Organizing the Organizers: When colleagues are few and far between
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Today I’m pleased to introduce a very special guest blogger, someone I came to know through social media and the Professional Organizers Blog Carnival, and whose WordPress site I had the honor of creating last year. As one of the co-founders of Professional Organizers of New Mexico, Hazel Thornton is here to explain the ins and outs of forming a networking group for local colleagues.
Eight years ago I moved from Los Angeles, where there are hundreds of professional organizers and a thriving NAPO chapter, to Albuquerque, where there are seven of us. Well, there are a few more than seven, but I am referring specifically to our little group, PONM (Professional Organizers of New Mexico). When I was planning my move I learned that there was no NAPO chapter in New Mexico, so I emailed all the members within a 50 mile radius of Albuquerque and asked them: Do they know each other? Do they ever get together?
Happily, they all replied. Some did know each other; No, they did not meet; Yes, what a great idea! So, although I get credit for the idea, I must say I was glad they took it and ran with it. I joined them a few months later and we have been together ever since.
NAPO requires 20 members for a chapter, and for good reason. It’s a lot of work to have officers, task forces, sub-committees, event coordinators and such! My role in NAPO-LA, for the six months I was there, was chapter librarian. PONM, by contrast, is v-e-r-y informal, as is the entire state of New Mexico, I learned. We do have a few assigned (more like assumed) roles, like Treasurer and Resource List Editor, but we do not have a President or anything as formal as that. We meet in each other’s homes on a rotating basis. Each month’s host prepares the agenda and writes the meeting minutes. At the next meeting the previous host makes a presentation on a topic of her choice. Our main rules are:
1) All PONM members must first be members of NAPO; and
2) Cashews must be served at every meeting. (Would I kid about such a thing?)
We’ve experienced some growing pains, to be sure – What should we call ourselves? (We switched from an Albuquerque-centric name to a more inclusive one.) How shall we handle membership fees? (We vote on all expenditures, and if we run out of money we all chip in again.) How can we include organizers who live hundreds of miles away? (We have tried various meeting locations, and anyone who is a NAPO member can join and have a listing on our website, but those who live too far away to attend meetings tend to fall away after a while.) When are we ever going to find a competent web designer? (We love our current webmistress!) But things have gone swimmingly the past few years.
Our informality has not worked for everyone. We’ve had members that moved here from large chapters and got frustrated with us. But the seven founding members of PONM remain steadfast friends and colleagues. Coming from a corporate environment, complete with water coolers, I don’t know what I’d do without colleagues to compare notes with, and to rely on for support. We refer clients to each other, hire each other to help on jobs, encourage and applaud each other’s successes, and work on community projects as a group. The PR we get as a group, and individually, increases awareness of the organizing industry and helps all of us.
Some of our accomplishments over the years include:
- Pro bono organizing for non-profits (Adelante, Cuidando los Ninos)
- GO Month Shred-a-thons and Recycle-a-thons
- Messy Desk Project for Albuquerque the Magazine (15-page spread, June 2011)
- Volunteer team on A&E Hoarders (Dee, episode #64, with Geralin Thomas)
- Two Get Organized tips e-books (available for free on our website)
- Hosted a dinner for then NAPO president Barry Iszak while here on his book signing tour
When I tell people about PONM, some are surprised that we are not more competitive. Although our skill sets overlap, as do even some of our social circles, we all have different niches. We figure there’s plenty of business for everyone, and we might as well have some fun while we’re at it!