ToucanTech's Community Comment series provides a view of how community management is evolving, from a range of experts around the world.
The past year
How has your professional community responded to the unique challenges that we have faced during the global pandemic? What do you think the biggest challenges have been for the professionals you interact with?
The silver lining to this Covid shaped cloud has been the way in which school communities have worked together to overcome such huge challenges. Never before have academic and support staff worked so closely together to ensure the wellbeing of all the children in their care. I have seen examples of this time and time again at the schools I work with and/or visit. Everyone has had the community at the heart of their response which has been a breath of fresh air.
The biggest challenge for development professionals has without doubt however, been to keep the school community engaged, at a time when every single person had their own concerns and worries. But the school sector should pride itself on its resourcefulness, creativeness and ingenuity in the way in which it reached out to its communities using a variety of platforms. As a judge for TES and InspirED awards, I was so privileged to see hundreds of shining examples of schools digging deep into their human resource to look after not just their own, but others in the wider community too. Quite heartwarming.
What impact are you aware of on the ultimate causes behind the communities you are in contact with - have people, campaigns, or goals been put at risk, or suffered as a result?
Quite the contrary! Whilst at first it seemed like campaigns may be at risk because of the pandemic, I now believe that most have grown even stronger as a result. Whilst acknowledging that donations have been down over the pandemic period, I have many examples of campaigns which draw communities together, being not only more successful, but also demonstrating evidence of increased engagement.
The here and now
What is the atmosphere like at the moment within the networks you work with - would you say there is a positive undercurrent and signs of optimism, or are people experiencing fatigue with the limitations that we are dealing with across the world?
Maybe it is just the people I am mixing with professionally, but I see a huge surge in positivity right now. Optimism for alumni engagement and fundraising seems to be everywhere and long may it last!
Are you aware of any communities that are thriving, and whose fundraising efforts have pivoted or even been facilitated by an increase in online engagement?
Yes! I know of several communities who, through an increased interest in online activity, brought about as a direct result of the pandemic, have managed to fundraise successfully in ways which previously may have been less successful. Giving Days in particular, have enabled school communities to take advantage of a myriad of creative activities, many of which could be carried out in a virtual world.
Have you spoken to any contacts recently who have taken the opportunity to change their ways of working, are employing new tactics or trialling alternative techniques?
What I love is that employers are recognizing that development professionals are just that, professionals, and as a result, encouraging their colleagues to work in ways which suit their lifestyles, whether that be at home, in the office, or as in my case sometimes, from their campervans! True professionals will get the job done wherever they are!
In the future
What kind of message would you like to send to your peers and professional network in the coming months - what is motivating you, and have you found a silver lining?
Be proud of everything you have achieved in the last eighteen months. It has been a hugely tough time for us all, but to come out with your head held high and counting your achievements is so important. Our work patterns and priorities may have changed forever, but our passion for alumni relations, development and fundraising is still very much alive and kicking!
Rachel Hadley-Leonard is an independent consultant and founder of RHLConsulting. Rachel has experience in school fundraising, development, alumni relations and marketing gained over thirty years in the education sector, but also with charities and commercial
organisations. To find out more, visit the website.
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