If you’re reading this, you’re a member of at least one local or online chapter of Romance Writers of America. We’ve all joined RWA for a variety of reasons. Educational workshops and conferences. Access to industry information. Writers helping writers. Hanging with our peeps.
What makes a chapter run like a well-oiled machine? The volunteers within its ranks who act as cogs, turning the gears of the board and moving the chapter forward.
I was having lunch recently with four fellow Houston Bay Area members. We calculated that between the five of us, we’ve accumulated almost fifty years of service, either as officers or chairpersons. Our current board members have served a total of sixty-five years between us (and only two of us overlapped the lunch group). Neither of these totals includes the many years of unofficial volunteering for conferences, literacy luncheons and special workshops.
Chapters need board members to survive, and they can’t be the same people, rotating from position to position every two years. Boards need new blood, new enthusiasm, new ideas. And the members who have racked up ten or more years of service in various positions need a break. It’s not the responsibility of just a few people to keep our chapter’s wheels turning. We’re lucky that we have a lot of members in HBA who can contribute to our chapter’s excellence.
Not having the time to volunteer isn’t really a valid excuse. Being a board member doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time. I’ve been on the board for six years in three different positions, contest coordinator for thirteen continuous years and newsletter editor for the past eight years (sentences running concurrently). Many other board members have volunteered even longer. We’ve done it while working full-time jobs, driving long commutes, raising children, burying loved ones. Oh, and writing.
Why do we do it? Partly because someone has to. But being on the board is as much a privilege as it is a commitment. It’s a way to have a voice in the direction the chapter is taking, the speakers being brought in, the activities being planned. It’s a way to become better acquainted with our chapter members as well as to network with those in other chapters. It keeps us connected when we might otherwise drift away while taking a break from writing.
If you’re taking advantage of your membership by coming to meetings, listening to speakers, socializing with chaptermates, you’re receiving something of great value. If you haven’t already, isn’t it time to consider giving something back? And if you already have, the entire chapter thanks you.