Thank You for Volunteering!

The following is a guest blog from Rachael Travis

We’ve all seen it … someone has an idea on Twitter. No, really! A good idea. An “Oh, dammmmmnnn. Why didn’t I think of that?!” kind of idea.

There’s a kind of cycle that happens: An idea is thrown out there, people get really excited, we all brainstorm in an abstract way, someone @’s a board member, and then … “That’s a great idea! Thank you for volunteering.” I used to think those seven words were a metaphorical door slammed in the face of ideas. Boy howdy, was I wrong.

Earlier this year, Dawn had the amazing idea that there should be some kind of Riveters’ version of the front office’s Axe photos. She articulated that she didn’t have the capacity to be the task manager behind the project, so I jumped in and, before I knew it, Rose Poses happened. I’m being a little hyperbolic, but this project that I thought would take months to plan took mere weeks with a lot of support.

Roses Poses wasn’t the first 107IST-supported event I helped organize. In 2018, I came to the board to pitch the idea of bystander intervention training — and I came prepared. I had multiple options for what a training could look like, I had researched different groups from around Portland that could lead them, and I also a fundraising plan. I was ready to come in and have to do all of the heavy lifting. I wish I had footage of my face when the board told me that they would be fully funding the trainings and that they already had a space in mind. Having an idea, especially one so deeply personal and rooted in pain, be supported and encouraged is a rare gift.

Having had the bystander intervention training experience in my pocket, you’d think I would’ve remembered that 107IST members almost never have to reinvent the wheel. But repetition is the key to learning, and apparently, I needed another event-planning experience to truly learn about all the resources this organization makes available to us.

Back to Rose Poses …

When I agreed to take on the project, I truly thought I’d be on my own: I’d be setting up a black sheet in my garage and taking everyone’s picture by myself, while hoping people wouldn’t mind hanging out in my yard for hours. Instead, I put out an ask on Twitter for some volunteers to help plan and run the event. All of a sudden, I had a team to help.

Then, while we were trying to figure out where to hold the photoshoot, Gabby reached out and let us know we could use the Fanladen. That’s when I learned that members can ask and reserve that space — because it is our space. Y’all might already know that, but my mind was blown. Through the 107IST network, we found a few great photographers who volunteered their time and talents, even a couple backup photographers when Covid changed our original plan. It felt like magic when snacks, a professional lighting setup, and a background showed up. Of course it isn’t magic — it’s the support and resources of this community.

107IST is a member-driven community, not a board-driven one. Without us, this doesn’t exist. I want to acknowledge that I am speaking from a place of white privilege, so when I say “Oh, just pitch an idea, and it’ll come together!” I know that my experience is not universal, and that not all ideas are embraced and supported as enthusiastically as mine have been. Three months ago, when I was originally planning this post, I wanted to share the privilege of my experience planning events, something that feels even more important now than it did then. I imagined a laundry list of all the resources hidden in the Fanladen (did you know we have a button-maker?!), instead I want to uplift the truly endless resource that is a community with endless expertise and passions.

The board probably can’t write a blank check for a passion project, but when you hear “that’s a great idea! Thanks for volunteering.” I hope you hear what it really means “That’s a great idea! Thank you for volunteering. Please let us know how we can support you!”

If you have an idea you want to pitch to the board, email contactus@107ist.org. If you aren’t sure where to start, my DMs are open (@rachael_with2as)

I didn’t know how to do any of this until I tried. I want to support you while you try.

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