We are proud of our positive culture here at Purity: a culture where we work to ensure everyone feels fully supported and able to come to anyone, from their line managers to me, if they have any worries or concerns that they want to talk about. However, it’s vital that we never become complacent when it comes to our employee’s mental health and wellbeing, so we have decided to put something together which is more explicit and more visible. The whole team can see both our commitment to their mental health and wellbeing, as well as knowing how to access support if and when it’s required. We are now formulating an official Purity mental health programme; ‘Time to Talk’. This will not only offer the support internally, but also signpost employees to external resources for further support. This is something that will be highly visible within the offices and open to all employees on a completely confidential basis.
Our fundraisers are amazing, and so resilient bearing in mind their job. Imagine calling people asking for support for hours every day. Imagine, how ever much that person has opted into the call, how the majority of supporter’s answer knowing immediately that you are likely to be asking for financial support. Imagine how many times you deal with rejection on a daily basis – often polite after a lovely engaging conversation, but occasionally the opposite. There are times, no matter how good the fundraiser, when they can be faced with quite strong objections which can at times be of quite personal nature.
Some campaigns are extremely well received across the board. However, the types of campaigns are many and varied, with a wide range of supporter demographic. Our fundraisers go through a robust training programme which equips them with the ability to deal with rejection and an understanding of emotional intelligence to empathise with whoever they are on the line to. This enables them to better understand any negativity which is directed towards them. They are also highly skilled at diffusing that negativity and ensuring all calls are positive, regardless of the financial outcome. This is a key element to ensuring that all conversations enhance the charity/supporter relationship whether financially successful or otherwise.
When you consider the level of rejection and possible negativity the fundraisers are faced with every day, it really is quite amazing that we have such a happy, long standing and stable team. I believe this is down to the overriding positive culture at Purity and the way in which the Fundraising Managers, along with the coaching and mentoring team support the whole team. Our fundraisers are empowered to have real conversations that are authentic; However, this also brings it’s own specific potential stress areas: we call on behalf of health charities, hospices and international aid charities and this means our fundraisers can have some really serious and potentially upsetting conversations, particularly when supporters have a connection to the subject matter.
We are always on high alert and trained to spot and deal appropriately with any potential vulnerable supporters, but we also need to ensure we are as aware of any potential vulnerability in our fundraisers or any other member of our team. I think it is vital that we are aware and open to the fact that someone could be struggling and potentially be going home completely dejected or upset after a particularly bad day of responses, or a particularly distressing subject matter. Whilst all callers know they can take time out after a difficult call and are given the opportunity to de-brief after calls, by formalising and openly publicising in the office that there is a programme in place, we hope to ensure no one can slip through the net unnoticed. We are developing the programme in conjunction with one of our team who is a trained counsellor, as well as using some of the great resource online from organisations such as Mind. We are also committed to offering additional external training within our team to cover mental health awareness at work to also be proactive at spotting if someone is struggling.
Whilst I have focussed on our fundraisers for this blog, being aware of mental health issues at work and having processes in place to support all employees is something that all employers need to be thinking about and acting upon. We foster a particularly positive culture here at Purity, as I am sure do many other employers. However, it would be wrong to be complacent and assume that this means there could never be any mental health issues amongst employees. This is why Purity Fundraising have taken this step to proactively offer an official mental health and wellbeing support programme. Some of the great resources available include, but are no means limited to: www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk, www.mind.org.uk , www.theskillsnetwork.com www.acas.org.uk
Helen Mackenzie – CEO Purity Fundraising