Indexers and arbitrators love a good challenge, and they love working together with others to accomplish seemingly impossible goals. One of the greatest examples was the 1940 U.S. federal census project. Those who participated will long remember the thrill of processing more than 10 million records in a single day. Projects such as the 1940 census and worldwide indexing events have allowed volunteers to link arms with others around the world in a united effort.
Such challenges, whether worldwide in scope or limited to a smaller community, are naturally fun and exciting. These challenges can also have a lasting positive effect on the success of a local indexing program.
There are no specific rules about how to organize and implement a local indexing challenge. However, some proven practices have emerged that may help as you consider hosting your own indexing challenge.
The most successful challenges are:
- Challenging but attainable. Set an achievable goal that will stretch, inspire, and motivate your group.
- Time limited. More volunteers are likely to participate if the challenge has a distinct beginning and end.
- Experience led. When there is someone available who understands the program, confidence will increase, and people will feel motivated to continue.
- Focused on participation first and productivity second. When you focus on the people who are involved, an increase in indexed records will naturally follow.
- Celebrated. People maintain enthusiasm by celebrating their accomplishments together.
Successful indexing challenges require preparation. This preparation in itself can have a unifying effect as people anticipate joining together in a combined effort.
You can prepare for your indexing event by:
- Making sure everyone has a FamilySearch account.
- Ensuring that each participant is registered as an indexer.
- Confirming that your volunteers have an understanding of why the work is important to help others find their ancestors.
- Teaching new indexers a basic understanding of the indexing software and rules.
- Spreading the word through social media, email, and other means.
Competition versus Challenge
Be aware of the differences between indexing challenges and competitions. Some types of competitions tend to detract from the intrinsic rewards of indexing because they pit individuals and groups against one another instead of encouraging them to work together toward a common goal. Successful indexing challenges inspire participation, cooperation, and unity and allow everyone to celebrate together to form happy, motivating memories.
Adopting a Project
When a group adopts a particular indexing project, everyone can work together on the same type of records and establish a group expertise in that record collection. A shared project gives participants a common vocabulary to discuss their experiences, and it allows them to help one another when questions arise. If you are fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, or another language, you could also try teaming up with a few friends who are fluent in that language to work on a project together.
We hope these tips and principles will help you host your own successful indexing challenge. If you have learned other helpful principles and practices not covered here, please feel free to share them in the comments below.