BBC Radio 4 Interview with Furlonteer Co-Founder Sam and Furlonteer Yasemin
Shari Vahl, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours interviewed our Furlonteer Co-Founder Sam Tasker-Grindley and Furlonteer Yasemin Gumushan who has been supporting The Commonwealth Education Trust. Listen or read the interview and find out more about Furlonteer. Discover how we’ve been helping charities since we launched in April when the Government Job Retention Scheme began and millions of employees across the UK were furloughed.
Shari Vahl: Joining us on You and Yours, employees on furlough desperate to use their skills are being matched up with charities in need of those skills, in a unique volunteering group that now has about 5,000 people signed up.
Furlonteer, get it? Says it's a not for profit group aiming to keep some of the 9.5 million people placed on the government's job retention scheme busy and helping out charities and other not for profits in need of their expertise. The co-founder for Furlonteer is Sam Tasker-Grindley and a Furlonteer herself, Yasemin Gumushan from Leicester. Firstly Sam, how did you come up with this idea of Furlonteer, volunteering for these charities.
Sam Tasker-Grindley: Hi Shari, thanks for having us. It came up really because I was furloughed myself, I very quickly started to miss my routine, I lacked a purpose and I really wanted to make the most of this time that I had to give back to some charities and good causes and to sort of hone my skills a little bit more and then sort of on the flip side, you know charities and causes are really struggling at the moment.
I very quickly started to miss my routine, I lacked a purpose and I really wanted to make the most of this time.
They might have had to furlough their own staff themselves or are trying to find a different way of engaging with an audience, because they can no longer do their usual fundraising events or they don’t have a man out on the street holding their bucket. And that seems like a nice match made in heaven really for both sides.
Shari Vahl: Yasemin were furloughed too and you're in Leicester which is also in lockdown. What's that been like for you?
Yasemin Gumushan: It's like really disappointing at the moment because I know everyone in Leicester’s feeling the same, we just want to get back to normal, but I think it's really great to have Furlonteer because it channels what could have been negative energy into something really positive. So it's really great to be able to carry on helping even though you feel like you're in a tiny place in the world, which is still stuck in lockdown.
Shari Vahl: So, what are you doing?
Yasemin Gumushan: So I'm in partnership with The Commonwealth Education Trust, and it's really great because I think during the pandemic that people have realised how valuable teachers actually are. And the charity themselves invest in teachers in lower-income countries. So at the minute, I've been taking my skills because I work as a Communications Officer at Curve Theatre and I've been taking the skills about copywriting, e-marketing, social media strategy and been building them resources and content to improve their profile so that's been really great. And I've been able to practice my skills and develop as well and have a go at things I’d never usually would in my day-to-day role.
Shari Vahl: Well Sam, listening to what Yasemin is doing there has been some criticism in the newspapers and from freelancers from people who say, while this is all very lovely that you're doing all this volunteering while you’re on furlough, you’re actually you're taking away their paid work. What do you say to that?
Sam Tasker-Grindley: To be honest, I understand where they're coming from, everyone has been anxious through this about where their next job’s coming in. What I will say to that, is that we are supporting small charities and good causes on the whole who wouldn’t be able to afford to take on a freelancer.
Or during this time, they would be spending money on fulfilling their mission, helping the community. Yes, this is something that we've spoken about quite a lot and I do understand where the freelancers are coming from. But we've made it very clear from the start that we are supporting good causes who just wouldn't be paying for freelancers on the whole.
Shari Vahl: Yasemin, your furloughed, do you expect to go back to your job? Will your jobs still be there? And will you stop volunteering once you're back working?
Yasemin Gumushan: I hope I go back to my job! But, I think before I started volunteering, that I didn’t realise in a way, you kind of do you make excuses that “I only have a couple of hours spare a week or whatever” not “what can I actually bring” but I've realised throughout Furlonteer you don't have to commit to 36 hours of work a week, you can log on when you feel like you have the time or you have the energy to do so. I think it's really important to remember that with volunteering you don't really realise how much of an impact you can have because I could do 2-3 hours a week, then 14 hours the next week, and that’s hours they would have never had. And because of our skills and what other volunteers are bringing to the table, it can make a huge difference no matter how much time you have. So I hope to carry on volunteering because it's really shown to me the power of people.
Shari Vahl: Sam, do you think whilst it’s called Furlonteer and obviously furlough will end fairly soon, do you see it has a future in a slightly different shape?
Sam Tasker-Grindley: It definitely does, so yes like you say we've got until October for this sort of free matching to continue.
What we would really like to do after that is work with some of the companies who have used the furlough scheme and we’ve already been speaking with these companies already about how they can do more in the community. A lot of these businesses already have volunteer days in their employee contracts which are never used.
Yasemin is a great example of how much you can do with just a little time. There’s lots that we can do, we’re looking for funding to continue with this and we’ll be doing some crowdfunding. There’s definitely a future with Furlonteer, it just won’t look exactly as it does now.
Shari Vahl: Thank you both.
Furlonteers bring an average of 9 years experience, with a minimum of 1 year experience to an incredible 50 years at the upper end.