Thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the Listening Session with WGM’s board and staff on October 24. We had an overwhelmingly successful night, filled with lots of positive energy, thoughtful comments, and opportunities for our members to share their passion for WGM. We know not everyone can attend in person, so we’re grateful too to the members who emailed or shared feedback in person. Thank you!
Overall, 40 of our members participated which accounts for 6.3% of our membership. Twenty-eight joined the session in person and 12 submitted written comments. Forty-three percent of those participants had been members of WGM for 20 or more years (and five joined in the 70s!).
Please know you can share your feedback–about classes, membership, Fiber Source, or anything else–at any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Our staff is happy to share feedback with the board, instructors, or other necessary stakeholders. In addition, you may contact the board directly at: email@example.com. And, of course, members are welcome to attend Board meetings, which are open to the public. The next board meeting will be November 29 at 5:30pm at WGM.
We have been working to sort, collate, and evaluate the feedback our members have shared. To respect the effort you put into this process, we’re carefully and honestly evaluating the feedback from these 40 engaged members. A printed copy of the comments will be available at WGM after November 16.
SOME KEY TAKEAWAYS:
We heard your desire to feel better connected to WGM’s Board of Directors. The first Draft in December will feature a Note from the Board President, Maddy Bartsch, in an ongoing series of letters. This quarterly report will serve to update you on outcomes of guild events, highlight upcoming projects, and brief you on important information such as WGM financials and staff or board personnel changes.
Some of you stressed a desire to access other members’ information. We’re working on an opt-in Membership Directory, which will allow members to opt-in and share their information with other members. In an effort to do this well (and working within our registration software–a system you are already familiar with), we expect the option to be ready later this month. There will be more information in the November 21 Draft.
UPDATE on November 21: We are working out the kinks of the Membership Directory, to make sure we do it well and meet the privacy concerns and regulations. I expect registration to open in early December–thanks for your patience! (–Karin)
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FEEDBACK:
Many of you emphasized the role WGM membership has played in building and providing community.
- It’s like being part of a “Fiber family” – being part of a community of like-minded individuals and being able to speak with others who speak the same language.
- “I came in at 40 to be a rug weaver after a friend introduced me to the guild; it became “the answer to everything”, where I could take classes, workshops, go to meetings, retreats. It became my social world–I could not have imagined that.”
- “In one word, “membership” means “community” to me. I became a member of the guild after attending one or two artist talks…. I was a spinner and had just started weaving using a rigid heddle loom. … Here were people who shared my passions for spinning and weaving in some way, shape or form! Here were people who could answer questions I might have!”
- “It’s like belonging to a support group”–it provides education and friendship, [a place to] meet incredible people, a sense of warmth, the ability to share a passion with others who are equally passionate
You value experiences where community is emphasized, especially as we gather to support traditions that are relatively obscure and unique. Interest Groups provide a great resource.
- “Weaving is an obscure odd thing to do and to be able to gather together with others who do it is an amazing thing.”
- Interest groups. Where else could we talk about the things that we talk about? Appreciate the community around specific interests.
- After the Scandinavian tapestry talk [in May, by Robbie Lafleur about Carol Johnson’s collected pieces], I left the talk thinking “Where else could you find and view that collection?”, it was such a treat.
However, we also heard that:
- “I’ve gone through many stages of membership, from it being financially beneficial and just taking classes, to volunteering and giving back fiscally. I think it’s important to acknowledge as an organization with members, that some people want to and are able to give of their time and resources liberally, while others don’t want to or are unable to. Some people just wanted to take classes or use the library or sell at Fiber Fair and that’s it. And that should be okay.”
- Potlucks are not as well attended as they used to be. Member meetings have gotten sparser.Thursday bag lunch hasn’t happened in years. Once a year there was a large membership gathering.
- Spinners feel that programming at member meetings is very heavily weaving.
- “I also enjoy the member meetings although I feel that often the topics and the format are structured more for an audience who has been involved in the Guild for many years, rather than a newcomer or a younger audience member.”
Which lead you to ask:
- What new events could draw people in to help create that community?
