Backchat: diary of a team manager in the voluntary sector

Diary A lighter take on the week. By a team manager at a voluntary sector organisation

Monday I arrive at the office as the postman arrives with a bag that looks light – more bills than donations. We are a small organisation relying on donations and successful applications to trust funds and grant-making bodies. I’ve been in this job for seven months, but the difference between now, and August when I started, is dramatic.

Tuesday In the first few weeks I read voraciously about my role, explored in detail aspects of the organisation, and its place in the network of care providers that include both statutory and other voluntary organisations. But now the honeymoon period is over and, like everyone else here, if I want to read and update my knowledge base or check out changes in legislation, it is done in the evening.

Wednesday With everyone in the office today, we take the opportunity for a team catch-up. We hold proper team meetings every month but the world seems to be in a state of change at the moment and it is badly effecting organisations such as ours. We have had two key posts empty since the summer. No doubt the reduction in the wages bill was useful in these belt-tightening times, but back then it had seemed like a temporary situation. Now it looks as though cuts are inevitable, and yet again the staff who are left will have to try to fill the gap. It doesn’t make for sustainability.

Thursday There is a subdued air in the office today. One of the outreach workers, working from home, has e-mailed in with news of yet another death. That’s 10 in the past three months. It brings it home to me that a vital part of my role is to look after the team members. We all know about professional boundaries, but they could not do the jobs they do if they were the kind of people who are untouched by the pain and distress attached to the death of the babies and children whose families we support. Two e-mails we had from two of our families, saying what a huge difference the outreach workers had made to their lives, reminded us all to hang on in there.

Friday Had a discussion with one of the fundraising team. Short-term funding produces a sense of urgency, especially when good projects create an expectation that a particular service will always be available. It’s frustrating to look at new projects and areas for development, knowing that we could be creative in the way we tackle them – if only we had the money. In the current economic climate this isn’t going to be easy. My weekend reading will include Charles Handy’s Understanding Voluntary Organisations – and the list of special offers at Oddbins.

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