How to be a good Quilt Guild member- a brief handbook/manifesto

I’m not surprised that guilds around the country are plagued with the same problems. Quilt Guilds, like many other organizations, try to fulfill the needs of it’s memberships wishes for entertainment, social networking, education, and philanthropy all at the same time, and can excel at some, all, or none.

I have served in every capacity for a Quilt Guild imaginable. As a younger person in the guilds I have been a member of, I have been rather heavily relied upon, despite working a full time job. This is partially due to my addiction to volunteerism, but some instances were not. So… How to be a good Quilt Guild member, from someone who has been a part of a guild for 11 years?

1. Do not over volunteer. – Every guild has one. The person who sticks their hand up when no one else will. And while everyone loves her, she is quietly and secretly burning out. She will either leave quietly one day, or get mad and refuse to do anything else for a long time. Don’t be this person: Volunteer, yes. Volunteer for everything, no.
2. If you care capable, please volunteer. -The guild needs you to run it’s day to day activities! Without someone to volunteer their time, resources, money, or skills, the guild will flounder. Decide if the guild is worth it to you and when an opportunity for an easy job comes up, stick your hand in the air.
3. At the meeting, ask what you can do to help. – A “No-brainer”, but you may be surprised. Holding up quilts for the guest speaker, or helping gather up the trash are really important jobs.
4. Talk to people. -Isn’t this why you are here? If you meet someone new, you may learn a new technique, or find a new friend. But…
5. Respect the meeting. -Meetings are great if you haven’t seen your quilting buddies in a month and you need to catch up. But please respect what the guild board is trying to get across during the “business” portion of the meeting. Talk during your breaks or get there early to gab. Someone next to you may not hear that volunteer opportunity, and the guild suffers. (yes, this is a guilt trip!)
6. If the guild doesn’t offer you what you want, ask for it. – Wish the guild would bring in your favorite author, or teacher? Ask for it! How else will they know? But….
7. If you ask for something, be prepared to help out with it. – During my year as President of a former guild, I was asked if we would be having a bus trip to a local show. As we lacked volunteers, I said we would be happy to do it, if she would help organize the trip. Unfortunately, that person backed off right away. If she would have sent around a sign up sheet and helped contact a bus company, the rest may have fallen into place.
8. Everything has a time and place. – Everyone has an opinion about how their guild operates, and eventually something will tick off members. However, don’t use the business meeting time to publicly voice your gripes, especially if you have a guest speaker that night. Bring your issues to the board members during breaks, and ask that you can attend the next board meeting to address it. The board can then decide to air this during a meeting if the situation warrants it, and not embarass the guild during the meeting in front of your guests.
9. If you’re no longer having fun…- You know, there was a member once who had nothing nice to say at any meeting. Nothing we did was right. Even if we had a great meeting and evening, this one person had something negative to say. I will never forget the one meeting we had where we all had a blast, and this person cornered me to complain about the temperature of the room. I’ll wonder aloud here why they continued to come to the meeting if it was obvious they were having a bad time. If you’re not having fun anymore, please don’t ruin everyone else’s good time.
10. Be nice to those who are volunteering. – Nothing will kill the volunteerism of the guild faster than under appreciated volunteers. One example is the event where guild members could enter items for sale at a table we purchased at a local craft show. It was manned by several members, and on the day that items that did not sell were to be picked up, a box of items was accidentally left behind at someone’s house. Two members that came to get their unsold things in that box behaved in such a way that the volunteers were near tears. The volunteers were a lot nicer than I would have been, and I’m Customer Service management! So please behave yourself with our volunteers.
11. Don’t be “clique-ish”. – I break this rule all the time, but I am new to my current guild. However, I have heard members leave over the clique-ish-ness of some guilds. If someone feels like they aren’t one of the “in-crowd” then you have clique-ish-ness going on. Don’t tip your friends’ chairs forward to save them or put your coat one one, purse on another, and show and tell on a third. Sit in a different spot each meeting. And talk to new people each time!
12. Leave your ego at home. – In a guild with over 150 people, you will have varying skill levels. Show and tell is for everyone to brag, but be humble. At every guild it seems there is that one person who no one wants to follow. If you have a show and/or tell, be brief, keep your bragging humble, and don’t rub your successes in everyone’s faces. And CLAP FOR EVERY QUILT THAT IS SHOWN! OOH AND AAH FOR EVERY QUILT THAT IS SHOWN! Nothing will make you feel more terrible to not get any reaction when others clearly have. Appreciate every skill level in your guild.
13. Assess your membership often. – Members need to have an idea of why they are joining the group in the first place. If, after attending a few meetings, you realize that you are not being fulfilled in the area you decided to join under, you have options. Either spearhead that need in that current guild so that it becomes fulfilled for you, or you can join a different group. There’s nothing wrong with deciding that the guild you are in is too traditional or artsy for your tastes, or only wants to send quilts to Borneo under Philanthropy, and that it’s not for you.
14. Edit your comments – Inevitably, there will be a meeting whose subject or lecture is not to your particular tastes. This is not the time to announce loudly to your seatmates that you “could do better than that”, or tell everyone how boring this talk is. Speaker nights are incredibly expensive for guilds to do. If you don’t like the speakers your guild brings in, see Rule #6. This also goes for Show and Tell. Clap for every project shown!
15. Basic Rules – Some of the basics are the ones the bear the most repeating: Don’t bring your food or drinks near other people’s quilts. Ask before you touch any quilt, especially a speakers’ quilts! If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Turn off your cellphones before the meeting starts. Have fun. Make friends.

I’m certain this list is by no means complete, but it’s a good start to making you one of the best Quilt Guild members imaginable. You will have more fun going in with these suggestions in mind, and the guild will be better for it. If you have the time and gumption to volunteer, your guild could surely need you! Go and enjoy yourself, and those of us in the guilds will do our best to make sure you guys and gals have a good time.

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