When it comes WGM staff, you feel they serve as the “face” to the organization and provide necessary professional resources and long term structure:
- Staff: regular faces and day-to-day operations of WGM; developing programs to support mission; fielding communications from members, instructors, etc; [providing] consistency and professionalism in communications and all of the small moving parts.
- Staff do things we can’t do like the website, Quickbooks, other programs; they are skilled professionals who provide services we [the organization] need
- “I see staff as key representatives of the WGM “brand”— as critical organizers of activities core to our success. I think their thought leadership is very important as they spend the most hours with the organization.”
You emphasized the role the fiduciary responsibility of the board:
- “The primary responsibility is the fiduciary responsibility to the members whom the Board Director represents. To develop a fiscally responsible budget and see that it is followed.”
- Create minutes and financial statements and ensure their availability to the members (and prevent surprises)
- Ensure the treasurer’s report is available to members
And you stressed the necessity of communication with membership:
- Communication from the Board to the Members needs to be better – members need more detailed information – there used to be a quarterly President’s letter sent to members advising them what was going on
- [we] would like to see a board to member conduit at monthly meetings: in the past, there was more of a “business” section of the meeting; the 30k [shortfall, announced August 2018] was a big surprise because that information doesn’t come up at member meetings
- should be a synopsis of the board meeting for the guild members; we felt clueless about what/why the 30k [shortfall] happened due to lack of info
When it comes to the role of individual members, most participants felt strongly that role involved both support and volunteerism:
- Provide financial support beyond the member dues (support includes monetary donations, time, donations of materials/goods)
- It’s the role of individual members to spend time. This gives us a better sense of ownership and what it takes to keep things going.
- Members like to feel welcome and encouraged to volunteer (to do the big and little tasks and be involved); [this] includes everything from participating in events to taking out the garbage
But some members cautioned us to keep in mind:
- “Having an expectation of members volunteering can alienate those who cannot give of their time or don’t want to.”
- “I’m not that into the outreach element, because I mostly find out about things like this online, not at in-person events. …most of the member involvement entry points seem to be more on the extrovert/socializing side.”
- “If the same people volunteer over and over again, they’re over represented in how things are decided and governed. What demographic is able to volunteer of their time and money?”
WGM’s relationship with Textile Center came up. A lot.
- We heard your desire to know more about the future, as WGM is facing potentially big changes, especially if Textile Center moves forward with a plan to purchase the two-story building and parking lot at 3300 University Ave SE three blocks east of our current location. (This building was the former home to Tierney Brothers. To read more, visit: https://textilecentermn.org/3300university/).
- Board and staff are also eager to know more, and await updates from Textile Center regarding this situation. Members of the Executive Committee of the Board will continue to attend any Textile Center Stakeholder Gatherings (the next one is November 16) and will share information with you as possible.
Many of you emphasized the benefits of WGM and Textile Center being housed in the same building:
- “We are getting a good deal on rent at an amazing location. We are associated with a very successful nonprofit fiber art center. We gain from the cross-pollination of the various guilds and their members who become aware of us when they visit TC. The library and dye facilities. The location in the city!!”
- One thing that’s really good is the influx of people that come in for the exhibits and things, who then come into WGM
- Synergy among organizations – we are all interested in the same types of things
- We share a love of textiles; our missions are closer than we think
And offered suggestions for improving the relationship between the organizations:
- Periodic meetings between both orgs would help to resolve issues (Important that members stay informed about what the TC is doing or going to do so we can figure out our next steps)
- Need a liaison with TC: would be helpful to be a several year position (need to get up to speed and develop relationships–consistency); [this] has been discussed in the past (as part of the tenant relationship)
- The roles between the orgs need definition: Who should teach weaving? WGM has both expertise and specialty equipment (and it would be expensive for TC to get that equipment); If TC teaches weaving, then why have a weavers guild?
This is a look at the themes that came out of the discussion and comments–it is not a complete list! The document of all the comments will be available at WGM after November 16.
Again, thank you to everyone who participated, including WGM’s board of directors who facilitated the listening session.
On behalf of WGM’s board of directors and staff,
Operations Manager & Member Support
Comments, suggestions, or concerns? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.