Roundtable Takeaways (part two)

Wally Rueckel at CWRT Congress
Wally Rueckel (center) chats with Rick Eiserman of the Harrisburg (PA) CWRT

The sessions at today’s national Congress of Civil War Roundtables—held at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA—have offered a lot of interesting tips and insights.

The third and fourth sessions focused on growing membership and effective use of digital media. 

From today’s talk by Wally Rueckel of the Brunswick (NC) Civil War Roundtable: 

Cultivated board members by creating “advisors.” Advisors had expertise the board could draw on. Advisors attend meetings and offer their insights. Some end up taking on committee chairs. Some end up becoming board members and officers.

Attracting new members:

  • Logo on shirts, hats, decals, etc.
  • Rack cards in high-traffic areas
  • Take advantage of all free media/newspaper coverage
  • Visitor information at registration for F/U
  • Diversify program topics, not just “mud and blood”

Logos are “two-fers”—that is, they serve as promotion but they also serve as fund-raisers. A decal they sell for $2 costs $.18. The difference goes into their treasury.

Don’t thumbtack fliers, because the next person who comes along

Designated volunteers—not board members—who go around town each month to replenish the rack cards.

“Magazines and newspapers are great—do not pay for it.”

Established a Women’s Forum—for women only, to talk about Civil War topics

Be at the door to shake hands and thank people as they leave.

A theme of Wally’s comments: Personal touch, personal touch, personal touch. That’s key, and perhaps even surprising for a roundtable with 1000+ members.

Create a pre-meeting social atmosphere. Civil War music plays in the background. Slideshow projected on the big screen highlights coming events, activities of the speakers. Walk the speakers around the auditorium to shake hands and meet-and-greet people.

Average attendee spends $5/month on the various

The Way Forward:

  • Always be willing to try something new
  • Strong leadership and a deep volunteer group
  • Interact with neighboring Civil War Roundtables
  • Partner with other Roundtables for circuit speaker programs and field trips

Notes from today’s talk by Mike Movius from the Puget Sound Civil War Roundtable:

The CWRT Congress will soon have its own website:

He called his Roundtable’s website: “Our window to the world”

Some of the highlights from the site, which might offer ideas for other Roundtables:

Takeaways about the website:

  • It has a huge voice, especially to school children and teachers.
  • It is a member resource.
  • We want member input: book reviews, ancestors, Civil War links, FAQs, etc.

The social media site he’s “really high on these days” is Meetup (

Allows you to create a community. Other Meetup people who aren’t necessarily members of the Roundtable can see the event. The Roundtable had seven non-RT people show up because they saw the meeting advertised on Meetup.

The site does charge a fee to subscribe, but the payoff turned out to be worth it: “A neat way to build a following that results in people showing up and building numbers.”

Five-Minute Social Media offers a ton of short training videos about various social media sites. So, if you don’t know how to do social media but want to learn, FMSM offers easy-to-understand videos that can help you learn, give you ideas, and get you inspired.

Storytelling sells: Bring your event’s copy to life on social media.

2 Responses to Roundtable Takeaways (part two)

  1. Good stuff. One possible attempt to fix the worsening demographic picture for CWRT, and ACW interest generally, is to work out partnerships with schools and bring to those events a presentation that makes the subject relevant for (1) kids (2) more and more of whom have no family connection with the ACW (3) and who aren’t getting anything about the subject in school. I was once asked by a couple of kids who had been to a re-enactment how old “Civil War soldiers” really were. I asked them what they thought the answer was. They said “60”. Not good. It’s not possible for kids to find that credible or to identify with it (I have enough trouble doing so myself). I steered them to a youtube excerpt from Cold Mountain (which, as we know, recruited the Romanian Army to play the background roles at Petersburg.)

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