Welcome to the Vergers Voice, the official news blog of the Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church. Also known as the VGEC, we are located on the web at vergers.org and facebook.com/vergerguild the #1 online resources for vergers world-wide.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

VGEC Membership Directory - You Can Use It Today

The new VGEC Membership Directory's Verger Head Shots change every day - find them on page 7

by Ken Holloway, VGEC News Manager

I've been using the online VGEC Membership Management System for a while now. Every time someone emails me about a story idea or responds to a call I've made, I dial up their photo in the membership system and have a (sort of real) face-to-face meeting.

I occasionally use the last printed directory from 2011 when I'm not logged on to the system, but we have added many new faces since that time so the best bet is the current data in the online membership system.

The point is that timely publishing on paper, for a smallish organization like VGEC, is a thing of the past. Technology has generally advanced everyone’s ability to get to the exact piece of data we want, right now. So we followed the trend and the VGEC Membership Directory is now available for your use at any time.

The new online Directory is available, current as of today, at our secure membership.vergers.org site. Go ahead and use the link and look around in this 146 page interactive book. You'll see the following sections on the table of contents page with direct links to each section:
  • Introduction and Table of Contents
  • Welcome from the Vergers Guild Board President and Board of Directors
  • Committees
  • Get Connected with the VGEC
  • Verger Headshots are Everywhere
  • Membership Summary Report
  • Introduction to the Membership Listings Membership Listing by Last Name
  • Membership Listing by Diocese, and Parish Dioceses with the Most Vergers
  • Lifetime Members of the Vergers Guild
  • Fellows of the Vergers Guild
  • In Memoriam

We say "current" because the entire Directory gets automatically generated every morning at 01:30. All of the data is drawn from the membership system as modified by the transactions for that day. So our Membership Directory is always up-to-date each and every morning. How about that!

In a conversation a few days ago, Scott Smith, who monitored and guided most of the work of creating and automating the directory told me, "We really started talking about this in 2011 when we printed the first (and the last!) VGEC Yearbook which turned out to be a real chore to get it assembled and printed.

"Our plan was that we could use the VGEC Yearbook as a combination of the printed and mailed Membership Directory and the Verger's Voice newsletter which had been essentially defunct since 2004. The yearbook was super expensive but it was also hugely effective as a public relations tool. It debuted at the 2011 VGEC Annual Conference and played a significant roll in the 2012 General Convention where the delegates were blown away by size of it.

"In addition to the huge costs, another problem with the yearbook was the work involved in graphic design, layout and editing of the first 10 pages which contained the yearly news. Likewise, publishing a separate paper version of The Verger's Voice was always an expensive and manpower-intensive exercise, and its "news" was usually history as soon as it was printed.

"In late 2012, we started working on another edition of the printed directory which had updated news and was just about ready to publish. But the board talked at length about the cost and effort associated with doing this. Graphic design takes time and money, and news is always a moving target, so this plan was finally deemed too complex, not timely enough, and too expensive.

"The multi-purpose directory had a place in its time, but it was maybe not the optimum way to make news items and directory contents easy for our members to access.

"Here's how we defined these two pressing communications issues: 1. How do we best make VGEC member contact data securely available to our membership? 2. How can we publish informational articles and current events more frequently than annually or quarterly?

"After making this distinction we decided to produce our membership directory online. That was in 2013. At the same time, we implemented the new Verger's Voice blog. This simplified our providing news and member database information access by separating the two functions so that each could be perfected individually.

"As soon as the yearbook was deemed not to be the vehicle for printed and mailed news, we were relieved of having to layout and print another one. So in mid 2013, we changed the terminology from, 'Yearbook' back to, 'Membership Directory' and we decided that with more people logging into our secure membership system, we could make the directory available online as an interactive document in PDF form.

"We had already built the technology to fill the membership section into the yearbook, so we had a leg up on producing a new membership directory at that point.

"We also asked ourselves, 'Who is the audience?' and 'What is the purpose?' Early versions of the new directory had evolved from the yearbook and had a lot of introduction to the VGEC and organizational information – so it was trying to be informative and attract new members. This was not what a membership directory was designed to do.

"We concluded that the sole purpose of the membership directory would be simply to give our VGEC members access to contact information of other members. Sounds simple, right? But that change in our communication plan made all the difference in getting the job done. Now that it’s all functional, it is finally relatively easy to maintain.

"One funny thing that happened about a week ago was that somehow board member Duke DuTeil's photograph was deleted from the membership system’s head shot collection. And since the board pages are built all expecting there to be head shots for board members, the lack of Duke’s photo caused the 01:30 update process to fail on several occasions. Darin Herndon, our Technology Manager, noticed this and reported the failure to me and Mike Malone. When we figured out the cause, we put Duke’s head back on and the system magically worked again. Just goes to show that the system can go crazy if it loses someone’s head.

"It took from 2012 to 2014 to get a good product completed. I wish it could have been faster, but we had to grow into today's efficient solutions for getting the word out and for making our member data available to the membership. Your Communications Committee is truly working for our membership every day. This is just one story of on-going collaborative data system evolution and optimization to serve the membership."

So jump on our bandwagon. We are hoping to find someone who would like to maintain the membership directory as a living document for us as part of the Communications Committee. If you are interested please contact Eileen Hicks or Michael Sanchez!

Abstract: You can find telephone numbers, email addresses and diocese and parish associations for everyone in the VGEC Membership Directory. Wow! How can I do that? Tune in to The Verger's Voice and see how and why we left the printed news and directory content era to bring you on-line versions of the VGEC Membership Directory and The Verger's Voice.

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