Sometimes Building Community Sucks, But It’s Still Worth Doing
Today I’m turning the newsletter over to my husband, Travis Morrison. He shares my passion for community building, and is currently two-thirds of the way through a two-year term as President of our son’s elementary school PTA.
Friends, I’ve made a 5-minute Double Shift community survey to get your feedback on this newsletter and other offerings I’m considering for 2023. Getting your opinion is HUGELY helpful to me. Everyone who fills it out will be entered to win a $50 bookshop.org gift certificate. TIA!
Regular readers of this newsletter know that I have a deep obsession with how to build community. This can be doing informal things, like dropping off a meal for someone who just had a baby, or it can be investing time and money in existing organizations. It’s easy to paint community-mindedness as all sunshine and rainbows. But the reality, which I probably don’t talk about enough, is that this is hard, deliberate work. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes you don’t have a ton in common with the people you want to build a community with. Sometimes people are annoying or let you down. Sometimes being in a community feels like just piling more things on the to-do list, especially when so many of us are spread thin by work demands and caregiving responsibilities.
So today I’m turning the newsletter over to someone who’s really in the community trenches – my husband, Travis Morrison. He shares my passion for community building, and is currently two-thirds of the way through a two-year term as President of our son’s elementary school PTA.
PTAs and the unpaid labor that keeps public schools running have long been the domain of mothers, and I personally think more men stepping into these roles will give us a bigger pool of volunteer resources, and frankly, create more social status around this essential work. One thing that has made my heart sing about Travis taking this on is seeing how much our son reveres him for this work. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Asher has taken to saying, “a PTA President.”
This work is not easy, and I have a deep well of appreciation for those doing this community labor now that I’ve really seen what it takes up close. Our kid’s school is a small, racially and economically diverse public school in North Carolina, grappling its way out of the pandemic.
I asked Travis If I could share the lessons he’s learned so far on the job, which I think are so thoughtful and wildly applicable to so many community organizations. I hope this is helpful to anyone who wants to participate in, revitalize and lead some of these vital institutions.
Things You May Learn From Leading a Volunteer Organization
By Travis Morrison
Your most important job is to say thank you.
Your second most important job is to remind people.
Most people ignore. Some people scan. No one reads.
The worst value proposition beats the best abstraction.
Truly listen to complainers once. Then hound them with requests to help until they never make eye contact with you again.
When you think you've over-communicated, that's when you're only halfway done communicating.
Incompetent people are people too. That includes you.
When you learn about your biases, you don't learn that your good work is bad. You learn that your good work can become great.
People want to feel like they know you before they give you money.
Don't be a brutal dictator, except for when it comes to keeping meetings on track. Go full Stalin on that one.
Your community is the subject, and your organization is the object.
Getting money out of people is hard; but it's nothing compared to getting time out of people.
You won't change anything with emails. You have to go talk to them.
There will always be a fire to put out. Let the occasional one burn, and use the time to be strategic. Choose wisely.
You're going to miss it when it's over. Which is not to say you're going to enjoy it while you do it.
In tomorrow’s members-only thread, I'll ask you all what community organizations you’ve been involved with, and the good, the bad and the ugly of leading and participating. Also, I loved last week's member thread, "Your Most Important Holiday Survival Tactic," which was filled with chilled-out wisdom, healthy boundaries, and permission for us all to lower our expectations and standards. If you aren't a member yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It starts at $7/mo and helps me keep The Double Shift going.
What I’m reading: I LOVE Anne Helen Petersen’s newsletter and adapted resource “A Shortcut for Caring for Others (and Being Cared For Yourself)” which helps us explicitly articulate how we want to be cared for during tough times. Highly recommend sharing it with those in your “community of care.”
If you need to die laughing: If you haven’t read this McSweeney’s “A Parent’s Typical Day, As Envisioned by My Child’s Preschool.” give yourself the gift of gasping for breath hysterics and enjoy this gem.
What I’m eating: Instagram successfully targeted me for this new Asian-style plant-based meat from a company called Omni Foods and I ordered some. It was YUMMY. I had this hilarious fantasy that my kids were going to help me make Matsubi and Onigiri but they did not help me AT ALL, but they did eat this completely vegetarian platter I made with vegan pork without complaint, and I’m calling it victory.
Do me a favor? I’ve made a 5-minute Double Shift community survey to get your feedback on this newsletter and other offerings I’m considering for 2023. Your opinions are HUGELY helpful to me. As a thank you, I'll randomly select one lucky winner among those who fill out the survey by midnight EST December 8th to win a $50 bookshop.org gift certificate.
Holiday Hangout: Solidarity + Survival + Celebration
Tuesday December 13th at 2pm EST
For our December members-only hangout, let’s let loose with other Double Shifters in a casual year-end zoom. This will be a “potluck” of sharing some of our favorite holiday traditions, discussing survival strategies, and building solidarity over end-of-year mental overload. The holidays can be a tough time for many people, so if that's you, you are warmly welcome, too. And if you need permission to NOT stay up ti 2am individually wrap 60 homemade gingerbread cookies, you’ll be coming to the right place. Members will get a reminder email and a google calendar invite.
Want in on the fun? Become a member. It starts at $7/mo. You get an audio version of this newsletter, too.