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 Ryan Smith, who volunteers as a staffer with OTW’s Development & Membership Committee
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
As a member of the Development & Membership Committee, my primary responsibility is coordinating the twice-a-year fund drives which is how we obtain roughly 90% of our funding for the year. This is one of most integral tasks that any particular group within the organization carries out, as it allows us to continue our overall mission. Often times, this can bring us into contact with a multitude of different bodies within the organization, though a few definitely stand out to me.
Our closest working partner in the fund drives is easily the Translation Committee as we are striving to ensure a standard international accessibility within our drive materials. As almost all of us within the committee are native English speakers in the United States, it isn’t apparent to us when wording choices aren’t easily understood by international audiences. While all of our drive materials in the past have gone through an editing process, we are transitioning to a more thorough model in order to better broadcast the need for our fund raising to audiences that we might have previously not been able to reach, or have disenfranchised. Beyond the Translation Committee, we also regularly coordinate with other organization bodies during the drive periods — the Board of Directors, to ensure that our drive goals are matching with our overall yearly plan; and the Communications Committee, who coordinate the actual posting and dissemination of our drive materials.
Outside of our work on the fund drives, it largely depends on the particular person and the needs of the committee as to what we do. Our data membership specialists remain hard at work maintaining the donation and membership database which, you might be able to tell from the name, holds our donation and membership records. Some might work on analyzing data gathered from the previous drive in order to make improvements to future drives. Others still will begin the process of restocking our donation premiums in case we begin to run low. Some will work on evaluating and updating our internal documentation. One group might work on a special project in order to develop new revenue generating sources for the organization. The possibilities are endless during this lull between the drives, and really, the sky is the limit on the sort of things that you can work on.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
For me, it largely depends on the time of year! As mentioned above, our work varies depending on whether we’re working during a drive period or in between them. I’ll quickly cover both in order to give any readers a good idea of my work.
During the drives, I am writing some aspect of the materials that will go out for the drive — whether that be an email to AO3 users, or one of the posts, or something else. Simultaneously, I am coordinating with my fellow committee members, by commenting on their own drive materials, answering questions, scheduling meetings, or more, to keep the work on the drive moving ahead as necessary. During this, I’m also monitoring our incoming email queue for any intra-organization communication that needs to be responded to, or for questions coming in from the general public. While our email queue is mostly easy to manage during the time between drives, during drives it will sky rocket with incoming questions. We also have to be aware of comments coming into the news posts and respond to them promptly.
When we aren’t running around like chickens with our heads cut off during the drives, we work independently on projects and coordinate with each other as necessary. We also attend our weekly meetings in order to stay on top of any work that another committee member might be doing (which is particularly helpful, because you never know when someone else might be interested in the work you might be doing). One of my big projects has been to update our internal documentation where necessary, which has been pretty fun! As part of this, we’ve implemented a new meeting minutes procedure and developed a method of easily tracking our out of date documentation (which should hopefully make this type of work easier for our future committee members)! One project that we’ve been working on following the April 2016 fund drive is selecting a ticket management solution. This will better track our email and ensure that nothing slips between the cracks.
What’s the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
For me, I have to say it would be getting exposure to and interacting with other members of fandom. I’m definitely part of fandom on places like Tumblr, and have been on other things like fandom message boards. But in situations like that it is incredibly easy for me to either fade into the background noise or not really take part (lurking for the win).
Being a volunteer within the OTW though, depending on what committee you serve with, you have varying levels of interaction with others. This is great for a wide range of people, because even the shyest of wall-flowers can find a way to help. Even with our most interaction-heavy committees, there are generally ways for you to stick to the background by performing a less communication-intensive role within the group. For me specifically though, I’ve come to know so many people and have made so many friends from my time within the organization. There are also those crazy, serendipitous moments where you find odd connections between volunteers that leave you going, “Whoa!” For instance, another volunteer and I discovered that she lived in my tiny Louisiana hometown for quite a while!
What did you learn from other roles you’ve had in the OTW?
Oh gosh, how did I know you’d ask this question? So as a bit of back story, I first served within the OTW in 2013 as a Tag Wrangler and then a Communications staffer. After a car accident, I had to take some time away to regroup in my personal and professional life, but came back in 2015. This time I served as a staffer for both Volunteers & Recruiting, and Development & Membership. While mine definitely isn’t the longest record of service, it is probably up there among those with the most variety!
In my time on the different committees, probably the lesson that resonates with me the most is that you have to be responsive to your own needs and take care of them. You have to be aware of when you need to take time for yourself or just plain need a break from the OTW. After my car accident, I was being forced to work more and more hours to pay for bills, which impacted my overall energy and ability to serve within the OTW. I felt obligated to continue serving and so inadequate, because I thought I might be letting down my fellow committee members should I step back for a time. This culminated in me “vanishing” from the OTW because, for me, I was more ashamed of admitting that I needed help than simply running away.
I’ve also learned a great variety of skills that I can apply to everyday life. Time management, organization, and technical writing are some things that I feel have definitely been improved on my by time within the OTW. I’ve also gained a fairly solid foundation within the subject matter of the committees I’ve served on.
What fannish things do you like to do?
Well, mostly I’m a consumer of fannish things, though I do have some pet projects I work on. What I tinker with rarely sees the light of day, because it rarely moves beyond the confines of my brain! I love reading fanfic on the Archive, seeing fanart on Tumblr, and recently being a bit more involved in the fan game community. I am a huge Pokémon fan, and some of the biggest projects for Pokémon fans out there are fan games. Recently I joined up with the Pokémon Phoenix Rising team as a writer. We hope to have our first release out before the end of summer, so here’s hoping! In the past, I’ve been more involved in the fannish community overall on forums and such, but in recent years that has faded.
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 comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.