Last week I spent an afternoon delving into responses from our annual community survey. We’ve done the survey a couple of times now. It’s important to check that we’re on the right path with our weekly content and that our articles are a source of inspiration and practical help.
As well as asking you all about your work, your roles and your interest in buying LarkOwl products and services, we also wanted to know how you are.
How are you?
Really, how are you?
Fortunately, the sincerity of the question was felt by respondents, who answered with deep and arresting honesty. We truly have a community of people who are driven to make a difference in the world, but who at the same time are feeling:
- struggling to focus
A large group also reported feeling ok (but only ok) or average. One of my favourite comments which summed up the feelings of many:
“I’m ok. Though we have run out of biscuits…”
Everyone is worried about their charity’s income.
For those in receipt of short-term grant / government funding, the concern lies in longer term sustainability, recognising that support won’t be forthcoming for ever. With no possible way to top up depleted reserves, a change will be needed in either a charity’s diversity of income sources and / or the amount of help / benefit each charity is realistically in a position to offer.
One respondent commented:
Our little consultancy has so far weathered the storm, but we, like most are not immune to the effects of Covid-19 and this week one of our long-standing clients (after much thought and with a great deal of grace) gave notice on their contract.
They have chosen, quite rightly and understandably to focus on short term needs in the face of an uncertain year ahead. Very sensible and understandable.
Although it feels as if our government don’t recognise it at times, our jobs are not optional. Neither are they vanity projects, to be put down and picked up whimsically. It feels like a significant departure from Cameron’s Big Society, where at least there was some recognition that charities and non-profits were going to have to pick up the slack left by a devastating recession.
Now we are almost invisible.
As fundraisers, a reduction in our output and or in the quality of our work has a real and direct impact on people who are sick, marginalised and often, unable to cope without the lifelines thrown to them by the charities we work for.
Because of this (and the whole, paying our mortgages and bills thing), we can’t just down tools in favour of day long bubble baths, chilling in front on Netflix or homeschooling an argumentative and disinterested ten year old.
The stakes are too high.
So what do we do then?
I don’t claim to have the answers and have indeed spent much of the past few weeks bitching about our government, resisting my morning alarm (actually, sometimes a good thing to do, especially in January) and getting more inventive with the injuries I’m inflicting on my Boris Johnson voodoo doll (ok I’m kidding about the last one).
Here are some things to try. There’s nothing new here and I’m sure as hell failing at many of these suggestions (whilst I know they’re a good idea, I’m just not motivated enough right now – someday I’ll reclaim my morning routine, but not right now).
Try them if you wish, or at least take the time to think about a list of positive actions that you can take for you right now, however small they might be.
Hone in on the important stuff
For me right now, my priority list looks like:
- Serving clients and course customers (my best self has been elusive of late, so I’m reserving her for those that are paying me)
- Trying to teach my kid / being a loving partner and doing my bit around the house (I reckon Tony may dispute this….)
- Showing up every week for this magical community. I love writing articles, sharing suggestions and responding to your replies (and when one of you buys me a coffee, I do a little happy dance in my kitchen. Yeah I know, hint hint…#caffeineaddict)
- Longer term business planning
- Responding to emails and requests from enquirers (this is risky but I really have to focus on those who are paying us right now)
- Reaching out to colleagues and forging partnerships and collaborations
- Marketing, including making sure our website is gorgeous and epic and shows us off to our absolute BEST
It will happen, and if it doesn’t it probably won’t matter so long as the things on my priority list get done and done WELL.
I’ve been in a tussle with my brain of late where I want to moan about the lack of control I have over my life. At worst I feel angry that the life I have designed isn’t quite possible right now and at best, I feel a sense of apathy and a lack of motivation (which actually is a lie because there are productive days where I have my mojo and am, as I have always been, thoroughly enjoying my work).
The lies we tell ourselves can seep into our brains and take hold if we’re not careful. So I’m doing my best to reframe these miserable stories into something more positive:
“I hate homeschooling” becomes ‘Isn’t it nice to not have to rush around and leave the house early every morning.” Or “Aren’t I LUCKY that I can organise my work in such a way which allows me to still support my daughter (whether she wants me to or not).”
“I hate not going out and seeing people” very easily becomes “how fortunate I am to have a lovely home, with a gorgeous log burner, plenty of food and a loving family.” Or “Aren’t you privileged to be able to stay at home and not have to run the risk of catching this virus from your workplace?”
It takes conscious effort, but a small, daily gratitude reflection can work wonders.
Go for a walk
I so can’t be arsed to go running right now. 100% not feeling it.
I did a dance workout on Monday morning which was awesome but I’m reducing my expectations around exercise and am mostly making like a hibernating bear until at mid-February at least…
But a walk (even if it’s raining) is good. Last week, my daughter and I walked to the harbour and shared a cheeky portion of fish and chips which was heaven (and quite possibly against the rules).
Also, eat some vegetables. Which is difficult because, you know, buttery crumpets.
But a morning smoothie, some lunchtime soup (I sound like one of those 80’s SlimFast ads) and a veggie curry or stir fry in the evening isn’t too hard to do and will probably make you feel better than a Mug Shot instant pasta thingy followed by a burger.
But yeah. Buttery crumpets….
Seek community and connection with others
Thank you to ALL of you who responded to our survey.
Know that you are not alone and that only 1 person out of 58 felt like things were going particularly well at the moment (and they felt guilty about this…)
Reading your responses was the permission slip I needed to momentarily wallow, and the subsequent reality check which helped me to choose a positive alternative to wallowing.
I am so grateful for you all.
To those of you going through a heartbreakingly tough time at the moment, I’m sorry. It’s shit isn’t it? Especially to you, caring for teenagers experiencing a rapid decline in their mental health, words cannot begin to make you feel better.
To those of you who responded to my questions with humour – thank you for giving me a laugh (yes, I mean you “hanging on by the grace of Gin and Bendicks mints”).
To those of you who didn’t respond. Reply to this email and let me know:
“How are you doing right now?”
I’d love to hear from you. Let’s stick together and hope for better days ahead.
In love and solidarity,