Written by Caroline Danks, Author at LarkOwl.
Early in May 2010, I remember staying up as late as I possibly could, watching the results of the general election.
Being a morning Lark, I think I made it to about 10:10pm. Nowadays my election watching tactics involve an early night and then setting the alarm for 5am…
Labour had been in power since 1997 and the prospect of them remaining in office was slim. People blamed them for the global financial crisis and for the decisions they took thereafter to rescue our banks and to retain funding for public services.
The next morning, I remember Gordon Brown’s desperate efforts to negotiate with members of smaller parties, before giving up and making room for the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition.
Incidentally, the week prior to that night, I had become pregnant (although I didn’t know it yet).
I had a new life on the way, and a new government which would shape the world into which she would be born.
I couldn’t escape a sense of gloom about my new child’s life chances.
Austerity felt like a low point and showed up in many painful and irreversible ways across society. I saw it in my own community too:
In 2016, Brexit happened.
A global pandemic followed (with different rules for MP’s and the general populous it turned out) and then war in Europe. Oh, and apparently there is ‘no credible path to preventing a global rise in temperature of 1.5 celsius.
We’re also on the cusp of an Autumn Statement which we’re told will include ‘tax rises for all and eye watering cuts’. Austerity mark 2?
My daughter is 11 now and it’s hard not to feel despairing about the state of our country and the wider world.
The slow descent of our political system into chaos and corruption and widening wealth inequalities have had a direct impact on the charitable sector – the place where those most in need come when there is no one else to turn to.
I don’t need to tell you how things have been of late.
Put simply, there is increasing need for the services which charities offer, combined with a reduction in the funding available to pay for them.
It is my personal belief that for the most part, the existence of charities represents a failure of the state (or course there are exceptions). And although many charities treasure their independence (which I totally get), things like:
really should be part of a modern and civilised society, not optional extras.
When there is less to go around and more people to help, it’s difficult not to feel like the work we do as fundraisers is nothing more than a sticking plaster.
And not even a good waterproof sticking plaster with a fun cartoon character on it.
I’m talking one of those useless sticking plasters which peels off at the first sign of a single bead of sweat.
And what happens when the plaster falls off? It just doesn’t bear thinking about…
I think I’m in a bit of a rut – obsessing over the news and feeling more and more like I’m in a minority of people in this country who think that Boris Johnson looks like ‘he’d be a laugh down the pub’ and that David Cameron was a great Prime Minister because ‘looked good in a suit’.
It is not my intention to write a piece which focuses entirely on negativity and I promise not to leave you this way. I’m not convinced I have any answers, but I routinely advise fundraisers that they focus their energies firmly on the things they can’t control (rather than things which sit outside of it) so maybe it’s time I took my own advice.
It’s important to remember that as individuals, we can’t throw all the starfish back into the water.
But those we can throw, will appreciate it. Not only will they appreciate it. They will survive and (with any luck) thrive.
And all the while the system degrades, we will just keep on keeping on, forging partnerships with those who have both the means and the inclination to reject the individualistic / capitalist / growth for growth’s sake and to strive for something fairer.
In the podcast ‘The Rest is Politics’ Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart were asked (a much more eloquent and better-worded version of) the following question:
How do you not despair when everything’s really depressing?
I stopped and really listened carefully to the answer because it was the question I’d been asking myself:
The answer was simple:
‘You have to find hope.’
It’s really simple isn’t it.
You have to find hope.
Alongside the daily joys of seeing small differences made as a direct result of the fundraising I’ve done, I feel determined to see hope and inspiration (and to shift myself away from the sad sticking plaster metaphor I’d got, well stuck on).
My session is a journey from anger to hope. It's a (short) rant about the state of the world followed by some practical advice for continuing a successful fundraising practice, despite the challenges in the world around us.
It’s for tired fundraisers, who still have the spark of a flame inside them and want to do the best they can with what they have.
- Some practical tips for working with trusts and major donors in tough times
- An exercise in identifying what you can control (and what you can't)
- Ideas for wellbeing and not getting caught up in the storm
* This post contains my affiliate link and when you purchase a ticket through my link I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Written by Leesa Harwood, owner of By The Waves Charity Consulting and charity adviser, leadership coach and mentor.
Back in January, I wrote an article about my experience of burnout and how I could see the same signs in those around me.
The energy spike that usually accompanies the beginning of a new year failed to materialise amongst many of my third sector colleagues and I worried about their wellbeing. There was a huge reaction to the article leading to an online session to share experiences and advice.
Since I wrote my article in January, I continue to see symptoms of burnout and stress amongst sector leaders and their teams.
The small things get bigger as you lose the ability to step back and put problems into perspective. Soon, your head is filled with small but noisy problems punching above their weight.
You find yourself snapping at those around you. A short temper and sharp tongue mean that friends, family and colleagues feel the impact of your lack of patience, perspective and rising stress levels.
The more out of control you feel, the more controlling you become. As a leader you begin to interfere and disempower those around you, picking at the detail and wrenching projects away from others in a desperate attempt to regain control.
Physical and mental health diminishes under acute stress. You don’t sleep, and feel tired all the time. You suffer from anxiety and depression. But as a leader you have been taught that resilience is non-negotiable. So, you keep going, deny your vulnerability and wait until you break before you finally stop.
As your performance as a leader starts to suffer, so does your confidence. This inevitably leads to self-doubt, a lack of confidence and an overwhelming sense of insecurity. The more insecure we feel, the more we feed the other symptoms of stress, getting caught in a downward spiral.
At Fundraising Everywhere's Leadership Festival 2022 in the Culture Tent, Madison Gonzales (CEO of Morning Light Inc) brought burnout back into the spotlight. I for one am very grateful.
Leadership burnout is not inevitable. There are things we can all do to protect ourselves and each other from stress. If you or someone you know is experiencing from one or more of these signs of stress, catch up on Madison Gonzales' session as she guides us through ways to prevent burnout.
Madison shares how to make our workplaces happy and healthy places to be, with practical tips and reminders we can all take back into our work environments so we can foster a positive environment for all.
Building a culture where leaders and their teams feel confident, healthy and supported has never been more important. Catch up on Madison's and the other great Leadership Festival sessions On Demand.
A huge thanks to Leesa Harwood, who was Growth Tent Partner at the Charity Leadership Festival 2022. We collaborate with people who care about the future of our sector on our events. Each Tent Partner brings their insights and audience, meaning we can empower and upskill more people. Tent Partners may earn commission from tickets purchased through their links.