'Empowering community fundraising volunteers maximises their potential to do more'
Ahead of her session at the IoF Volunteer and Community Fundraising Conference, Charlotte Fielder, Head of Volunteering at Battersea, talks about the successful stewardship of volunteer fundraisers and why fundraising is everyone’s business.
In November 2018, the Battersea Community Volunteer Fundraising Group, otherwise known as the Bow Wow Wags, organised their first ever Gala Ball. It was called the Woofmas Ball and it was ‘woofing brilliant’ – raising over £9,000.
The project was an ambitious one, as none of the group had ever organised a Ball before. Making the event a success took vision, planning, closer working and excellent stewardship.
At Battersea, we found that the stewardship of community fundraising groups and the volunteer journey are two sides of the same coin. Janet Brewer, a gifted Regional Community Fundraiser, and I realised that by working together we could achieve more because fundraising is everyone’s business.
Janet already had the newly established community fundraising group the Bow Wow Wags and she wanted the group to evolve into something bigger and be able to operate independently across a range of fundraising activities.
We both knew that by empowering community fundraising volunteers we could maximise their potential to do more for the cause. Although, we didn’t quite say it like that. I think we said something like: “Hey, its’s a good idea to let Bow Wow Wags work out what they would like to do, check that it’ll make money for Battersea and double check to make sure they’re getting something out of it too.”
Janet’s stewardship of the Bow Wow Wags was not about providing ideas or writing their income generation plans, it was about letting them take responsibility for the planning and delivery of events that fitted in with the brand. It may have seemed like a hands off approach, but she is always there to support, steer, coach, advise and motivate.
I am the kind of Head of Volunteering who wants to see volunteers enjoy a quality volunteering experiences and remain with Battersea, so for me this is the perfect model.
The volunteer journey
Personally, I’m all about the volunteer journey. I have the opportunity to step back and look at this journey, and I see patterns emerge and repeat. I know that new community fundraising volunteers can be full of energy and unbridled enthusiasm for the cause, but as with many things in life that early passion can wane and it’s my job to create and maintain a volunteer programme which ensures that if the heat of the fire reduces then a deeper sense of connection burns on. I don’t want bonfires – I want campfires and I’m looking out for all those campfires along the way.
It’s not the job of those in the Volunteer Department to manage volunteers – it’s our job to recruit, induct and to ensure they have a quality volunteering experience, so they’ll stay with Battersea for longer. This journey is at the heart of what I do.
Recently I went to the launch of the NCVO Time Well Spent volunteer research and I felt like I was playing Bow Wow Wags bingo when up popped a slide about how their research had identified the key features of a quality volunteer experience.
Extracted from NCVO research Time Well Spent – summary report
The features discussed in the research are also at the heart of stewardship in community fundraising and I’ve seen it in action in the planning and delivery of the Woofmas Ball.
Janet ensured the features of a quality volunteer experience were embedded into this delivery by addressing these features. Below I have outlined how she did this:
- Recruited volunteers into the group with a range of lived and work experiences and from all walks of life so it was inclusive.
- Took into account that many of the group had full time jobs so she arranged meetings at times when it suited the group so she was flexible.
- Talked about what the income would buy and the difference it would make to rehoming dogs and cats so that the Bow Wow Wags knew their activities were impactful and they make the difference they seek.
- Invited the Bow Wow Wags to the volunteer parties and ensured they were invited to workshops and other activities so that felt connected.
- Made clear that they were empowered to make decisions and plan the event but Battersea staff would support the event in terms of promotion, and some staff offered to help on the night so it was balanced.
- Celebrated their successes and checked in with them to make sure that they were having fun so that their volunteering was enjoyable.
- Made it clear that although they had committed to delivering the Ball, if any unexpected or other life events happened they could step back so that their volunteering was voluntary.
- Gave them feedback on what they were doing and checked in to make sure that their efforts were fulfilling so that it was meaningful.
The event was such a success that the Bow Wow Wags have decided to hold another Ball. The Bow Wow Wags are up for the challenge and Janet will do what she does so well. And I will be in the background incorporating the key features of the volunteer experience into the volunteer journey for this year’s Woofmas Ball.
Battersea's Charlotte Fielder and Janet Brewer will be speaking at the IoF Volunteer and Community Conference on stewardship and training of the Bow Wow Wags. They will discuss how the group embarked on their journey, from achieving internal buy-in to staging the Woofwas Ball, right through to the event itself and income raised. The conference is taking place on Monday 25 February 2019. Read the programme or make a booking here.
Charlotte Fielder is Head of Volunteering and Fostering at Battersea.