your events, it's a profitable venture, yes, but it's also costly and you don't want to deal with the consequences and dangers of providing alcohol at your event. However, if you want to do an event that has wine and sherry, consider going to a winery or a wine-shop
where people can buy their own. 8) Wear comfortable shoes. 9) Use craigslist.com for artists and musicians if your local ECD group can’t direct you to a tried and true source, but have them send you a sample of their playing—this is taken from a personal experience and an early-event mistake. We had some awful musicians for our first Winter Ball. It didn’t in any way diminish the fun, but seeing old dance videos and hearing the screeching violin from that ball still puts my teeth on edge. 10) Be sure you leave your venue cleaner and better than when you came in; do not do anything to threaten your good relationship with your venues. Remember, without establishing good business relationships with your venue, you could be paying as much as $3,000 for the use of a nice facility; so if you find a good deal, treasure it, and be flexible in order to keep it.
MANAGING YOUR MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION
Member information is the most valuable gift you will get. You should create a membership enrollment form; and I’ve come to the notion that general membership should be free. My experience is that you want to create as few obstacles to participation as possible. . If you charge for general membership, you will turn people away. Free membership will help your society grow. That’s my philosophy and I’m sticking with it. You can charge a premium membership for those who wish to be part of the advisory committee or board. You can also provide benefits to your paid members; such as discounts on event tickets or some freebie items like a society pin, and perhaps a special 'early bird' notice of upcoming events before the general membership hears of it. There are ways of generating some membership fees if you’re creative, but when starting off, I recommend free membership. And you want to also have time to pick the people who are going to lead instead of letting them just buy-in, because you want to make sure your fledgling leadership team is made up of the best people for the job and not just of those people who can afford it. Once you begin to amass your membership enrollment forms, you should look into a simple data management program for your computer. I use excel, it's fairly universal, and it can be used in so many capacities. That's what I recommend, even if it's an older version. You can also find the Open Office version of Excel as well which is free and excellent. Having a regimented spreadsheet with the information organized in intuitive ways will allow you to sort the data as needed, store email lists, and do mail merges in a snap; printing out labels with the press of a button. All of your society data and information can be stored on a web-server where it is safe from crashes and data-loss. I recommend Dropbox.com, it’s secure 26
and it automatically backs up your updates as you goâ€”and you get a GB of free space, which is plenty for your needs. You should create a member database (which you back it frequently!) The following information on your enrollment forms will most benefit the group: 1) Name, address, telephone number and email address. You should also track what kind of membership they have, and create a checkbox for whether or not they've received a membership card, and possible member expiration date. a) Here are the fields I set up for the ORS database: i) mnum ~ member number ii) ttl ~ I put in a field for mailing purposes where I put "Mr, Mrs, Miss, etc.,) (or if it's an unmarried couple, then leave blank) iii) fname ~ First name of primary member (if it is a couple or family membership) example: Elizabeth iv) lname ~ Last name of primary member (and sometimes the signficiant other; for example: Bennett & Fitzwilliam Darcy) v) add1 ~ Street Address or PO Box, or Business Name vi) add2 ~ Street Address of PO Box if needed or leave blank vii) city ~ speaks for itself viii) state ~ speaks for itself ix) zip ~ speaks for itself x) phone ~ speaks for itself xi) email ~ speaks for itself xii) email2 ~ speaks for itself xiii) mtype ~ membership type (Lifetime, Single, Couple, Family, Premium, etc... whatever you choose) xiv) card ~membership card dispensed? xv) #people ~ number of people represented by membership (you can sum this to keep a running total of your membership xvi) renew ~ If they bought a membership, add date that they are required to renew xvii) skillset ~ Are they a skilled artisan, a musician, a costumer? Add that information in your database, it's invaluable. 27
2) I put all of these categories into successive columns. You can sort this information and use it to generate labels and directories. 3) Microsoft word has a powerful mail-merge feature, which can pick up any one of those excel fields and plop it onto a label or a form letter. All I have to do is print out my sheets of labels for each snail mailing. I keep all of the individual enrollment forms and mark the membership number on them as I enter the information into the database. Be sure your form asks for all the information that you require. 4) Remember that Duchessâ€™s Feast of the 12th Night 2010 not everyone will have or provide an email address, so you cannot rely entirely on your email for communication; and you simply must do at least a minimal mailing to keep your membership up to date with your events. Sometimes a postcard reminder is fine. 5) It's important to manage your member data, and keep it current. I also create mini-databases for individual events, keeping track of who bought tickets and what ticket numbers they hold. It's easy to just print that out and to take it with me to events, so I can keep track of the folks coming through the door.
