• Team Furlonteer

Helping to bring down barriers with Flourishing Families Leeds

After being furloughed, Lois talks to us about using her professional skills to help Flourishing Families Leeds with business development and communications projects - and how Furlonteering has helped her keep a positive mindset.

Lois Ellett
Lois Ellett

Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm an experienced marketing and business development professional. I have worked at CMO and director level for successful organisations in various sectors including legal, financial, healthcare and social enterprise. At one stage I had my own business as a marketing consultant and my qualifications include an MBA.

In the normal pre-lockdown world, I co-manage and look after marketing and business development for a community care service that is run as a social enterprise, where all profits go to the large hospice charity in Sussex. Until the pandemic hit, this had been the most successful and profitable year. I continued to work from home for the early part of the lockdown and then got furloughed to give time for the organisation to recover from the impact. 

What made you want to want to sign up as a Furlonteer?

Being furloughed felt a bit of a shock at first – I like to be busy and feel useful. I missed my colleagues and started feeling out of the loop, as anyone furloughed will recognise. I wanted to use this luxury of time to volunteer my professional skills and I searched the internet for ideas – and that’s when I discovered recent media coverage about Furlonteer, which is a great match for my skills, interests and values. I signed up online and was offered a match for a charity seeking help with projects.

Being furloughed felt a bit of a shock at first – I like to be busy and feel useful.

Could you tell us about the charity you've been matched with and your role in helping them?

As a volunteer with Furlonteer, I am working with Flourishing Families Leeds – which is a brilliant charity that is dedicated to bringing down the barriers that hinder people from flourishing – through developing the life skills of children and their families, referred to them via schools and local authorities.   

Flourishing Families Leeds

This is how they describe themselves… "We are a charity established in 2017 to support children, parents, carers and whole families. We aim to overcome the barriers which prevent people from flourishing and to bring about lasting positive change. Activities include family cookery clubs, free English conversation classes, family craft clubs, support of parents and carers and activity-based mentoring for children. Over 520 children, parents and carers have directly benefitted from our work in the last year."  

I am working with the Flourishing Families Leeds team and a fellow Furlonteer on several business development and communications projects. My projects include creating a business plan, initiating campaigns to attract benefactors, and desk research into the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ and potential impacts to stakeholder groups.

Which new skills or learnings has this experience given you?

At present this is an opportunity to use existing skills and experience – what is new to me is working with Flourishing Families Leeds and learning about their organisation and their beneficiaries. It's an inspiring and interesting experience for me.

What impact do you feel it’s had on your experience of being Furloughed, and are you likely to continue volunteering after it ends?

For me, it’s giving the furlough period a purpose and stopping me from drifting around or feeling anxiety. I like to be busy and feel useful, so this time is a gift. I’ve volunteered for various things in the past, to help out with events and that sort of thing - but not using my professional skills – so being a Furlonteer feels really different and I love it.

Being a Furlonteer feels really different and I love it. There is a big ‘win win’ for both the volunteer and the charity.

Third sector activities are very important to me - especially now. There is a big ‘win win’ for both the volunteer and the charity. It was a really good match and so quick between filling in the online form and me actually working, so I did not feel too furloughed for too long. It felt like a continuation of working, which I’ve appreciated. I will continue volunteering after the furlough period ends because I’m enjoying it, and it keeps my CV ‘live’ with positive activities and achievements.

Could you give any advice or tips to other people considering signing up to Furlonteer?

If you have good, practical skills and proven experience to offer during furlough I recommend becoming a Furlonteer. Your skills may be just what is needed by a social enterprise or charity – and it's great to do something useful and feel appreciated during this weird time when your regular employer cannot include you in their activities and you might feel left out.

I think it's important to be honest about what you can offer in terms of skills and time, to approach the Furlonteer work as if it’s a regular job; keeping in regular contact, committing to deadlines and actions, logging what you are working on, delivering work you feel proud of and having an open mind. For people who are used to being ‘at work’, suddenly being without the regular pattern of work feels bizarre and can impact mental wellbeing, so Furlonteering is a brilliant initiative for keeping a positive mindset.

If Lois has inspired you, why not sign-up and use your skills to help one of our charities?

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