When we launched Ethical Brand Directory back in 2017, one of the things we very quickly established was a passionate volunteer team. Around this time, there were very few resources or groups that were online and meeting in-person in London. So we naturally found ourselves in this space creating a community. People were keen to be a part of something, to be part of a family, and identify with a group of people who cared about the same things.
When we launched EBD it was really only a small appendix on the Roberta Style Lee website and we did it just to raise awareness of ethical brands and to get feedback – but it ended up turning into so much more!
We attracted a lot of people who wanted to volunteer with us too because they believed in our mission and wanted to be part of it.
Over the years we have been blessed to have had the opportunity to work with a wide range of volunteers. It’s now 2020 and reflecting on 3 (almost 3 and a half!) years of hard work, has highlighted the wonderful contributions we’ve had from our volunteers over the years.
Looking Back on Our Volunteer Team…
Volunteers Week is all about celebrating the contributions of millions of people across the UK who have given up their time to support amazing causes. So in today’s blog I want to take the time to thank each and every person who contributed to the Ethical Brand Directory journey.
We wouldn’t be where we are today without you! So without further ado, let’s look back on EBD’s wonderful volunteer team…
- Steve Woody – is the technical brains behind the directory and has been with us from the very start. e’s put in a good 2+ plus years working with me and the Directory – and although he is no longer on the team, he still advises us and as a thank you, he now earns 10% commission when a new brand joins us. Because it’s only fair.
- Darko Dimitrovski – my very first regular freelancer who worked on everything from my podcast to research and data collection for me when I beta launched EBD. He later moved across into a volunteer role supporting us with tech and events, and has now moved into a paid position again as EBD’s webmaster – a role he has truly earned.
- Molly – was actually EBD’s first ever volunteer, she was our resident Blog & Content Coordinator. She played such an important rule in establishing some structure around our blogs and developing a guide for our guest bloggers
- Our blogging team included: Lisa Cole, Claire Lyons, Ismay Mummery, Helen Brain, Vicky Smith, Emy Venturin, Elly, Melissa Kimbell, Evie Hooper and Daniela Degrassi.
- Laura Zabo – Laura was involved with various EBD initiatives and lent a helping hand on several occasions. Although the EBD fashion show didn’t come to fruition at the time, we still had a great time working together – as well as doing a photoshoot for Roberta Style Lee and an outdoor shoot for Laura Zabo together.
- Alessia – was one of our first Going Green event attendees, and was so taken by our effort and the fact I was doing everything on my own – she wanted to become an EBD volunteer and help out. Alessia tried out many roles during her time with us, one of which was event coordinator. Although this role didn’t work out – Alessia still contributed where she could and was a very enthusiastic member of the team.
- Delphine and Amelie – joined our first Ethical Brand Directory’s Internship – and whilst much of the role was structured, they still volunteered on all of our events including the two styling and clothing swap workshops we did at WeWork in London Paddington.
- Vanessa – joined very briefly, but was able to look over the copy on the EBD website before we launched our new site for our 2nd EBD birthday party, as well as attending the party on the night!
- Christine – joined us as a marketing manager and started to build the newsletter and look at analytics – unfortunately her time was very short because she got a fantastic job opportunity, but not before she helped us with our 2nd Going Green Online Summit.
- Our trusted partners: Utami Giles, Besma Webb, Akhil Sivanandan and Dr Rob Wylie were all part of an idea I had to have a board of trusted partners, where we could share our resources and help one another grow. I identified great people, worked on building up a great foundation and then formed this initiative. They all volunteered their time in some way, Rob Wylie is still with us doing what he does best – advising me on how to become a profitable business (as we are no longer a non-profit). Utami Giles also put in a good few hours working with me on the EBD strategy; to challenge me on how we could move into a model that charged our members, so I could eventually afford to eat again! NB. Unfortunately this initiative didn’t come to fruition (something I was learning happens a lot in business – sometimes the best laid out plans, just don’t work out).
- Rachel – was a passionate volunteer (and now a great friend to me) and wanted to help in any way possible, and to learn about sustainability as it was all new to her. Because she was able to commit to 1-day per week, it meant I was able to hand over the trusted partners relationships for her to manage, whilst I managed the volunteer team (by now a full-time job) and worked on events and recruiting new brands to join our network. When the TP management role ceased to be, Rachel supported with ad hoc tasks like proofreading and sending ethical brands she met my way, as well as doing useful introductions for me.
- Andrea – was another enthusiastic attendee from our Going Green Online Summit, who became a dedicated volunteer. She took on a number of responsibilities whilst with us, despite being based in Brussels. Andrea volunteered with EBD for about a year or so! Some of her roles included, content coordinator, managing our Twitter account on a Monday night, helping me behind the scenes, reviewing the website to identify all the missed work and much more.
Saying Goodbye to Our Volunteers & What We Learnt
Overall, I think we counted about 20+ volunteers over the years at Ethical Brand Directory! The team grew quite rapidly and having volunteers was a wonderful experience, although it wasn’t necessarily productive…
I learnt a lot of lessons along the way – and I have so much respect for any non-profit that is able to operate with a part-time volunteer team.
For one, managing volunteer teams can be tricky as I learnt the hard way, you simply can’t always rely on them to turn up on time and complete things. As such you need to be prepared to roll up your own sleeves and pick up the slack when necessary.
I tried it – I have to say, no regrets. I put my trust into it and there was a lot of delegating, lots of enthusiasm, but sadly we didn’t get much done in the way of actual work. I also learnt a lot about remote working and the joys and difficulties of managing part-time flexi working volunteer teams.
It was a very different dynamic than what I was used to when I worked in the corporate world, in a management role and delegating tasks out. I understand now why non-profit organisations have a dedicated manager to look after volunteers – it truly is a full time job. One I had no experience in, and one I underestimated.
It was a very interesting learning experience for me though – which I don’t regret.
I learnt that as you delegate more, and the more roles you make, fundamentally the more work you create. The downside to this is when people with the best intentions get busy, their volunteer position just isn’t a priority – so that work has to be picked up by someone. And that ended up being me. It was an interesting lesson as it did sadly grind EBD to a halt. For one of the years we didn’t achieve as much as we had hoped because we were just so busy going through an endless stream of volunteers that I wasn’t able to work on strategic initiatives.
That being said, the volunteers paved the way for the internship programme by helping us realise that a more structured approach for people who want to come in, learn and develop their skills was much more beneficial – not just for the interns, but for us too.
In my previous corporate roles, I was always assigned the interns and had to develop appropriate training plans for them. So it was very natural for me to assume this role.
Having volunteered before, I understand the importance of volunteering and internships in order to get necessary skills to help you in your career. So I never wanted to create volunteer or intern roles which were just doing all the mundane work – even though that still needs to be done. I want people to really feel like part of the team and see the value of their contribution.
A Massive Thank You to Our Volunteers!
So this is our thank you to all of our volunteers and interns, past and present! We wouldn’t be here without your help and belief, and most importantly it was the encouragement and the passion of our volunteers that made those difficult days more bearable…the days that seemed like we were never going to make it, worth fighting for. And for that, I will always be grateful for the believers and supporters we had around us.
Whilst we may have scaled back the team so that we can become more focused and agile – it’s been an incredible journey. And I’m so blessed to have been able to share this with so many wonderful, passionate people.
Thank you to every single person who has contributed and extended their kindness. And helped steer myself and the project whether that was in circles or forwards – it’s all been part of the journey and I have learnt so much from you all.
Here’s to every single person who has volunteered!