6) You must also manage your email contacts list, so it's important to have an email address dedicated solely to your group; try not to use your personal one. Every new member email that comes in, save it, put in their full name. Then create a contact list, split it up alphabetically if it gets too big, and be sure to update it frequently. Respect anyone who sends you a note asking to ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘opt out’. 7) Whenever you do a blanket email to your members, use the BCC field; "Blind Copy". Mailing lists are valuable and precious and you have been given the privilege of having someone's personal email offered to you. Don't abuse it or share it. Cherish it. Your email and snail mail lists are your primary advertising tool. People share information, bring friends in, print out flyers you send, and post them for you ... it is your most important and valuable facet of your society group. 8) Try not to use your members' phone numbers unless there's a real need to. 9) If you need help setting up a database or mail-merge documents, I’ve set up some template documents for download. a) Member database template (excel) b) Event database template (excel) c) Mail-merge labels template (excel)
Pittock Picnic 2011 Alizabeth’s smile. 29
RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITIES AND VENUES
I've come to realize how important it is to develop a good relationship with your venues, your vendors and your local papers. I've already brushed on developing your venue relationships, and maintaining them, but what if you're trying to find a new venue, how do you approach them and be bold enough to say "Hey, we can't afford you, but work with us anyway."
Regency Retreat 2011 A pretty huddle.
Well, by now, you all know the sort of gregarious person I am. I'm open, and chatty and schmoozy. I tend to befriend most people (I do run across the occasional person who despises me the moment they meet me, but they're rare).
The trick for me is to be agreeable and nice for one. Secondly, your group is something exceptionally cool. You are a costumed troupe of people who dance to classical music and are elegant and lovely. What venue doesn't want that in their space? I'm sure they envision photos of the event with their fine venue as the backdrop and smile. How could a regency group do anything but enhance the image of an elegant venue? You need to sell it that way.
Call or contact your venues with an up-front approach. "Hi, my name is [whomever] and I represent the Regency Society of Blahdeblah. We are a historic reenactment group and we are looking for spectacular, elegant location for our annual ball/regency Dance. It's a costumed event, there will be live string music to which we will dance in the way Jane Austen movies often portray. Cost is a huge issue for us; we rely entirely on ticket sales to hold our events, so we definitely need to find venues with flexibility, and venues who might be willing to trade sponsorship for significant discounts on the venue fees." Don't waffle. Be upfront. You'll be surprised how some of these Duchessâ€™s Feast 2011 venues will react. Try to Staging look for privately owned venues with owners you can speak directly to. Avoid the places with event managers who are all excited about it but really have no power to obtain you discounts.
For parties, $200-$500 should be acceptable. For a grand ball, if you're creative, you can get one for less than $1500--but you have to look hard. You need to decide your budget and event size, and just give them your budget. Some might even suggest less than that. But you have to promote the heck out of your venues in exchange, and you need to remind them that they are getting a benefit from sponsoring you. Remember; they want weddings, they want events, and you're about to offer them advertising to all of your members, a slew of non-members, your website, etc. People who come to your ball or party might say: Wow, I never knew this place was here, it's fabulous; I may want to get married here, or have a shower here. So they are getting something out of it if they provide you a discount. You may have to agree to 'off-season dates', unsold dates or days like Fridays; but suck it up. You have to make some sacrifices for the benefit of a discount. If your event is well organized and marketed, the date or day won't make a difference to your membership and potential members. Local newspapers mostly have a 'living' section you can send a press release to. Make your press-release relevant to your area. For example, a few years back, I tied in the recent showing of new JA adaptations on PBS and then talked about the people who love these things, and want to partake in it directly. Be honest, be fun, and then follow up your press release with a phone call to the primary writer for that section. Smile when you're talking, be tongue in cheek about it; ingratiate yourself to them. If they like you, they'll likely run something for you. It sounds cheesy but it really is like that.
