Friends of Lulu Future Uncertain as President Resigns Publicly

Friends of Lulu logo

Following up on yesterday’s news that voting was open for the Friends of Lulu Awards, the current organization President, Valerie D’Orazio, has announced on her blog (link no longer available) that she’s leaving the group at the end of the year.

This is not much of a surprise — her fatigue has been obvious since the end of July, when she first began talking publicly about her tenure as the group’s leader over the past three years and the problems the group has struggled with. (They include, from my perspective, disappearing for much of that time, closing memberships, unprofessional behavior addressing the press, and of course, the tax problems with the government I’ve reported on.) Her attempts to direct people instead to her own comic promotional organization, titled Comics Are For Everyone, are similarly unsurprising, given that she was running official Friends of Lulu postings there for a while. (A tactic I found tasteless — if you have an official site for the group that hasn’t been updated since November 2009, you should run material there, not on your personal blog or on a site where you hope to draw more attention and hits.)

Her new group will also be running awards, which was the Friends of Lulu element most people wanted to retain. The only statement about the future of FoL was this:

I urge those [former members] to take up the cause of Friends of Lulu and restore it to whatever version of it was working for them. I am happy to assist those persons in the transition, and they will be personally contacted by me and given a chance to take up the cause before I leave.

Strangely, no mention was made of the new Board members that volunteered to assist her get the group righted. I have emailed one of them some questions about who will be taking over as President, whether they’ll be holding elections, how they plan to address the loss of their tax-exempt status, and the group’s goals for the future. I will report back if/when I receive a response.

Now for the personal commentary: Managing volunteers for a well-meaning group like Friends of Lulu is always difficult. It takes a lot of time and energy, and many who are willing to make those commitments understandably want to feel they’re being rewarded sufficiently. That reward may come in different forms for different people: attention, networking, or simply the feeling that you’re doing the right thing or working for an important cause. However, the risk is that people (and I’m not talking here about the current situation, but things I’d observed back in the 90s, when I was an active member of the organization) may put their own needs above those of the group, perhaps using the connections they make or the name of the group for their own attempted self-advancement. It takes a firm leadership to prevent such things and keep the group focused, and so long as the position is uncompensated, that leadership isn’t insulated from the same risk.

I think Friends of Lulu still has a role to play in advancing the cause of women in comics. Perhaps, if the group survives, it will achieve new clarity and strength in promoting those goals (and not be so hamstrung, as earlier incarnations were, by not wanting to tick off those companies and people who deserve to be called out). However, I’m not optimistic. The group’s ability to agitate for change has been diminished through this last leader’s tenure and the corresponding loss of visibility, and simply recouping the lost ground, let alone forging a new future, may be too much for a loose volunteer coalition. It depends on finding the right leadership, and so the first thing (I think) is for the group to clarify that question going forward.


  • Joshua

    I still don’t see why anybody would want to shoulder the task of cleaning out those particular stables. At this point anybody with a burning desire to take up FoL’s mission would get a lot more done with the same effort by launching a new group that doesn’t have to wrestle with, for instance, somehow putting together the missing tax filings.

  • As the leader of a small group that has faced all sorts of setbacks (and triumphs) over the years, I can say that I agree 100% with you comments about time, energy, leadership and focus. One of the best organizations I ever saw has a 3-year rule. No one could keep a position for more than 3 years. Once your 3 years was up, you could (and were encouraged to) move to a lower position in the organization, to use your expertise to guide the new folks and keep the org runnning strong. That group was also blessed with a sufficient budget at the time, which meant that they didn’t have that pressure over them. But the rule meant that their ranks swelled with people who loved the org and knew what it was like and top and bottom. It was a beautiful thing.

    It was also the only organization I’ve ever seen that maintained that.

    I know you know, Johanna, how much like herding ferrets running an org is.
    :-) These things go they way they go, usually.

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