I attended the Auckland Festival of Quilts at the beginning of November (wonderful show BTW) and it got me thinking. How many volunteer hours do we put in as quilters? From organising a huge show like the Great New Zealand Quilt Show, or Festival of Quilts, to smaller regional exhibitions, to making donation quilts, to being the secretary of your local club, to making pillowcases for deployed defence personnel, to teaching grandchildren to sew. Hours and hours and hours.
It is wonderful and should be celebrated. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our craft. Pat yourself and all the volunteers you know on the back.
But it also got me thinking about how much we expect of our volunteers. How often have you thought to yourself a show wasn’t very well organised, the quilts were hung badly, or your club meetings aren’t very interesting, or you don’t receive enough newsletters about an upcoming major quilting event, or your email to your guild didn’t get answered quickly enough? Would you have the time to put in to do the job any better?
I know there are clubs who have struggled to get enough committee members to carry on. Would this change if there was the offer of remuneration in some form? And I understand that as charitable organisations, this isn’t how it works, but I’m just throwing out thoughts for you all to mull over.
There is a professional quilting organisation that I’m aware of in the US that has paid staff. Just like a ‘real’ job, they have a number of hours that they have to put in every week, they have targets and deadlines to meet, they have accountability, and they are able to spend the time, because they are getting paid to do it. And the members benefit. Professionally organised exhibitions, conferences, a website full of resources, a quarterly publication.
Imagine if our New Zealand Symposium committee had a paid staff member? Food for thought!
We will always need volunteers, quilting is very much a grassroots movement, and I’d hate to lose that community feeling, but is there a way we can support that grassroots with a framework so we don’t burn our valuable volunteers out?
Feel free to email Aotearoa Quilters committee with your thoughts, I’d love to hear them!