Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I just got tapped by the neighborhood association to edit the quarterly
newsletter. At first I didn’t think it would be such a bad thing to
volunteer for, because I&'ve recently retired and have more time. But
getting after people to give information, or to write the articles they
promised to do is worse than getting paid employees to do their jobs.
Everyone gives me their articles late, incomplete, misspelled, with bad
grammar, and assumes I’ll make everything look perfect by the city’s
deadline to print and mail it for us. I want to cut and run but it’s only
been one issue. When I asked the former “editor” she laughed and
said, “Good luck and buy a bottle of something strong!”
Volunteerism has its own unique rewards and curses. You seem to be
drowning in the latter. Below are some tips, but the biggest one is
this: clear your calendar for the day before you need to get the final
product to the city. No matter what, you will end up doing more
layouts, editing, tracking down, and cursing than you want to. And
save the drinking for after you submit the final product.
Set up a template for the issue that includes all the repetitive things:
names and contact emails/phone numbers for all relevant folks, from
the association board to the public works, police and fire stations, pet
patrol, etc. Allocate space and word limits for regular monthly columns
and give the people who write them a deadline that’s at least a week
ahead of the real one. For people who’s writing, send some editing
tips: spell check, read your column aloud, and ask your spouse or best
friend to tell you if it says what you intended. Then send it to me by
[two weeks ahead]. The regulars know the drill and should be okay.
The others you will need to harass more and likely edit more. Look for
more commitments for regular columns on everything from
neighborhood safety issues to recipe or gardening tip of the month.
People who are passionate about what they write are much more
reliable and produce better products.