Fundraising wellbeing: Poor wellbeing can stifle development and innovation

09 March 2021
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A bridge

Matt Radford, Donor Experience Manager at Mind, looks in this blog at the importance and role of leaders for staff wellbeing, and says that when people’s wellbeing isn’t great, they can be less receptive to new or different ways of doing things which can stifle development and innovation.

We all have mental health – it exists on a spectrum and we move up and down it from good to poor for any number of reasons so wellbeing is something we deal with whether we’re doing repetitive admin 5 days a week, or are being dropped into the middle of a marathon or warzone.  Wherever we are or whatever we do, looking after ourselves has always had its challenges and ones which organisations are more and more realising the benefit of looking at more closely and then taking steps to support the mental health of their staff.

When looking at programmes and what we are proud of achieving, I can see lots of areas where people do new and shiny and fantastically shiny new things which are truly amazing. Either in terms of delivering work, or getting people involved in supporting our organisation’s work.

And these new shiny things tend to be couched under ‘innovation’ and heralded as the future of fundraising and opportunity. I don’t disagree with this by any stretch, but this really strikes home for me the importance of wellbeing and how innovation and wellbeing are inextricably linked so we lead our programmes into the future in ways which mean they’re, essentially, safe and reliable. But more so, doing the best to support those we’re trying to help.

One thing I am reminded of is a philosophy joke/problem about an old bridge (I’m comfortable being a geek):


The more times you cross the bridge the safer it feels.

The more times you cross the bridge, the weaker it becomes.


This basically sums up where innovation sits for me in terms of how we are as humans.  Doing the same stuff (crossing the bridge) doesn’t always lead to the reliable outcomes we really want (being safe).

How does this relate to wellbeing?

When people’s wellbeing isn’t great, people can be less receptive to new or different ways of doing things, more anxious and more likely to want to rely on doing things the way they feel is safest and most reliable. i.e. just carrying on.

This can stifle development and innovation. Or is basically just a headache when you want to do anything which involves change. The odd thing for me is; putting in more work to foster wellbeing often sees us end up doing things in ways which (counterintuitively) result in less overall work. And arguably, give greater return on investment.

The challenge for managers? Having a ‘wellbeing approach’ that sits above, below and beside everything, and not just when there’s “time” for it. Time should be made for it. (just GDPR’s ‘privacy first’ mantra)

At Mind, we start with people first, then projects. And what I can say is that in practice this basically means we get things done better, faster and easier.

As with any work, an important element is recognising how we perform as people and how we work best. I know I’ll make sure I reserve significant solid portions of time to look at reports because doing them piecemeal really doesn’t work for me. And if I’ve (inadvertently) had my head stuck in excel for 4 hours straight, I’ll make sure to look at something which doesn’t involve gridlines to help refresh my brain.

These are two things some people may relate to, so this gives some decent food for thought if we apply it to workplace wellbeing as there are such links between how work is managed and the wellbeing of staff as a result. If you challenge yourself to think like this, you might get a better idea of how you work best.

Let’s assume you go do the work. Emotional intelligence and thinking emotionally might be involved, and that is characteristically different to a lot of other ways of thinking. And that can be hard (Or easy). Even if you just rely on processes, let’s just say the thing you just did was hard. And tiring. So now what?

You just did a difficult thing. Something that can involves emotions. And thinking. And lots of work. It probably makes sense to manage that, for our own sakes (let alone everyone else’s). After all, we’re putting all this effort in for our team because we care about how they feel, so it probably makes sense to care about our own wellbeing as well.

Taking time out. Talking to someone. Running. Or having a really solid plan in place which gives you confidence and reassurance. There are simple approaches that can support your wellbeing at work. Have you asked your HR teams what support staff have? Is there an employee assistance programme? Do you know? If not, what’s the harm in asking. Even if it’s just for your own staff.

Whatever it is, the act of ‘managing yourself’, both during and after an activity is a thing that’s probably worth investing in and looking at.

I work at Mind, and when COVID-19 hit we did two things in our work in fundraising. We did everything we could to raise funds to support those we knew this emergency was going to directly affect (and affect badly). And we looked after ourselves so that we knew we’d be in a good place to still be fighting hard to support these very same people.

Irrespective of whether people believe themselves to be leaders or not, doing these things can mean we become advocates for showing the importance, or highlighting the benefits of supporting our own wellbeing.

Organisations have duties of care, so it’s important to justify what we do as ‘physically and actively part of our work’ and this not simply being a soft skill in our repertoires.

I’m proud to say my team at Mind is everything I could have hoped. We lead by example, champion it in our workplace and take the time and care to look after our own and each other’s wellbeing. As people this is the human thing to do. As fundraisers, this is the best way to ensure we do all we can to get support everyone now and in the future who is in dire need.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we have all had to adjust to very large and sudden changes to the way we work. We’re bound to feel a whole range of difficult emotions whenever restrictions and lockdowns are implemented or relaxed. Whatever you're going through, Mind is here to help, through our website, Infoline and local Minds across England and Wales.

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Matt Radford
Matt Radford
Donor Experience Manager at Mind
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