When the furlough scheme was announced it was viewed as a lifeline for charities, many of whom would simply not exist today if it wasn’t for those difficult decisions being made back in March.
But what was the impact on fundraisers up and down the country who suddenly were furloughed? For me, the initial feelings reminded me of the five stages of grief. I was angry, I felt cast aside, useless to the organisation I had given the last 14 years of my working life too, saddened that I was not able to help at a time when I felt it was needed most. Quickly enough I moved on, to acceptance, knowing it was the best thing for the charity, which is after all, what was the most important thing, right? But for me, like many fundraisers, a people-pleaser, suddenly there were no people, no pleasing to be done. I felt lost, unfocused and, I don’t mind saying, very much alone.
Finding the Furloughed Fundraisers chat group on Facebook was amazing. To find what was, at the time, a small community of people who were in the same boat, trying to navigate the same storm, meant I could turn a corner and find some direction amidst the fog of furlough.
I watched as the group grew in the first couple of weeks, taking solace from those brave enough to comment about how difficult they found it being on the outside of their organisations, and inspiration from those who, straight out of the starting block, were looking for ways to keep busy and help the sector through volunteering for other charities.
I wanted to get involved, to be part of the society that was forming through the group, and in a lightbulb moment I realised I had a skill might just be of interest to some, so I reached out to the founders Nikki Wrench and Claire James and offered my time, to host a Makaton workshop online. The response was great and the success of the sessions led to a request to become a moderator. Looking back this was a pivotal moment in my furloughed life, the start of my journey in supporting the group and feeling a real sense of achievement every day.
Over the last five months, the group has grown to 1,900 members, an army of exceptionally talented and passionate fundraisers, who rally round each other with support and suggestions whenever a post is made. The moderator team, along which some fantastic support from the wider third sector community, have responded to the chat of the group, producing content and online live sessions from supporting mental health to inspirational words from sector leaders. To date 30 Zoom sessions have taken place, supported by companies like Remarkable Partnerships and featuring fundraising legends like Ken Burnett. This is a great opportunity to thank everyone who has passionately supported the group by hosting or speaking on a session, so many knowledgeable people, giving their time and energy.
As the months have gone on, alongside a large number of the group, Nikki, Claire and myself all faced the uncertainty of redundancy, consultation, application, interview and new roles. We got through this together, and we are working hard to help other members on their personal journeys too.
One member says “FFC has really supported me when I was made redundant in July. Being able to share my feelings with like-minded people has been a real game-changer for me and motivated me through the difficult times. The training courses/meetings have been really useful and so relevant for the members of the group. Having this group and sharing thoughts and ideas has been important for all members and thank you to Louise, Nikki and Claire for keeping us motivated”
Next steps for the group
So what now for the group? As some members return to their previous roles, some to adapted ones, many now find themselves unexpectedly and nervously in the job market, but as furlough ends, the group will remain, As Ken Burnett said: “It’s a piece of fundraising history”. So as long as the members stay, then we will keep working with and the sector to create supportive and useful content.
If you think you can help the group, as an inspirational speaker or a skills sharer, please do get in touch, you will find us at Furloughed Fundraisers Chat on Facebook.
Louise Bingham is Corporate Partnerships Manager at The Felix Project but is writing in a personal capacity.
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