[How I Work] Making space for supporters, wherever they are
Long before she became the Music & Events Coordinator for To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a forward-thinking mental health advocacy organization for young people, Elizabeth Wilder was a fan: “I’ve been a supporter since middle school,” she told us from their Melbourne, Florida headquarters. Now, her job is creating in-person opportunities to connect with other supporters, and cultivate new fans, in dozens of locations across the country.
My role, the short version: I coordinate our events, and our presence at events put on by others, nationwide.
My role, the long version: It involves a lot of planning behind the scenes, but also face-to-face outreach: traveling to events across the country to meet supporters where they are. I help set up music festivals, conferences, college visits, and other spaces where we can connect with people. Personally, I’m involved with 40 events every year – including the Vans Warped Tour, a summer music festival that stops in 35 cities. I’m at every one.
How I got here: I interned here two years ago, which included working a few events. They invited me back in the fall, and then asked me to be a part of their team. I was a preschool teacher before this job, which has been my first foray into the nonprofit world. Chance had a lot to do with it: I was in the right place at the right time.
What the job requires: TWLOHA is looking for passion for the organization, and determination to go outside the box and try new things, keeping a eye on trends. In terms of travel and outreach, you need to be outgoing, personable, and comfortable in the role of first-line communicator.
My favorite challenge: Being on Warped Tour is challenging, but fun. We’re there for all 50 days: We travel by bus with a band, set up our tent in every city, and tell people about what we do. Being on the road is exhausting, which means finding a balance between self-care and caring for others – that is, being a spokesperson people can relate to. It’s basically summer camp for musicians and nonprofits: Working through the season together, learning and making friends, working hard and playing hard.
What I’m working on right now: I’m preparing for our annual Run For It 5k, which is both a local and a virtual event. I’m doing most of the local logistics, including what the day’s going to look like for everyone, but also the virtual aspect, which connects supporters with the event even if they can’t get here. Those “virtual” participants plan their own route and include their own people, which adds about 2,000 participants each year to the crowd of 800 here in Florida.
My professional goal for the year: To reach more high school students. A lot of the struggle lies in reaching teens, so we want to create a program we can implement everywhere. We have a program that’s now in every high school in our county, but we want to create a curriculum that can be used by teachers, administrators, and counselors anywhere to start the conversation about mental health.
My job-hunting advice: Don’t be intimidated by people who might have more experience in the field. If you bring your all to the table, people recognize that – and we’re entering a day and age where that’s only becoming more true. Going into this role, a lot of people were surprised to learn I don’t have a college degree, but they gave me a shot because I was willing to put in the work and time to make our events as unique as I could.
To Write Love on Her Arms is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly in treatment and recovery. To learn more, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.