Article as printed in Romance Writers Australia‘s Hearts Talk magazine.
After three years as the RWA Secretary, it’s time for me to step down and let someone else take on this role. Before I launch into a spiel about how Secretary is the best volunteer role for someone time poor who wants to get involved, let’s talk about the last three years. In June 2018, Penelope Janu approached me and asked if I’d be interested in taking over as Secretary from her. After having coffee together and listening to her sales pitch—she’s obviously very convincing—I said yes. Initially it was a bumpy ride, as the entire previous committee resigned at the AGM of 2018, and a completely new committee was elected. As I’d taken over some six weeks prior to the AGM, I was (technically) the only continuing member. There were some teething problems post AGM, although it didn’t take too long to sort them out. I suppose that whenever you ask a collection of strangers to work together, even with a common goal, there will be some conflicts and hurdles to manage.
Over the past three years, the committee has been fairly steady with some changes as different volunteers dealt with differing personal circumstances, eg health issues, job changes, etc. Overall, the RWA committee has managed these changes well, with new members welcomed into the group easily. During my stint as Secretary, the committee has put a strong emphasis on improving the behind the scenes workflow systems, especially the IT systems and the documentation of procedures for each portfolio. Having better systems and clear processes has allowed for easier transitions between volunteers and it’s something the committee will continue to work on as each new volunteer takes on different portfolios.
The duties of the Secretary are not particularly onerous in terms of time commitment. Yes, here comes the spiel that will convince someone to become the new RWA Secretary!
One of the key tasks is to keep the RWA external company records up to date, so whenever there is a change to key personnel, the Secretary needs to know which form to send to which organisation, eg NSW Fair Trading or ASIC. This also needs to happen after the AGM, and the Secretary works with the Treasurer to ensure annual accounts records are registered as required. It’s all outlined in the Secretary procedure documents.
The other main task relates the committee meetings. The Secretary creates the meeting agenda, sets up the meeting in the calendar, and takes the minutes. This requires the Secretary to be available for each meeting. There is one held online every second month on an evening that suits the majority of committee members, as well as the AGM, and two Strategy and Planning meetings (one held after conference and one held in March). Usually the S&P meetings are done in person, however, they’ve been online recently thanks to the COVID pandemic.
Other than that, there are no day to day duties for the Secretary, apart from reading committee emails and keeping up to date on any decisions that need to be made. Leading into the conference, there tends to be a fair amount of financial approvals that the President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice President need to understand and approve.
This is a great role for someone who is time poor, wants to volunteer, and is reliably able to come to every committee meeting to take minutes. Honestly, turning up regularly is the core part of this job!
My pen name is Renee Dahlia and I write a mix of contemporary and historical romance, with fm, mm, and ff pairings. I joined RWA in 2016 after writing my debut novel, which I pitched at the 2016 Adelaide conference. To Charm A Bluestocking was published by Escape Publishing in 2017, and by the end of 2021, I will have 24 published novels, some traditionally published and some indie published. I’m fortunate to be able to work from home; doing book writing, writing for a couple of magazines, volunteer work, and keeping four children organised. Anyone who follows me on social media will know my summer weekends are stuffed full of cricket games (four kids playing on six teams), and I also volunteer on the local cricket club committee as the communications person.
The rewards of volunteering for RWA far outweigh the time commitment and I’ll always be grateful that Penelope asked me to take over from her. Who is going to be the next RWA Secretary? I hope I’ve convinced someone to take the leap and join a fantastic organisation and a wonderful committee who has a strong passion for RWA.