UW Gives: From Star Trek to CFD
I interviewed Phillip Buff, who works at the front desk of Environmental Health and Occupational Sciences. As part of the Combined Fund Drive, Phillip devotes much of his time to non-profit organizations, particularly Norwescon. Interviewing Phillip was wonderful; he gave me great insight on what Combined Fund Drive does and how YOU can get involved.
What is Norwescon and how did you get involved?
I started in a Star Trek group that was looking for a way to give back to the community, so we signed up for to help at Norwescon.
Norwescon is a science fiction fantasy convention that takes place every spring near SeaTac. It’s the largest convention of its kind in the northwest, and has a strong emphasis on literature. The convention is considered a fandom con, meaning it is hosted by the fans, for the fans. Four guests of honor appear at every convention – a writer, artist, sci-fi fantasy publisher, and member of the science community. There is sometimes another guest of honor, whose area of expertise varies. Next year, Julie Dillon and Amy Mainzer will be amongst the guests of honor.
As an addition to the convention, educational panels and social activities regarding topics on science, sci-fi, and fantasy are held. Those that sit on these panels are highly-qualified individuals who are very knowledgeable and passionate about their subject. Norwescon also hosts music, concerts, dances, and several competitions – including best costume – during the convention.
Beginning in the coat room, I have volunteered with Norwescon for six years. However, it wasn’t until one year ago – when they were granted non-profit status – that I began working on the charity side of the convention.
How does Norwescon utilize their non-profit status?
Norwescon is 100% volunteer run. We don’t keep any of the profits. Often, we spend our own money to help to put events on because it’s a labor of love. For the last several years, Norwescon has also helped with Northwest Harvest, which often hosts an art and charity auction. Artists of Norwescon donate their own beautiful, hand-crafted art each year in support of NW Harvest and its cause.
Norwescon also funds a scholarship to Clarion West, a writer workshop. Recipients get to attend a six-week workshop where they eat, sleep, and breathe writing to develop their skills. In the past, we’ve also funded a small tuition scholarship to the Northwest College of Art and Design. Although it is a fandom, we are part of a whole community.
Are you involved in any other non-profits?
Yes, I have worked with Seattle Parks. My husband and I worked on local parks and volunteered our time to clean them up. I have also volunteered at food banks.
USS Aurora, the Star Trek group that got me involved with Norwescon, also focuses on charity work. It’s a much smaller group, about 20 people, and we support smaller charities with blanket or food drives at work. For Union Gospel Mission, we participated in their sock drive. I sent out an email to my whole department to gather socks and my department alone gathered 182 pairs.
Overall, Norwescon is the one established charity I support on a regular basis outside of the CFD at work.
What advice can you give to other University of Washington faculty and staff that are looking to donate or volunteer?
No matter what your walk of life, you can give back in some way. With the UWCFD, you can pick what groups you donate to and it is okay if you aren’t sure. Donating to any group will have a positive impact However, if there are groups that are near and dear to your heart, we can see that they get the money. And if those groups aren’t part of the CFD, we will approach them to join. Whatever cause you feel needs help, I can help you find a group that supports it. Over the last few years, UW has raised over $2 million for charities, and that is an amazing thing to be a part of. If you can’t donate, there are ways to volunteer and give back with your time. For me, that’s Norwescon. For you, that could be libraries, schools, or parks. And you feel so good when you are helping—it makes you feel like you’re a part of something. The UWCFD can help find a group that is meaningful to you; because the most rewarding kind of giving is when it is something that appeals to you.
Learn more about the UW Combined Fund Drive and join your colleagues in contributing to your favorite non-profit before November 28. To support Norwescon, use charity code 1480878.