‘After falling down a snake, it only takes one ladder to rise you back up’

Snakes and Ladders Credit: Jacqui Brown

Guest Bloggers | 4 June 2020

James Davis, who is a volunteer for the IoF North West Committee, explains how this period of uncertainty has been particularly difficult as a fundraiser working on a contract, but how despite having to take a break from his fundraising career he has been able to stay connected to the sector through volunteering.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the board game we all played as children: ‘Snakes and Ladders’. Going through ups and downs is an accepted part of any career – and in fact, life – but right now down is up, up is down and there seems to be more snakes than ladders.

As a sector we often utilise contract roles, whether temporary or maternity, to help fundraisers develop their skills, explore new areas and grow in their career. So far, so very good and I was in just such a role managing fundraising events for St Ann’s Hospice on a maternity contract. There was my ladder – a chance to develop my specialist event skills in a new area of the country.

I didn’t see the snake coming at the end of my contract in the form of coronavirus. None of us did and it has turned our world upside down. Charities have fought so hard to survive when faced with economic and social turmoil because we know we must, and so will be there for all those we help. But for the first time since I entered the charity sector I’ll have to sit on the side-lines away from the arena, being forced to go back temporarily to a shop floor job in a DIY store I last did 11 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good job and my new team are all superstars – it’s just not the career turn that I was hoping for or even remotely expecting.

The daily excitement and satisfaction of knowing that I am raising funds to make a difference to all those living with a life-limiting illness. Gone.

The daily meetings with the team where we planned out how we were going to meet the biggest fundraising challenge of our careers. Gone.

My biggest fear was losing that feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself – a local, regional and national community of fundraisers. Would that go too? Would I perhaps slip unceremoniously and quietly out of the charity sector, never to return?

Staying connected

I resolved to do everything I could to stay in touch with the sector and not let that happen. The fabulous and fun IoF North West committee team that I am part of asked me to stay on ‘during my short break’ from the sector. I keep in touch on WhatsApp and email and try to join our virtual networking sessions when I can to see the wonderful stories from the fundraising community. I keep an eye on charity job websites and with our sector’s wonderful recruiters and see roles start to slowly reappear. I know that although my day to day relationship with fundraising has changed dramatically, my desire to live and breathe the sector and make a difference in my career hasn’t changed and never will change.

Learning to accept what I can’t change has always been hard. Coronavirus has changed everything and my heart breaks when I think of the lives lost and the lives changed irrevocably because of it. My career next to that can feel rather small, so what I have realised is that what I can change is how I feel about it. And right now, despite all that’s happened, I feel pretty positive. I know I’ll be back in charity soon enough. I know the charity sector will be back at full strength soon enough. I know that everyone who has had to leave a dream role or dream charity will be back soon enough and believe me – you are not alone and things will look up.

You see that is the thing about snakes and ladders. After falling down a snake, it only takes one ladder to rise you back up. James Davis

James Davis is a Network Event Organiser for the IoF North West Committee

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