Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I have heard through the grapevine that many Civil War reenactment groups are having trouble recruiting new members. I have rather written off thier complaints as aging groups having trouble attracting a younger croud, but Das Geld Fahnlein is not growing like it needs to. And now I'm getting worried.

Our initial recruitment was a group of five friends getting together and talking about the fact that we still wanted to participte in the Renaissance Faire, but we were much more interested in the history than the entertainment, and wouldn't it be fun to start our own group? Once the planning was underway we notified all our friends, and asked the faire to put the word out along thier communication channels. Our first year group was just fantastic. Everyone was enthousiastic, fun, more than a little quirky and our first year was a rousing success. Last year most of the recruitment that happened were friends of friends. A current member would convice a friend to come to a workshop and they'd be hooked.

This year, we have not had as much luck with friends of friends, and although we have had some interested folks we've met at events or who have found our web page, none of them have stuck around for more than a single workshop. Now I'm wondering if we're too intimidating? Everyone says we look so good that they will have to wait to join us until they are up to our standards. But really, we're a relatively new group, and would rather loan people the gear they need, and steer them towards the best research materials, and have them join in as soon as possible and not three years from now.

Is it the economy? This is definitely not a cheap hobby. A few of my friends have asked how much it costs to make an outfit in order to join and the answer is around $300 if you shop around and do a lot of it yourself, but not much cheaper unless you are an incredible bargain hunter.

Do we need to do market research? Should we poll all the folks we know to see why they are not rushing to join the guild? Stephen and I ask all the LH folks we know about recruitment and we're getting the picture that maybe it is just a slow sort of thing. Maybe there are not more reenactors because it really is a very small proportion of the population that is interested in taking part.

We have so much fun though, I am hoping we can get more people to join so I have more cool friends to hang out with.


  1. We have the same problem. We find it so much fun, but finding new members is impossible. Membership is FREE, & we can help new members kit as well. Expence should not be a deterent. We are the only group of our period [1680-1760] in the whole of Australia, go figure.

  2. I say "yes" to all three questions.

    Groups with good comportment do tend to be viewed as intimidating. One thing that we do is remind our new members is that none of what they see at our demos happened overnight NOR do the current members possess any super-human powers. In other words, everything they see was accomplished by average people just like them.

    Certainly disposable income plays a part in the reluctance to join any new hobby. But perhaps ways can be devised to allow participation in some form until basic kit can be obtained. For instance some of our private events are "come as you are". And especially during those events we also try to incorporate the making of kit items that the members need.

    Knowing your market is important. It could provide leads either to an untapped membership resource, or point out an area in the group that needs improvement. Or it may be that after polling you discover that you're looking for potential members in a pool that simply doesn't have the time to take on one more hobby. Either way, you'll never know unless you ask.

  3. Interesting post. We have issues recruiting here in the U.K too. Certainly the numbers at living history events seems to have dropped in the last year, especially since the recession kicked in. We have the conundrum of the fact we don't want to compromise on what we do as a campaigner group, but we want to expand which we think sometimes leads to dropping standards of accuracy.

  4. I've found that there are actually a ton of folks out there who want to get into the hobby, but they've been put off by a few things:

    - expense, as you stated
    - many of them are younger (16-24) and have gotten negative attitudes from units with older demographics
    - many are women and have discovered the latent misogyny present in many groups and were put off by it
    - many of them honestly say that it is really hard for newbies who aren't already "in the know" to find reenactors. they don't know where to begin.