Building your team’s resilience and wellbeing during a crisis
27th April by Julie Milnes
With a career spanning over 19 years, Fundraising Director Julie Milnes is an accomplished leader of high performance teams through her extensive fundraising experience working at a wide range of charities, including the International Rescue Committee, British Red Cross, Amnesty International, UNICEF UK and the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. From the Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan, the Manchester Terror Attacks to Grenfell Tower Fire Appeal, she has personally raised and enabled the teams she leads to raise millions of pounds for emergency appeals over the last 13 years.
Now a Consultant, Julie is using her expertise to support small and large fundraising teams on how to achieve success during the pandemic, through both emergency and business as usual fundraising.
Julie is currently one of AAW’s highly sought after interim leaders and has just finished a placement as Interim Director of Fundraising at the International Rescue Committee.
Continuing with our theme of ensuring that leaders and teams are supported during the current Covid-19 crisis, Julie shares a few thoughts on how leaders can best support their team’s resilience and wellbeing.
Having fundraised for and led teams through emergency appeals for over 14 years, it feels like one of the conversations that’s missing from the current fundraising sector debate is how we keep up our team’s resilience during a long-term emergency appeal.
Many fundraisers right now will be doing their best work. They will be getting creative, raising huge sums of money and working long hours, propelled by a deep-rooted value to help vulnerable people. This is on top of the personal pressures of lockdown and managing their own mental health. Covid-19 will be 24/7 for some fundraisers – they will be talking about it all day at work and then in the evening at home. It can easily become an overwhelming and all-encompassing situation which creates additional stress. So how do we make sure that as leaders, we can help our teams look back at their Covid-19 fundraising as a career highlight rather than a low-point when they nearly burnt out?
I’ve learnt a lot over the years on how to keep up team morale and resilience during intense appeal periods. I’m sure fundraising leaders are already supporting, thanking and celebrating their teams, however, here are a few additional tips that hopefully will help keep your team’s wellbeing high during these unprecedented times.
Spread the workload around: By the nature of emergency appeals, some of your fundraisers will be busier than others due to the donors they work with. I would bet my bottom dollar that the corporate partnerships experts are some of the busiest fundraisers around right now. Look at your teams and make sure that the workload is balanced; give colleagues a new development opportunity to support outside of their core remit; ensure other colleagues don’t hold onto everything through a mis-judged sense of responsibility.
Step up and help out: We all know we should lead by example and now is your time to show that you’re happy to support and give your team what they need – especially if it is an extra pair of hands. In my time I’ve helped to man the phones and answer the never-ending stream of calls. I’ve even decided during an intense appeal period, to be the sole fundraiser in the office so colleagues could enjoy a pre-planned away day. When I joined them for drinks that evening, it was rewarding to see how much that day’s respite had given them back energy and balance.
Bring your emotional intelligence to every conversation: This is the time when you need to bring your ‘A’ game on spotting verbal clues and body language on how your team are doing. As the weeks working from home roll on, some colleagues are getting less from virtual coffee breaks and zoom catch ups. As a leader, you should be trying to pick up on the language your fundraisers are using and the physical ‘tells’ you can see on-screen to see how they are really feeling. This gives you an opportunity to appropriately open up a wellbeing conversation and provide them with the support they need to cope with the pressures of an appeal.
Look after yourself too: Just as they say during the in-flight announcements; put your own oxygen mask on before you help others. Make sure you are doing everything that helps you manage your own wellbeing. As a fundraising leader, you will be making incredibly difficult and time-pressured decisions– it’s tough leading a team and it’s ok to admit you’re human too! If you don’t have strong resilience and good mental health, then you can’t be the calm, positive, enabling leader your team need of you at this time. Be kind to yourself so you can be the best source of support for others.