Five Things Marion McGowan Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today’s post is with Marion McGowan, who volunteers as a Co-Chair and Team Coordinator for our Elections Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I’m a Co-Chair and Team Coordinator for the Elections Committee. We run the annual election to decide who sits on the OTW’s Board of Directors. Elections’ main goal is to hold a contested election every year, giving our membership an opportunity to elect candidates who will serve their interests on the Board. We’ve held contested elections every year since 2015, but this is not something the Elections Committee takes for granted.

Every year, we communicate internally to OTW volunteers about the election process. Once candidates are announced, we organize Q&As and candidate chats so the public have an opportunity to engage with the election process and ask the questions they want answered. And finally we run the election itself, sending ballots to members and monitoring the election throughout the weekend before finally announcing the results.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Depends what time of year it is. Elections work can be very seasonal.

From March to August, we’re focused on tasks directly related to that year’s election. After the election, we collect feedback from other committees and from the candidates to help us make our roadmap. From October to May, we’re working on our roadmap tasks, addressing any feedback we received and also reviewing and updating our policies, procedures and internal documentation. This year we’ve also adopted some new tools during the off-season which are going to be very helpful going forward.

As one of four Chairs on the Elections Committee, I work very closely with my Co-Chairs. A Chair’s job is to support the rest of our team, do administrative work, liaise with Board and other Committee Chairs as needed and help recruit new Elections Volunteers. I’m definitely very happy to be on a Chair Team because I couldn’t do it on my own. My Co-Chairs are amazing!

And as a Team Coordinator, I work with colleagues to write documentation and procedures and keep track of our internal timelines to ensure we’re on track to meet our deadlines.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I wanted to contribute to the OTW because I agreed with their mission and was using their projects, and I wanted to give back. I was already a Fanlore editor and had been keeping an eye out for recruitment opportunities that might suit my skills.

Before joining Elections, I actually applied to join the Tag Wrangling Committee, but I was unsuccessful. The rejection letter I received really did leave me with a positive impression of the organization and encouraged me to consider applying again. Funnily enough, the Tag Wrangling Chair who sent that rejection letter was also an Elections Chair and she ended up training me to be an Elections Chair.

Don’t let the rejections get you down; it’s just a very competitive process.

What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?

Probably our deadlines. It can be challenging to get our off-season tasks completed before it’s time to start preparing for the next election season. Then, during the election season, we have to constantly be aware of our internal schedule to ensure we’re fully prepared for upcoming events.

In my experience, something always happens during each election cycle to upset our internal schedule. This might not be obvious to the public but behind the scenes, unexpected events do happen. A volunteer might be unavailable because of their personal circumstances; we might need to create an additional announcement post at short notice; or we may receive more Q&A questions or email queries than we expected. We have policies and procedures in place, but unexpected events can still result in additional pressures on our volunteers and candidates.

Most of our work in the off-season is about preparing for these busy periods, ensuring that we have the tools, trained volunteers and agreed procedures in place to meet those challenges.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I spend too much time on AO3, mostly reading fanfiction. I’m a terrible fanfic writer who has never been able to finish a multi-chapter work. I have a few unfinished WIPs on different archives, and I’m sorry to anyone who is still waiting for updates.

As well as new stories, I love rereading stories I’ve enjoyed in the past, and my cloud storage is full of fics that are no longer available on the internet. I originally copied and pasted them into documents, but they’re now ebooks for easier reading.

I’m also still a Fanlore Gardener and really enjoy reading and editing the wiki. I had no wiki editing experience when I joined, but editors and Fanlore Committee members were lovely and really helped me learn so that I could contribute my perspective to the wiki too!

Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in the comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

Five Things
  1. Shay commented:

    I didn’t know that sometimes a would-be volunteer gets a “letter of rejection” and I’m curious as to what it was about the letter of rejection you mention that it made you say “rejection letter I received really did leave me with a positive impression of the organization and encouraged me to consider applying again”. I <3 the OTW and AO3, and I want to hear more about positive impressions.

    • Marion commented:

      Thank you for encouraging me to dig out this email. This was in 2018!

      It turns out, I was rejected because I was going to unavailable for some of the training period, but I was encouraged to apply again in another recruitment round. Specifically, to quote TW Chairs at the time, “we think you have a lot to offer, and we don’t want to squander the chance to have your help long-term by having you join at a time when you’re not available.” Looking back, I guess I appreciated that they wanted me to succeed in the role, and took the time to make that clear.

      I really should reapply to TW at some stage xD