Last year, at the age of 30, I found myself having a ‘career crisis’ (or at least that’s what I called it). Having trained to become a child protection social worker in 2012, a field that I had been exceptionally passionate about, the reality of the statutory profession post qualification for me was one of bureaucracy, government funding cuts, heartache, and impossibility. After a great deal of soul searching, I made the difficult decision to leave. I began working part time for a social work charity and volunteered the rest of my time to the cancer charity ‘Something To Look Forward To’.
‘Something To Look Forward To’ is a social action charity which improves the lives of people and families affected by cancer and cancer poverty in the UK. We help those in need by passing on free ‘gifts’ and ‘experiences’ such as restaurant meals, hotel stays and spa breaks. All our ‘gifts’ are generously donated by individuals and businesses and give people opportunities to relax, recuperate and create positive memories together when they need them most.
My initial role as a volunteer for this charity was as a ‘gift finder’. This meant I spent a lot of time on the telephone, sending emails, setting up meetings and building relationships with potential ‘gift donors’. At first, this seemed a daunting task; I had no experience in sales or marketing! However, I soon learnt that my skills in relationship building and negotiation were ones that I had developed in social work and I was now transferring to this role. I began to feel the ‘buzz’ whenever I successfully sourced a ‘gift’, knowing that the family photoshoot, flight in an aeroplane or zoo experience for a young carer was going to give somebody in need ‘something to look forward to’.
This work, very quickly became my passion and my role as a volunteer expanded to gathering testimonials from service users, managing social media, writing charitable trust funding applications, organising sponsored events, building and managing corporate relationships and taking on my own fundraising challenge (the Kingston Half Marathon in 2016). I learnt a great deal working alongside one of our Founding Directors, Fiona Medley including knowledge of the charity sector, trust fundraising and how to run an organisation. One of the biggest learning curves (and one I am still practising) is to not take refusals personally; they happen a lot in the charity sector and you need to keep pushing on to succeed.
And ‘push on’ I did. After approximately 6 months of volunteering part time, I became the full-time Fundraising Manager for ‘Something To Look Forward To’ which has been one of the best things to happen to me in my career. I now work within an organisation with a strong social action ethos and I can influence social change for people and families affected by cancer and cancer poverty.
My experience has taught me that volunteering is a powerful tool. It can open doors; enabling you to try something new, transfer your skills and confirm your desires.
If you are or know somebody who is affected by cancer, would like to fundraise, volunteer or donate a ‘gift’ to ‘Something To Look Forward To’ please visit www.somethingtolookforwardto.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Something To Look Forward To