Giving the Gift of Time - Why I chose to volunteer at Thames Hospice
Having spoken to a national and local charity to understand how I could help them, I have chosen to volunteer at the smaller charity, here at Thames Hospice. I feel I will be able to make more of a difference here, both for them and for myself as I will be able to get involved across a much broader area.
Thames Hospice runs a group of charity shops to help fund the work that they do. They, like many charity shops, are struggling to attract and retain enough retail volunteers. Both paid staff and volunteer turnover is increasing, putting more pressure on the remaining staff and volunteer roles and a real strain on their viability. My role is leading a project to establish a sustainable retail volunteer program for them.
What did I do to prepare?
I spoke to 30 or so people in the run up to this secondment. I was so keen to hit the ground running and learn from the experience of others that I put myself under a lot of pressure to glean as much as possible from lots of people, as well as doing my day job. As my husband said to me: 'You've probably done more preparing than anyone has in the history of preparing for a charity secondment'.
And has it been worth it? Will it help me to deliver a 'better' secondment? Well, what have I learnt?...
Firstly, more than anything, I have been so amazed by the generosity of people. With their time - not only to meet me in the first place, but beyond that, their offers of further help, or contacts I can get in touch with. I also had a donation for the Hospice presented to me as part of my leaving gift.
I now have a much clearer view of the approach I will take on during my secondment. A blank piece of paper for six months can feel a little daunting. And I am so keen to land something whilst I am here rather than leave the Hospice with a piece of paper with what 'good looks like' written on it. To this end, I will break the project down into two stages. The first two months, have been spent scoping and coming up with recommendations and I am now starting to deliver the changes.
I had so much great advice; from 'keep it simple' to 'focus on what you can control' to 'be clear on your goal, but be flexible on how you get there'. I know I will keep drawing on this advice and more throughout my secondment and also whilst writing these blog posts.
Finally, I have spent time distilling the advice I've been given and summarising a few key things, which I can keep referring
An approval approach and work plan
A stakeholder management approach
Aims - for me, for the charity, for charities more broadly...?
Capturing successes - to remind myself of what I have achieved, not what I still want to
A list of things to consider when starting a new secondment
Secondment preparation checklist
So, despite putting myself under a lot of pressure to prepare all of this as well as do the day job, would I do the same again?
Not only did these conversations and learnings put me in a position where I could really hit the ground running, they have also gave me a glimmer of what I will be spending 100% of my time on at Thames Hospice.
You can read more from Marianne over the coming months, or via her website here. Why not follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ while you're at it?