(Written by Cathy Hayward)
As a keen volunteer I was thrilled to be asked to talk about the benefits of volunteering at the Facilities Show this year.
I’ve been deputy chair of the BIFM London Region since 2012, a BIFM Awards judge and I’m now on the CoreNet One Big Day committee. I’ve also been involved with school Parents’ Associations since my teenage son first donned a school blazer, am four years into a stint as a school governor, have run Sunday School classes and am about to join a charity as a trustee.
So why do I give up my time for free?
When I left the busy FM World office in spring 2011 for life as an FM comms consultant, initially working from my kitchen table, feeling I was part of a team was really important. The committee meetings are quite formal affairs with members taking on different roles from treasurer and secretary to chair and deputy chair. The agendas and minutes, matters arising and AOB are all comforting in their sense of order and demonstrate the team effort required to run a region effectively. Things that I find straightforward – writing a report from an event, or the blurb about an event to encourage people to sign up – other people may find more of a challenge. But tasks such as managing the region’s finances, with which I would struggle, come naturally to others. Managing a BIFM region is a real team effort. I’ve also found that the committee have helped me in other aspects of my life – if I need surveys filing in for clients, or an opinion on something, they’re a good network to turn to.
For many of us, our professional roles are quite defined whereas as a committee member, you can find yourself doing everything from negotiating a sponsorship deal, or liaising with a venue about how many bottles of wine and canapés are required for 70 people, to being the main point of contact for an event and dealing with a variety of weird and wonderful queries. I’ve learned loads of new skills which have helped me in my day job.
I’ve also learned a huge amount about other sector’s challenges. It’s only when you’ve been on a state primary school’s finance committee that you truly understand what a tight budget looks like. I’m about to start as a trustee for a local dance charity and I’m sure I’ll learn huge amounts about arts funding. Volunteering broadens your knowledge and horizons.
I’ve already talked about the strong bonds you make with fellow committee members, but as one of the committee, you attend almost all the region’s events, which enables you to build up relationships with regular event attendees who became a key part of your wider network. You also get to know people in BIFM HQ which is helpful if you have an idea for something the institute could do, or a query about something. Being a volunteer is a great opportunity to make new contacts outside the committee; whether it’s just because your name is linked to an event and you’ve been dealing with lots of people over the phone or email, or because you’ve stood up in front of 70 people and introduced an event, your name is out there.
Additionally, there’s the feeling that you’re giving back something to an industry from which we’ve all benefited. By helping to organise a networking event, I’m boosting the reputation of the BIFM, encouraging others to see it as a useful resource and helping BIFM members to learn and to network with one another.
Finally, volunteering allows you to follow passions that you might not be able to be involved in in your professional life. Like many of us I’ve been touched by the refugee crisis. As a result, Magenta is volunteering two days of time a month acting as the PR agent for a charity called Clowns Without Borders which performs in refugee camps to bring laughter into the lives of children affected by crisis.
And most of all, volunteering is great fun!