Wigwam Family Blog No.1

Welcome to the Wigwam Family Blog, whether this is your first introduction to Wigwam or you've been 'part of the family' for years all are welcome. The blog has been set up with 3 aims in mind: 

 

  1. To reach new audiences who may know little about our charity 

  1. To increase transparency for our stakeholders and members of the public 

  1. To deepen understanding of how we operate 

 

Over the course of the blog series you will hear, in no more than 750 words, from a number of 'Wigwam Family' members, offering a range of perspectives. 

Today's post is written by Andy Graham who took over as Operations Manager in late September 2016: 

 

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Blog No. 1 

 

“I’ve started work at Wigwam”  

“Fantastic, that’s great news……….err, what is it they do?” 

 

So followed the pattern of many of my recent conversations having taken up the role of Operations Manager for Wigwam (3 days p/week). 

 

With roots back to 1999, Wigwam is a well established Guernsey charity with over 100 member families. It's an invaluable support to many, providing support in areas statutory services cannot meet. Indeed Wigwam was awarded the Queen Award for Voluntary Service in 2012 in recognition of the quality of service provided.  

 

But it quickly became apparent to me that, in addition to only a narrow section of the community being aware of what we do: 

  • Our funding sources are similarly narrow and heavily reliant on funding from the Guernsey Community Foundation and the Lloyds Bank Foundation for the Channel Islands, who generously fund my salary and the salary of our Family Support Worker respectively. 

  • Our systems are symptomatic of a small charity that has grown organically and places member need as the highest priority (rightly so!). Whilst documents, policies and procedures are in place our systems are skeletal and inefficient in practice. 

  • We are heavily reliant on a small pool of volunteers who give so much and care so deeply but also have many competing factors for their time (often including children of their own with additional needs). 

 

Having spent time this month, my first month in post, meeting with Committee Members, attending Wigwam Events and reading files I look at these issues not with trepidation but with excitement for how we can address these challenges. 

 

One of the key objectives of my role is to “grow and develop” the organisation and internally we agree in unison that development must come first – development of internal systems that will provide a platform for any subsequent growth.  

 

The biggest challenge I foresee will be in retaining the “personal touch” that makes Wigwam such a special and unique organisation. From the chocolates and apples from the Chair on my first day (Debbie didn’t know which I would prefer so got both!) to the hand made birthday cards that are sent to members, the focus on individual need- something we refer to as the "personal touch" - is at the core of the organisation and must not be lost in developments. 

  

So, with development in mind, much of my time has been spent planning for 2017 (a plan that covers Services, Income, Communications, Governance, Facilities and Finance) plus researching and implementing IT systems that will form the spine of our operations.  

 

Attracted by the generous non-profit rate that Microsoft offers for it's online Office 365 suite and the ability to trial the system at no cost, I have been able to manually test the systems through the good old system of trial and error. I've come across numerous online tutorials that walk you through every aspect of the system. In addition I have simply taken advantage of opportunities that arise. For example, whilst working on other projects at the Digital Greenhouse on a 'day off' I came across a free event laid on by StartUp Guernsey. There, by pure chance,  I was able get some sound advice from two local IT companies, Donkey Logic and C5 Alliance, which not only helped fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge but increased my confidence in the choice of systems.  

 

I'm very grateful to the committee who not only are fully behind development plans but recognise the value in such 'behind the scenes' activities, many of which our external stakeholders will not 'see' but forma vital spine from which the organisation can run efficiently.  

 

In future posts I hope we, as an organisation, can share details of the challenges and joys of running a small service providing charity and allow readers to better understand the 'inner workings' of Wigwam. 

 

Finally I hope that, at times, it challenges readers views on the role of a modern charity operating in Guernsey's small Third Sector and as a catalyst for more professionals to consider taking up a role directly. Whether that be in a voluntary capacity, as a committee member or volunteer event leader for example, or indeed in a paid role as a career choice. I for one can't recommend it highly enough.  

 

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