You get paid?

There are a lot of people who think that everyone who “works” in the voluntary sector is unpaid (a volunteer).  It surprises people that not only are we paid, but that this is a career for us too.  Curiously I had someone the other day comment on my car and that it was very smart for someone who worked for a charity.  My car is exceptionally lovely I have to admit, but it was clear she thought I should be seen to be driving something modest, humble even.  This suggests that even people who know that there are paid staff working in charities, that they don’t expect them to be decently paid, or at least they shouldn’t show-off that they were decently paid!  What might the public think?  Well I hope the Warley Woods supporters are pleased I can get to work without breaking down every other day and wish me joy in my lovely car.

Now those people who do understand the Woods can’t thrive on volunteer help alone, still might wonder what I do all day.  So I’m going to share my “Day in the Life” although it is a bit of an amalgam of a few days in August 2019.

Late Starter

Most days I arrive around 9.30am  I'm a bit of a late starter and it comes from my days of working in the theatre world.  It does mean I miss some of the morning traffic coming in from Stourport.  The Pavilion already feels alive and thrumming - Sharon will have been in for almost two hours already, the cafe is open and Kathy has been in since 9.  So I say hello and get the computer whirring and the coffee pot on.  I'll keep drinking that coffee pot until its empty, so it is great if I have a visitor or another member of staff like Don or Kathy or fancy a cup - if not I'll probably be on a caffeine high until bedtime. 

First jobs of the day are emails and facebook.  Working with volunteers and the public means there can be a good stack of emails that have come in overnight and same with Facebook - a lot of the comments and questions are asked in the evening when everyone else (including me) is at leisure. A lot of what I do is just liking and thanking and "keeping the conversation going".  I normally post about our next event once a week and if it has been a bit quiet, I'll dig out an old photo and post it - history and creature photos always get the best reactions.  I often do a lot of right clicking and saving people's photos for future use - most frequently those of Alex Tzotzis whose images give me a constant supply of beautiful quality landscapes - which gives our website a consistent look.  Dave Hinton is providing us amazing bird photos at the moment which I am keeping ready for Wild Warley promotions.  This week I asked people for their Warley Woods stories and they have been sharing so many lovely things, I've been copying and keeping them for future use - saying thank you and checking if people would want their real names used if the subject was a little sensitive.

Where does the morning go to?

Emails can take anything between five minutes and two hours.  Sometimes I look at the clock and it is approaching lunchtime before I've finished answering and keeping plates spinning on queries and projects.  Sometimes the hardest emails are where I have to say no to someone's idea - trying to explain, without seeming dismissive why we can't do what they would like us to.

Sometimes particularly in the summer the day can just disappear with caller after caller - most of the time with nice things, or a trustee picking up something or passing on message, dealing with an issue with the public. You are never quite sure.  It could be a happy customer, or an unhappy one - you have to be prepared for both! Most time consuming can be a request to look at our CCTV - it can take a good hour or two to work through 8 cameras over a large timeframe.  Most people only want a minute or two of my time, but on some days that procession of people means the day is gone.  It has always been really important to have an open office policy though.  While my door may be shut if I need to focus or be private, or I might work at home if I really need quality concentration time, but the rest of the time I need to try and be available if I can - Warley Woods is a people thing.  I chose to work at Warley Woods because of this - as I was tired of being a background manager when I worked at WWF (the panda people not the wrestlers) - I love working with people.  If I can answer a question, or put someone right on a fact, share a story or a bit of history, that is likely to pay dividends in future in that person's commitment or involvement to Warley Woods - and if it doesn't, well nothing lost.

Keeping the plates spinning

In the last couple of days I've been sorting out a special guided walk treat for our core band of Wild Warley volunteers and registering interest from volunteers in helping do Visitor Surveys.  I thought this project might be of interest to a different group of volunteers and I have been so pleased to have so many offers of help - 20 to date.  I've also dealt with a query from new potential corporate volunteers - someone who volunteered while at HSBC is now wanting to replicate that in his new work place.  Golden. 