Some samples of ORS press: * *
Vendors are the same. Face-time, phone-time, hand-shaking, joking and laughing, not too polite, just real and open, and people will do stuff for you. And never forget to credit them. Ever. Respect what they give you, even if 32
it's the teeniest concession or discount, be grateful, and treat their property or relationship like it's gold; and then the next time you want to do something with them, they'll have only great memories of their prior dealings with you
Astoriaâ€™s Bicentennial 2011 Miss Nora and Miss Charlotte take sail.
SOME FINAL ADVICE
As time marches on, experience tends to accumulate like kelp on a beach. I've come to realize there are crucial but seemingly silly little tips that I have collected over the past few years and I will add to this guide for those who are brave enough to take on the huge task of creating and managing a fastgrowing reenactment group. My tips will flow randomly, but they are based on experience alone and are direct products of the past years being a tyrant dictator of a regency group. I may be repeating something from prior statements in this guide, but they probably bear repeating. 1) Do not limit your options by branding what your group does or allow members to do so. What I mean by this is that you might have members that come in and who are all about English Country Dance, or all about role playing characters of the Regency Retreat 2011 early 19th century. What Industrious hands they derive from the group experience is up to them and the addition of their experience is welcome; but do not allow them to try to form the group to their specifications. When creating an open society for a time-period, many types of people will be attracted to it for many 34
reasons. Black powder, dancing, history. Jane, food, costume, role playing, society, manners, romance. You need to continually stress to all members, especially those who are at every event and starting to assist and organize with you that you are all-inclusive and that they cannot exclude or disregard the needs of other members because they don't like what the organizers do. What makes the group most successful is its diversity. Embrace diversity, and give everyone a chance to take from the group events the experience they're hoping for. Don't punish, separate or exclude someone for not being a costume Nazi, or who doesn't want to play whist or dance, or because their political or religious views do not agree with your own. Trust people to share and spread your vision. Trust them to help you. You cannot do it alone; and you will find many skills and offerings among your membership. You will burn out if you don't accept help. Don't over-think or over-organize. It's not worth it. Keep it simple. Keep the ball rolling. Don't let there be any lags in your events. If you're not up to organizing something, find people who will, even if it's just a tea with five people. Why? Because it's a momentum that keeps your group going; your website and your emails showing that yes, we're still here, yes, we're always working on events for you! Otherwise, your group will fade into nothingness. Keep your members engaged and don't ever stop recruiting!! Partner with other historic groups and help them promote their events. Allow other groups to hold events with your group's name associated with it. Affiliated events save you effort and bring you new members. And Iâ€™ve saved the most important point for last. There is no way you can do this alone. You need to skills and talents of your membership to make the group the best it can be. If I did not have the help of the state chapter leaders, the organization would be gone by now, because it would have become more than I could handle. I have now been given the luxury of stepping back and enjoying what I started, but the best part is being able to watch it grow and thrive in the hands of the people I started this for (besides me! Heehee!). 35
Pittock Picnic 2011 Founder Stephanie Johanesen
Stephanie Johanesen is the founder of the Oregon Regency Society and the Regency Society of America. Her current endeavors include handsewing a riding habit and acquiring a sidesaddle for her large horse. Stephanie sews moderately well, dabbles in every craft under the sun, and was raised in Europe. She has a penchant for silk and chocolate and Colonel Brandon is her favourite Austen hero. You can read some of her posts on costume on the Oregon Regency Society blog for the Northwest Chapter or her random and irreverent personal blog.
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The founder of the Oregon Regency Society and the Regency Society of America offers tips on how to create a new Regency Society chapter in y...