Celebrating our volunteers (virtually!)

Throughout lockdown, we’ve been amazed by the resilience of all the amazing volunteers who’ve adapted to keep their support groups running. Petra, who leads the team supporting them, shares what happened at the first volunteer celebration

Wednesday 3 June was going to be a big day for us. We’d managed to secure sponsorship to hold our first ever national volunteer conference to recognise all the work our volunteers do supporting their members. For obvious reasons our plans were dashed, and reluctantly we cancelled the booking for this joyous celebration.

We were all really disappointed as we know how hard our volunteers work to keep the support groups running smoothly. Our support network is important to us. And how we help our volunteers keep the network going in these uncertain times is a high priority for the organisation.

We knew many groups were using digital means to keep connected. So we suggested a digital conference. The feedback was encouraging and we decided to go ahead with our celebration in the virtual world. 

Adjusting our plans to the new normal

I’m used to talking in front of large groups of people. I love a good chat and seeing people face-to-face has always been one of the bonuses of working with our volunteers. The thought of talking to a computer and preparing for a digital meeting was very daunting.

I have a great team who organised, practised and perfected the art of delivering a digital meeting – all from our own homes, as we’re working remotely. But there was a lot to think about. Would anyone sign up to come? Would it be interactive enough? Would the technology work?

Kay presenting at the conference
Kay, CEO of the AUK and BLF Partnership, spoke about the organisation as a whole

The day of the conference

On the day of the conference, we all logged into the conference. We watched eagerly as the numbers increased! In total we had 108 volunteers and staff join us for our first ever virtual event. Volunteers from all over the country joined us, and our speakers gave interesting presentations. The chat and questions were flowing. 

Noel presenting at the conference
Dr Noel Baxter answered questions on coronavirus and living with a lung condition

Volunteers were put into breakout rooms to discuss the future of their groups. The feedback was really interesting. Lot of volunteers were concerned about the safety of meeting up in their venues, afraid of leaving their homes and confused about the guidance to follow. The biggest barrier was technology. Our next challenge will be helping our volunteers get their members tech savvy so that everyone can join in with meetings!

Overall, the virtual conference was a big success. We took a poll at the end and every one of the volunteers said they would attend again!

Our volunteers are amazing!

I’m very proud of the volunteers we have representing our organisation. They have rallied and pushed themselves to keep up the vital support their members need. I’d like to thank you all, not just for this week but for all the inspirational work you are doing. The team are here to support you: get in touch so we can help in any way we can.


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4 June 2020