From Team Member to Team Leader (and what to do if no one’s in your team)
Suzanne Treharne looks back on her transition from team member to a team leader ...
This time last year I had a lovely job in a lovely theatre working in a lovely team. There were Wednesday cakes, Thursday profiteroles and Friday Prosecco (though not on work expenses I should point out). There was also a lot of hard work – anyone that is fundraising in the arts at the moment knows the challenges faced and for those who don’t, trust me… there are challenges.
Everything was good – I knew what I was doing and I feel I was doing it pretty well.
But one morning, I thought ‘I just don’t have enough stress in my life’. So I applied for a ‘Head of’ job at Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services. There were obviously other reasons I applied like believing in the charity’s work but I’m also a bit of a glutton for punishment when it comes to stress.
So there I was in September with a ridiculously long job title and an even longer to-do list, starting with sorting out what on earth fundraising meant for LCVS. As an organisation, it’s a bit of a funny beast as we support smaller local charities through funding, training and finance/ admin provision as well as being a charity that increasingly needs financial support itself thanks to the usual mix of decreased government funding and increased pressure on our services. We constantly need to negotiate how we can avoid competing against the charities we exist to support whilst, let’s be honest, in some cases competing for funding. Although not competing in its truest form because our funding allows us to bring small charities together in order to deliver city-wide programmes, thereby supporting smaller charities (perhaps I should just send you our Case for Support?).
I had visions of spending my first few months getting to know LCVS and crafting a comprehensive strategy that would provide the framework for sustainable fundraising in the organisation (pause for laughter). This obviously didn’t happen. It wasn’t long before the day job of a fundraiser kicked in. I should probably point out at this stage that, like many charities, my fundraising team consists of me, which I guess does at least mean my team meetings are short.
So instead of capitalising on my newbie status to provide a detached and rational overview of the organisation and how fundraising would help address the challenges it and Liverpool communities face I was thrown headlong into doing the actual work (I know shocking, isn’t there an intern or someone who can do that?).
To cut a long story (and blog) short, the last ten months have been busy and have included many challenges such as increasing the profile of LCVS within the wider community, launching a new early literacy programme and, right this very moment, helping deliver a pretty hefty philanthropy partnership with the International Festival of Business including developing and launching a new youth engagement programme. I’ve also managed to cobble together a fundraising strategy which incorporates all this and more into some sort of plan for the next few years.
Of course, I haven’t done all this on my own because as it turns out I do have a team, they just don’t always know it and I don’t have to sign off their timesheets or do their appraisals. And that’s my point really; just because you’re responsible for something doesn’t mean you have to do it on your own. Be realistic, with yourself and others, about what you can do and what you’ll need help with.
If you need to delegate, manage upwards or stamp your feet in a meeting and shout “I will absolutely not be doing that”* to achieve what your organisation needs then do it. And if all else fails remember the words of my favourite animated fish and ‘just keep swimming’, it will be the weekend soon.
*I’m NOT advising you do this literally
Suzanne Treharne, Head of Individual and Corporate Engagement and Giving, Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services