Last year I wrote the following 2020 prediction for a sector article:
‘Remote working has been moving from the exception to fast becoming the norm and in 2020 I predict that we will reach that tipping point in the charity sector.’
But I never foresaw that it would happen so suddenly overnight and how quickly people would have to adapt, and then adapt again, to ever changing circumstances. Working from home normally, often involving work trips and co-working spaces and working from home in a global pandemic are two very different things and need to be treated as such, with reducing isolation and good communication extremely important.
My stance has always been if you trust, support and give your staff flexibility, they will repay that in spades. We talk a lot about income targets but at the heart of fundraising are people and over the last year never have our work and personal lives merged so much, with many of our home lives having changed dramatically, in my case moving in with my boyfriend during lockdown and home schooling his six year old twins. We all know fundraisers who feel supported will perform better for their organisation and I also think treating people as humans and allowing them to bring their whole self to work goes a long way, so I would urge you all to ask yourself and your teams what would improve their wellbeing, understanding that answer will be different in each case and likely will change over time.
I’ve worked and managed a remote digital team for many years but I’ve never actually met the majority of my current team in person. However I firmly believe a remote team is still a team and we’ve worked hard to build up a supportive team culture and also have socials and get to know each other, from ‘Is it a cat breed or a paint colour’ fun quizzes to weekly TV recommendations.
Digital fundraising teams have found themselves under immerse pressure over the last year, as traditional fundraising routes have been shut off at a time charities are needed more than ever. Targets have increased, colleagues have been furloughed increasing workloads and timeframes have been squished. My team, as with many digital teams, are used to working in a fast agile way but everything last year was on warp speed, we completed all planned Q2 pilots in the first two weeks of April, all while launching our first emergency appeal and tripling digital activity, a pace that is impossible to keep up. So it important to take the time to slow down, celebrate successes and be brutal about prioritisation to ensure staff have manageable workloads and don’t burnout and enjoy their roles.
Many digital fundraising teams had record years, with income and acquisitions far higher than previously, giving a welcome financial and morale boost to charities. But digital staff running social media accounts have suffered more abuse than ever online and it is really important to remember the humans behind social media accounts and put in place support plans.
A lot of the usual coping strategies to boost wellbeing aren’t currently available to us and people are missing human interaction, so it is more important than ever to look after yourself and support your remote team. As a directorate we’ve initiated a number of wellbeing initiatives, such as ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ where different members of the fundraising team are matched up each week to share some sunshine and Pawsitively Speaking, our weekly informal newsletter which is a dose of happiness and fun full of recipes, funny stories and pictures, cocktail making, baby photos and activities with kids suggestions. These simple initiatives have done so much for team wellbeing and could easily be replicated. We’ve also introduced workshops with wellbeing expert Claire Warner, with each team and on specific topics such as reducing isolation and improving life balance, greatly helping the fundraising team to feel supported.
My prediction for this year, is that charities will put wellbeing at the heart of their 2021 strategies and plans. I would urge you all to read and use this resource, as fundraisers and leaders can make that prediction come true.