We are a country run by volunteers. Voluntary run organisations are all around us and on the most part we probably give very little thought to what this actually means. I know I didn’t before I became ‘one of them’.
My three children have all attended a local Pre School. It’s not a private nursery, it’s a voluntary-managed not-for-profit charity that receives funding for children over 3 and the rest of the running costs are met through charging for the 2-3 year olds and a constant stream of fund-raising. It’s the reason that I stripped off for ‘The Calendar’ last year and it’s also the main reason that I am currently pretty much jobless.
Rewind 16 months and I’d just had one of my busiest years ever as a freelancer, sadly tempered by the events leading up to the crowning of The Boy Wonder .To say I was a bit ‘all over the place’ would be a massive understatement. It was AGM time of year at the pre school, aka that time when everyone claims to be far too busy to join a voluntary management committee. Mindful of the fact that my third child was there and that I’d done little more than help out at the odd book stall in the 4 years I’d been using the Pre School, I agreed to step up. Initially shoe-horned into the position of Secretary, I eventually allowed myself to be persuaded to take on Chair- in fact I think I may even have volunteered, such was my delirium. What followed was a real eye-opener.
Running a Pre School is not like joining the PTA. Fund raising is just one of the monumental tasks you’re expected to undertake with little or no prior knowledge of how it all works. I was ‘lucky’ to a degree: I had a fair amount of experience with EYFS and the charity sector but still nothing prepared me for the volume of work, the level of responsibility- as far as Ofsted was concerned I was legally responsible for everything that went on at the Pre School, the HR and operational side of things. In short, we were running a small, loss-making business with very few resources and IT WAS HARD.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never join a committee. I’m saying join and make everyone else join and help out as well- but don’t try and change the world. And if you choose not to join, don’t complain about what doesn’t get done or what you could do better…
I’m proud to say that as a committee we achieved a massive amount in the last year. We cracked on and slogged our guts out to make things work and I really think we did make a difference. But something had to give: there’s simply never enough time to do everything, especially with a small working committee and you either compromise your family or you compromise your work. Actually, I think I probably did both which is why after a year I had to step down. My family have now forgiven me, and as for my clients? I’m still working on them….