Meet Josephine (Jo) Matyas. Jo works full-time as a freelance writer (mainly focused on travel) and derives all of her income from writing. This means that she brings a very serious and targeted business perspective to her writing life. She also devotes hours of volunteer time to TMAC.
Jo first heard about TMAC around 14 years ago. At the time, she was writing a bi-weekly travel column for The Kingston Whig-Standard and was invited on a media trip by Deneen Perrin at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Jo recalls people asking each other if they would be “going to TMAC” that spring. As she had no idea what TMAC stood for and was too shy to ask, Jo wrote the acronym on a piece of paper and Googled it later.
It didn’t take long for the intrepid traveller to join TMAC and to jump into the realm of volunteering. Jo’s done everything from copy-editing the annual report for the AGM, to editing the newsletter and chairing the media membership committee (which included revamping and shepherding in the changes to the structure of media membership back in 2008.) Currently, Jo is TMAC’s co-president, with colleague Mark Stevens. This is her third term on the national board.
What has been the most challenging thing you’ve tackled as a volunteer?
Being involved at the board level has meant making some controversial — but necessary — decisions. And that’s not always an easy thing. The biggest challenges have been things like revamping the membership criteria back in 2008, or responsibly untangling and dealing with fiscal challenges in order to keep TMAC viable and current.
Most members don’t understand the amount of work and time and effort involved by groups like the board and various committees to keep the organization humming along. Many volunteers put in countless hours planning special events, debating policy and implementing the changes needed to keep an organization going. It sounds boring, but it is anything but — being involved as a TMAC volunteer is the best way to get the maximum return for your membership dollar.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a volunteer?
Hands down, it’s the people I’ve met. I have made some amazing friendships. TMAC is filled with smart, funny, intelligent and incredibly generous people. There are lifelong friendships that I will always treasure.
Tell us a story about something that happened in your volunteer life that was funny, tragic, hair-raising or inspiring.
The morning I opened my email to discover that as a result of a perfect storm — poor decisions made before my time and other circumstances completely outside of our control — TMAC was being presented with an unexpected bill for a substantial amount in conference-related expenses. I didn’t sleep for about two days (and my heart rate still speeds up when I even think of it).
It took countless hours by staff and board members to deal with the financial hit in a way that kept us “between the white lines” and moving forward in a positive way. We didn’t see it coming at all — it wasn’t a result of any of the current board’s actions — yet members of the board stepped up to the plate, putting in the time, problem-solving and substantial effort needed to fix the problem. It was a true team effort and I am genuinely proud of the work done by this incredibly generous group of people. It is an example of the kind of thing that can go on behind the scenes. It was something that had to be dealt with; there was no bypassing or ignoring it.
Seeing how the members of the board worked together to problem-solve was inspiring. But tragic and hair-raising — yes, facing these sorts of challenges is both of those as well.
Why do you think it’s important for members to volunteer?
It sounds pat, but an organization like TMAC would grind to a halt without volunteers. It would be financially and logistically impossible for us to exist.
Most people see that we have an administrative management company and assume that they do everything, but that’s not at all the case. A large part of the work at TMAC is done by our own volunteer members, from conference planning to M&Ms to PD sessions to financial management to policy development to producing the newsletter to problem solving, to … it’s a very long list.
But on a more individual level, I really do believe that the return on becoming involved through volunteering in TMAC is exponentially greater than the investment made. You meet people, connect names with faces, people learn who you are and that helps when you are trying to connect for business purposes — whether to find out information, plan a media visit, pitch story ideas or promote a destination.
Besides being the right thing to do, volunteering is also the smart thing to do from a business perspective.