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Reaping the benefits of volunteering

July 22, 2012


What are your writing goals? Staying abreast of what’s happening in the industry? Rubbing elbows with authors and agents? Igniting your creative spark? Gaining new skills? Discovering your writing “tribe”?

If your goals include any of the above, volunteer for FWA!

As an all-volunteer organization, FWA relies on dozens of volunteers to make our organization work. Some volunteers work in a statewide capacity, some focus on the annual conference, and some support our sister organization, the Florida Writers Foundation. One of these areas may be perfect for you.

Kinds of volunteers
Statewide, at the top are the Board of Directors and other officers. These leaders, having volunteered for years, know the organization and its needs. Next are Writers Group Leaders and Critique Group Leaders, who provide stimulating, motivating programs for their local groups. Mini-conference organizers also coordinate programs in various locales. Supporting these leaders are helpers, who assist with such tasks as marketing, program development, administration, IT, liaison, and more. If you’re new to FWA or need a lot of flexibility in your volunteer schedule, these “helper” positions are a great way to become involved.

Other volunteers focus on the annual conference. Committee Chairpersons work most of the year planning the event. Dedicated Volunteers work under the Chairpersons, devoting long hours throughout the conference as part of their respective committees: interviews, registration, marketing, bookstore, faculty recruitment, photography, RPLA, and Silent Auction.

Dedicated Volunteers work in their assigned roles for the duration of the conference. They apply for and are accepted for the positions well in advance, arrive a day early at the conference to receive training, and work the entire weekend. To make up for their long hours, which often involve meals on the run and no time for workshops or other conference activities, FWA subsidizes their conference fees and pays for half their hotel bill. Experience matters in the Dedicated Volunteer positions, but when a position opens up and we need to bring on a new volunteer, we recruit the ones whose skills best match the position.

As is the case with statewide volunteers, conference volunteers need help before and during the conference. These “helper jobs” do not earn the perks of a Dedicated Volunteer position, but they offer flexibility and allow volunteers become involved and gain experience. We may notify prospective helpers anytime during the year for a multitude of tasks prior to the conference. During the conference, helper-names may be drawn from the conference volunteer backup list, and prospective helpers are notified.

Keeping track of FWA volunteers as FWA grows is a full-time job. Actually, it’s two full-time jobs. Our Statewide Volunteer Coordinator, Jill Andrews, maintains a sheet of assigned volunteers with their positions. She also keeps a list of unassigned volunteers who are waiting for the right positions to open up. This list, comprised primarily from the Call for Volunteers form, is our primary planning tool. Currently, this list is being updated as Jill verifies skills and invites FWA Leaders to contact her if they need help.

Our Conference Committee Chairperson for Volunteers, Frank Ridge, handles coordinating the Dedicated Volunteer list as well as a backup list. If Frank has an opening for a Committee Chair, Dedicated Volunteer, or helper position, we search Jill’s unassigned spreadsheet to find a volunteer whose skills, interests, and level of experience match the needs of the job.

If you’re interested in volunteering, please fill out the Call for Volunteers form and follow the instructions on it for submission. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right volunteer-fit, so please be patient. Once we have your form, we’ll index your data to enable us to find the position that’s right for you.

People volunteer because someone asks them, because they like to feel needed, because they want to do a good thing, and because volunteering propels their writing journey. Well, we’re asking: get involved as a volunteer…it’s the epitome of “Writers Helping Writers.”

What are your writing goals? What kind of volunteering will bring you closer to achieving them?

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