At some point in the day there will always be something financial to deal with - a report, or checking the bank or printing off a list of direct debits received.  This week I had to renegotiate a new electricity contract for the Pavilion.  Maybe paying bills, or preparing paperwork for our book keeper.  There will normally some staffing issue to manage - a holiday request, a conversation with Sharon or Alan about a staffing issue, maybe record keeping from a someone who has had a day off sick.  There might be something in our IT that needs resolving, or a website problem.  We have companies that we can call about these things for telephone or email assistance, but we have to physically resolve these things ourselves.  I always find it funny when my PC tells me I need to contact the "IT Administrator" as I don't have permission to do something!  As if we have an IT department!

Our theatre event is a bit of a well oiled machine now after 10 years - but I still have to ensure we have enough volunteers, a float, the generator has fuel, sarnies for the actors and that the toilets will be coming.  There is normally a flurry of activity in the last week as people see the weather forecast and buy tickets, or ask about disabled parking.  I also start to panic if I see rain forecast not because it won't go ahead, but because I will need to muster extra volunteers at exactly the right time to put marquees up (and down).  It is always a relief if the forecast is good - because I'll be working whatever the situation is.

Management meetings

Each week I have either the Board Meeting of Trustees or a Subgroup meeting (I go to Communications and Resources) and so there is always work to do in preparation and following these meetings.  For Comms or Resources this means circulating an email or drafts of things for the members to consider in advance.  For the Board I have to prepare a formal written report, a finance report and papers on any new proposals or project updates.  The written report includes some statistics so it is a prompt for me to check up on membership numbers, Facebook membership and the most popular webpages in the last month.

Most days I get out for a lunchtime walk - even if it is just down the driveway and back.  I've been doing this for the last three years and it really does help give me a mental break and it helps me reconnect with the space that everyone (including me) loves.  Some litter picking is normally involved.  I'm particularly happy if I don't witness any infringements of the byelaws - if I do then I have to say something but it is much nice to get around the site just smiling at people and saying hello to all the furry visitors.

Afternoons are for projects

In the afternoon I'll try and focus on something - maybe writing a blog like this, or a funding application.  I'm allowed to ignore the phone in the afternoon if I'm concentrating but most of the time I will answer it after Kathy finishes at 2pm.  I'll occasionally do some online training (this month it has been child protection) or do some fundraising research - some thoughts and ideas have to take time to percolate and come into a shape I can use - things like the Picnic Star appeal, or my collecting of stories, or writing poems for notices (you'll never see me head a sign "polite notice" I try to be a bit more quirky and creative.  I might be bossy, but I'd rather be semi amusing, even cheesy, rather than dull.

As the day goes on the building gets quieter. Kathy leaves, Sharon leaves, the cafe closes.  It is just me and the member of shop staff on duty.  In the Winter they leave before me too.

The afternoon becomes the evening

In the Summer it can be easy to carry on working through to the close of the shop or beyond.  The phone stops ringing and I don't look at the clock.  I don't really have an official leaving time, but I try to be disciplined and get away before 6pm. Unless there is a meeting or event of course.  Quite often though, this is the period when incidents happen as the site gets busy with people walking and playing after school and work.  We often get a report of a fire or BBQ, or quad bikes, or youngsters stealing golf balls.  If people report these things then quite understandably there is an expectation that we will do something about it.  If shop staff are alone then they really can't leave the shop, but if we are both there, then one of us needs to sort the problem out if we can.  We recently had to assist a man who had got his car into the woods and couldn't get out.  We finally worked out that he had driven through the pedestrian gate from the car park and onto the driveway.  Then he forgot the route out again and thought we had locked the gates on him!  I had to wait while he retrieved his car and drove it to a gate so I could unlock it and let it out.  That has only happened the once - but that is the case with so many things and it is what makes each day different to the last and why we never know what each day will bring.

I love my job and I feel very lucky to be able to work in such an inspiring place with inspiring people.  When I arrive home, I arrive home satisfied and that is the best reward of all.  A day well spent moving things forward. 

If you love Warley Woods and would like to support the staff team to keep keep Warley Woods looking good, then please join the Trust or make a donation today.   Thank you.