Episode 81 • 03/07/2024

Laura Caputo, Executive Director of the RWA on DEI Controversies and Rebuilding Trust

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How do you rebuild trust in an organization? How do you bring back the members who previously felt excluded? How do you help your members navigate the AI landscape?

In this episode of Associations Thrive, host Joanna Pineda interviews Laura Caputo, Executive Director of the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Laura discusses:

  • How romance is the largest fiction genre.
  • How RWA defines romance as a work of fiction with a happily ever after ending, or happy for now.
  • How RWA supports all writers of romance, including those who are working on their first book, the newly-published, even the best-selling authors.
  • Her journey from being a bankruptcy attorney to Chief of Staff of an association, to Executive Director of RWA.
  • How RWA imploded in 2019 amidst allegations of systemic bias against members of color, LGBTQ members, and poly members. The controversy led to the resignation of the President, Executive Director, and, eventually, the entire board.
  • How the membership dropped from 10,000 members to 2,500 members, which led to RWA moving from being self-managed to being managed by an association management company.
  • How Laura, her staff, and her new Board have worked really hard to rebuild trust with the members and instill inclusiveness across the entire association and their chapters.
  • How RWA has been doubling down on member services, including services that help authors get published, the RWA communities, and the RWA conferences.
  • How AI affects the profession in so many ways. For example, some writers are using AI to write their books and for some, this isn’t okay. But AI is also training on authors’ work, allowing random people to “write in the style of Nora Roberts”; should this be allowed and how does this affect an author’s work and reputation?


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About Associations Thrive

Associations Thrive podcast is hosted by Joanna Pineda, CEO & Chief Troublemaker at Matrix Group International. Joanna’s personal mission and the mission of Matrix Group is to help associations and nonprofits increase membership, generate revenue and thrive in the digital space. 

We believe that every association has a unique mission and unique story that demonstrates how they’re serving their members, impacting their industry, and ultimately changing the world. Every guest is an association Chief Executive, Executive Director or President. We’re here to help amplify their stories so all associations can learn and thrive, together.

If you and your organization have a great story,  apply to be on Associations Thrive!