WHAT IS FRIENDS OF WRITERS?
Friends of Writers, Inc. (“FOW”) is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated and headquartered in the State of Vermont. It was founded in 1991 for the immediate purpose of raising scholarship funds for adult writers.
WHAT DOES FOW DO?
FOW’s mission is to cultivate a diversity of new and vital voices.
It has done so most recently by supporting graduate students in the highly regarded MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. While Friends of Writers is able, under its articles of incorporation, to select other avenues for supporting adult writers, at this time it has chosen the MFA Program for Writers as its primary beneficiary. Friends of Writers also provides scholarships to the annual Alumni Conference organized by alumni of the MFA WWC, and underwrites/guarantees the conference.
WHO IS FOW?
A list of current and past Board Members can be found here: https://friendsofwriters.org/our-story/
Board members are elected to three-year terms and attend meetings at their own expense.
The most important people involved with the FOW community, however, are our loyal and generous donors. A list of current donors can be found here: https://friendsofwriters.org/our-donors/
WHY DOES FOW CHOOSE TO FOCUS ITS SUPPORT ON THE MFA PROGRAM FOR WRITERS AT WARREN WILSON COLLEGE?
The FOW board honors the program’s long history of quality and rigor
The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College was the first low-residency program in the country, a successful model that has since been replicated at other institutions in the US and overseas. It is consistently ranked as the finest low-residency program in the country. Most on the board have deep ties to the MFA WWC community.
FOW is the organization that supports Program Alumni.
While graduates of the MFA Program are Warren Wilson College alumni are welcome to attend homecoming and to send information to the college’s publication Owl & Spade, etc., most MFA graduates are primarily interested in maintaining contact with other former MFA students.
FOW launched and underwrote the annual Alumni Conference (additional info in response to other questions), now wholly-run by alumni, and continues to fund scholarships for alumni to attend. FOW funds and manages the Levis Competition, which awards a Program alumnus or alumna up to $10,000 toward the completion of a book. The forum featured FOW website is the conduit for publication news from alumni and faculty.
HOW DOES FRIENDS OF WRITERS BRING IN MONEY?
By raising money.
FOW solicits donations from individuals within and beyond the WWC MFA community. It does this through periodic mailings, by letter and e-mail, to its growing list of past, present, and potential donors. A recently-established network of class agents is working to foster ongoing connections within the MFA Program’s community and to seek support for incoming and current students in the Program.
Every year, at the annual Alumni Conference, alumni volunteers run an auction designed to raise money for Program students and alumni.
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRIENDS OF WRITERS AND THE ALUMNI CONFERENCE
The Alumni Conference is run by a committee of alumni, many of whom have been involved with prior conferences. The committee makes all decisions related to the conference. An FOW board member serves as liaison to the conference committee and works with them on location scouting, planning, and policies.
FOW guarantees the minimum fee required by the conference site. FOW pays any postage costs and also the conference fees for the conference director, a volunteer. Accounting for the conference is handled by the FOW’s Treasurer and the Friends accountant.
WHY ARE THERE ALUMNI CONFERENCE AUCTIONS?
The fundraising auction was initiated by alumni conference attendees as a way to recoup the costs of the conference not covered by the registration fee, and to raise some additional money for scholarships. Surplus funds, when available, are directed to FOW’s scholarship funds.
WHAT HAPPENS TO ALL THE MONEY RAISED BY THE ALUMNI CONFERENCE?
For fifteen years the Conference was subsidized by FOW. In recent years, thanks to increased participation and shrewd management by the volunteer directors, it manages to net a small profit, which the Conference Committee (again, alumni volunteers) has reinvested in the FOW Memorial Fund to guarantee each year’s gathering and provide additional scholarships for those attending. The Memorial Fund was established by individual gifts designated in the name of deceased alumni.
WHO SETS THE COST OF THE ALUMNI CONFERENCE?
The host institution. Each year, volunteer planners work hard to find the most reasonable location possible for the conference, understanding that cost is a major consideration for nearly everyone. Conference costs fluctuate due both to location and attendance. The Conference committee comes up with a budget, and sets fees.
DOES FRIENDS OF WRITERS SUPPORT FOUR WAY BOOKS?
No. Until November 2004, Four Way Books was assisted by FOW only to the extent that it shared FOW’s designation as a non-profit organization. No money given to FOW went to Four Way Books unless the donor specifically designated his/her contribution for Four Way Books. In November 2004, Four Way Books gained independent non-profit status. It is a fully separate organization with its own Board and officers.
HOW ARE FOW’S FUNDS MANAGED
Most of the money has been invested to guarantee that there will be resources to fund scholarships and projects in the future. It takes a tremendous amount of money to endow a fund. [To pay out an annual award of $10,500 requires roughly $250,000 in principal (Based on trailing 5-year average returns, for non-profits, as of December 2013. http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/endowments-show-double-digit-gains/.)]
Please contact the board for details on our investment policies.
WHO DECIDES WHAT DONATIONS ARE PUT TO WHAT USE?
Donors are always welcome—and invited—to specify which FOW projects they would like their money to support. Unspecified or discretionary donations are applied by the full FOW Board to scholarship funds, as needed. It’s most helpful for donations not to be earmarked for one purpose or another so that they can be put to the best immediate use, but some donors prefer to support a particular goal, which is fine.
WHAT COSTS DOES FOW HAVE?
FOW pays for essential legal and accounting fees. There is no office and one part-time staff member only. Board members donate their time, the cost of travel to semi-annual meetings, teleconferences and postage expenses. On occasion, major FOW projects—such as for Galas and the creation of the FOW website—require FOW to use paid external resources. All such expenditures are vetted and approved by the full FOW Board.
CAN I GET AN ANNUAL REPORT OF FRIENDS INCOME AND EXPENDITURES?
Every year FOW files Form 990-EZ with the U. S. Internal Revenue Service. This is a public document and can, by means of an Internet search, be accessed from a variety of sources.
WHO’S ON THE FRIENDS OF WRITERS BOARD, AND WHO DECIDES THAT?
The composition of FOW’s Board, past and present, as well as its ByLaws and other matters relating to governance, can be found here: https://friendsofwriters.org/our-story/
Each Board member agrees to serve for three years, with possibility of renewal.
Possible candidates are suggested by current and past Board members, and the Board encourages expressions of interest from alumni and others. The Board’s Nominating Committee collects and vets candidates, assesses the skills and experience most needed given FOW’s short and long-term plans and project requirements, engages potential candidates in preliminary conversations, and then makes recommendations to the full Board.
WHO DO I TALK TO IF I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
Any Friends Board member. Or, contact FOW’s Corporate Secretary, Liz Gray: [email protected]