By Christopher Moore
I’ll tell you a secret. Some of the board members and committee members at CNFC don’t have any serious credentials in finance, tech, marketing and promotion, administration, or any of those skills often thought useful for boards and committees.
On the other hand, we have some who do have experience in those fields — and it’s very good to have them. But what mainly brings together those who volunteer to help run CNFC is a shared commitment to good writing, a shared interest in nonfiction voices, and a shared belief that it is useful and satisfying to keep this little organization ticking along.
Which is to say, if you are a member, you probably already have the qualifications to help run the organization.
Also, it’s better for CNFC to have a large pool of volunteers who can step up and then step back after a couple of years than to have an overworked small pool of members who start to seem indispensable — and then burn out and quit.
Take webinar programming. In the fall of 2020, really no one in our volunteer pool knew anything about putting talks and seminars up on Zoom. But Beth Kaplan, Catherine Gourdier, Pam Couture, Margaret Lynch, and I, with CNFC Executive Director Jenny Plecash ever present, decided to try it out: first a series of webinars, then an online conference in June 2021. Turned out we had a lot of fun deciding who would be interesting to hear from. And we found the tech was not that daunting. Pretty much everyone we asked to talk to CNFC said yes. Members logged in. We had a hit on our hands. Indeed, with a bit of online promotion, we brought in scores of new members.
In the fall of 2022, the old hands took a breather and we reconstituted the programming committee. Nancy O’Rourke, Darryl Whetter, and Rachel Rose stepped up, and with Margaret, Jenny, and I still around, we put together another online season. We live all over the country, and I think none of us have ever met in person. But we have had a lot of fun, we got a lot of satisfaction from the continued success of the series, and we all learned a lot. It did not take over our lives, but it kept us happily connected and about as busy as we needed to be during those lockdowns.
Which is to say, you ought to think about taking a turn. Some people who have done good work on your behalf are getting ready to step back, and places will be available. It’s interesting. You will work with a good group of people. You will learn a lot about creative nonfiction and meet people in the field as equals.
Here I’ve been using the webinar planning team as an example. But it’s much the same with the governing board; useful, interesting work, virtually all virtual, and always ready for new members. This year it’s been Darryl Whetter, Lesley Buxton, Fiona Campbell, Nabila Huq, Akberet Beyene, Marsha Faubert as treasurer, me as VP, and Margaret Lynch presiding.
It was a group mostly from Toronto that planned the 2021 annual conference. Similarly, a group from Edmonton, BC and Ontario is organizing the 2022 conference. Ruby Swanson chairs the planning committee comprising Myrna Kostash, Jean Crozier, Cathy Cooper, Lenore Rowntree, Jannie Edwards, and Carissa Halton.
We’re already planning for a 2023 in-person Halifax conference. Margaret chairs the committee comprising Sandra Phinney, Darryl Whetter, and Lori McKay from Nova Scotia, along with Sue Nador and Fiona Campbell from Ontario.
Also, we are now a National Arts Service Organization and can fundraise (and issue tax receipts for the donations). If you have some fundraising skills, or just know that when you ask for money on behalf of a worthwhile organization, people will say yes surprisingly often, we could use you in the coming year or two.
So there are things to do and places to fill. Think about volunteering. CNFC will be putting some new board members in place at the AGM as part of the June conference. Committees and right after that teams will be reconstituted for 2022-23 and beyond. So this is a good time to express interest.
To explore what you might do, drop an email to our president. Margaret herself did exactly that a couple of years ago, and look where she is now. I heard her say the other day it has helped keep her sane during the Covid years. But it doesn’t mean she has to serve forever either. So think about taking a turn. The credentials? You probably already have them.