The Glory of the Community Driven Grab Bag

If you’re like me, you read the title of this and felt a little curious and a lot doubtfully wary. That’s exactly how I felt when, as the fourth and last officer to join the San Antonio chapter before we opened, I was informed we were going to be crowdfunding our bags. I was pleased to be proven 1000% wrong, and I can’t stop sharing how wonderful this public-secret has been for us.

I can’t help telling all of Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook every month that I am continually under the siege of having my expectations blown away by our girls — that’s right *our girls.* Our officers do add things to gift bags when inspired, but 95% of our gift bags are done by the girls in our chapter, which both makes things easier on us and brings them into a constant, pressure-free, personally-chosen, active involvement.
When the founders, officers, and other girls heard about this at the Dragon Con Multi-GGB event, it was asked that we bring this to all of you. So here are  instructions, important information about how we organized it from the beginning and how it basically runs itself, without us needing to do anything with/about it, now:
First and foremost, we make it understood that our bags are community created, *but* that involvement in putting things in the bag is a personal choice. No one is required to bring things. Not people in their first month. Not people who have been here the whole year and more with us. It’s an invitation to get involved when and where they feel inspired and comfortable.
For the new girls, it’s usually a month or two in, observing how it works and what they’ve received from the other women with them before they are pumped to get in. For our longer members, there’s any number of ways they take it. We have some girls who put something in the gift bag every month, and some who only put things into the months they are most moved by the theme.
Second, we welcome everything and anything a woman brings to these bags¬†(with the single caveat they have to bring enough for everyone’s bag). However a woman wants to get involved, whenever she wants to get involved, at whatever ability she has, we welcome all of them and their contributions just as warmly.
It means we get things as simple as themed sweet and treats (homemade and store bought) or themed packs of valentines or toys from the dollar store. But? It means we, also, end up with things as extravagant, at times, as professional (horror) art prints, etched shot glasses (with all the Star Wars emblems), knitted/felted creations (for Miyazaki), or 50 handpainted mugs (with villain emblems).
I won’t tell you that it will always knock things out of the park. Our two events held in actual parks had one gift bag thing a piece, and our book brunch (also, already having a mandatory book swap in it) had three. On the other hand, we have themes were the gift bags have had nearly twenty things in a bag.
Third, the day of we have bags out on our tables (sometimes bags made by girls/ourselves, but more often just plain brown paper bags) and everyone races around dropping their surprises in the bags.
Which means at the proper moment after everyone’s arrived and everyone’s done adding in, the women can up end their full bags and see everything at once in a magical themed windfall. This is one of the most favorite and looked forward to moments of out brunch now and it frequently takes place before orders happen now.
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Fourth, we give them a moment of recognition in the meeting, too. Where our women frequently take a second to raise a glass to work we did, as officers to pull these events together for them, we do the same for them.
This part, usually, takes part after the meal while everyone is chatting, showing off their things, and waiting for the checks from the brunch. We have them raise their hands if they contributed, and even stand up and tell all the girls what they brought this time. After they’ve explained, each girl gets applauded.
After about three months, this process took on a life of its own.
The women of our chapter know and share among each other how it works, what inspires them. They, more than us, get the other women involved, both by word and by deed. Some of them start working on a theme they’re excited about months out. They rarely need more direction from us than the month’s theme, their own ticket to attend, and the cap number to know how many girls/bags there will be to fill.
As an even bigger bonus, it means the officers don’t have to worry about this every month unless we feel inspired, personally rather than professionally, to add to the bags. We can spend all our time focused on the event itself, and even have a little breathing room to put more of our pocket money toward raffle items as well.
My best advice is to introduce it gracefully and patiently for those chapters who have been running in a different way for a while. Send them this post, encourage them to get involved however inspiration strikes, and let it have two or three months to figure itself out.
I can’t wait to see what stories, pictures and golden things you learn from it, too!

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