The voluntary sector has grappled with several major crises in the past few years – climate change, the pandemic, refugees fleeing conflict. Menai Owen-Jones, WCVA Trustee, considers how voluntary organisations can respond effectively.
Having now lived through two years of the COVID-19 pandemic we know first-hand that crises can happen, even if they are unlikely, and that they can have a devastating impact.
We are in an era of uncertainty, rapid change, complexity and constant turmoil. There are different types and causes of crises. The commonality is that they can put your organisation at risk. How can voluntary organisations withstand this torrent and ride the waves?
Reflecting on my time as Chief Executive of The Pituitary Foundation during the peak of the pandemic, there were three key factors that I believe enabled the organisation to respond robustly and not only survive, but thrive…
We had a ‘one team’ ethos culture that included everyone – trustees, staff and volunteers. We trusted each other. We could rely on one another which meant that when the pandemic hit, we could respond quickly, colleagues were empowered to take responsibility and make decisions, so we could adapt at pace.
We worked as a team to innovate too, this included transforming some support services to digital platforms and creating a highly successful digital fundraising appeal 500 Faces that raised over £120,000. We were unafraid of testing new things, trying and learning through experience.
A crisis tests the strength of your stakeholder relationships. The Pituitary Foundation’s strength of community shone through the pandemic with members, donors, volunteers and fundraisers expressing their commitment through giving funds, organising virtual fundraising activities and volunteering time to help.
I will always remember people’s considerable generosity during this time and how much they really cared for, and valued, the charity.
Through many years of work by many people, The Pituitary Foundation had built a solid base with a good system of governance, robust finances and solid operations, which included modern work practices eg digital.
This meant we had contingency plans, a fallback to draw upon when the pandemic hit, so we could not only continue delivering our services and operations without interruption, but in fact increase them, which was essential due to the unparalleled demand for our support services.
In summary, I would say to ride the waves of a crisis it takes a combination of factors to make your organisation resilient and agile.
PREPAREDNESS AND LEARNING
Some say that crises like the pandemic are unforeseen, others would argue that many can be pre-empted and mitigated with foresight, risk management and preparedness – I fall into the latter camp.
Although there are many things and external factors, that as voluntary organisation are beyond our control, there are some things that we can influence if we choose. For example, a crisis is a good opportunity to learn, however difficult the circumstances.
I wonder – how many organisations have looked back at the past two years and reflected on what they have learnt? How many have considered what they would do differently and started actioning changes to build resilience for the future?
THE AGE OF CRISIS DISCUSSION SESSION AT GOFOD3
We will be exploring the answers to these questions, and many others, during the Age of Crisis session on Tuesday, 21 June at 2pm during WCVA’s gofod3 digital conference.
I am looking forward to chairing the discussion, during which we will be hearing from sector experts including: Bev Garside, Consultant and Co Director of Charity Job Finder; Henry Barnes, Emergency Response Operations Manager Wales, Red Cross; and Gareth Owen MBE, Humanitarian Director for Save the Children.
The panel will be sharing their insights into how voluntary organisations can be ready to face a crisis and there will be an interactive questions and answers section. I hope that you will join us for this event as we consider how the voluntary sector can not only survive but thrive during ‘the age of crisis’.
FIND OUT MORE
Menai Owen-Jones is a Chartered Director and Vice Chair of Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Twitter handle: @Menai_OJ
gofod3 – Wales’ space for the voluntary sector – is taking place online, 20-24 June 2022.
gofod3 is an event organised by WCVA, in collaboration with the voluntary sector. It is the biggest voluntary sector event of its kind in Wales.
Whether you’re a trustee, staff member, volunteer or all three, gofod3 is designed especially for people involved in Welsh voluntary organisations.
With over 70 different (and FREE to attend!) masterclasses, panel debates and workshops taking place over the course of the week, there’s something for everyone.
To view the full programme and book your places please visit gofod3.cymru.