Giving the Gift of Time - Adjusting to the charity sector
So how did I feel after my first week at Thames Hospice?
Different. Not an entirely helpful statement, but this was the first thing I said to my husband when he asked. It’s hard to put into words. It's different because of the sad things that happen here, different because it’s a much smaller company and different because I’m not surrounded by the team of people I’m used to; as a project lead I am working much more independently.
Unsettled. Which is ironic having spent such a long time wanting to do this. How many of these feelings would I be feeling in any new job, not simply because of what this new
Reflective. What have I achieved so far? If I was to do 25 more weeks at this level, would it be enough? I met the Directors, contacted the Trustees and started working closely with the Head of Volunteering. I also started breaking down the problem, and understanding how this fits with the charity’s overall direction and ambitions. I then set up calls to previous volunteers to understand why they left, as well as contacting area and shop managers to arrange visits to meet staff and volunteers.
Not surprised. One of the bits of advice I received in the run-up to this secondment was a reminder of the Transition Curve. This can be used to help you understand the personal transition that you go through in times of change. From starting out all full of excitement and eagerness (a), to then the reality of it and what you are aiming to achieve (b), through to coming out the other side and moving forwards (c). The aim being to minimise the length and depth of (b) and move onto (c) as soon as possible.
Ambitious. Already I was thinking how I could make it bigger than just this hospice? I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but wouldn’t it be great if others could also benefit from this? After all, volunteer recruitment and retention is a challenge many charities face, and not many of them have the benefit of dedicated resource to look at it and do something about it.
On top of things. Another key bit of advice I had, which really helped me is to be outcomes focused, to avoid becoming a busy fool. This means keeping focused on what is going to be different as a result of each week/conversation and breaking the overall objective into smaller chunks. With this in mind, my aim for the first couple of weeks was to:
Build relationships and get to know people
Come up with a hypotheses. Here, to firm up the question to be answered and likely priority issues with key stakeholders, and then refine these over the first two months. This means I can focus my attention on the areas most likely to make a difference, rather than try to cover all things equally, and risk not getting to an answer/landing something by the end of the project.
Looking ahead, I should always remember to:
Go into it with the same level of energy I started with
Keep being social - and make the effort to get to
Focus on what I can do and why I am here
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