Life Was Perfect till COVID-19. I Thought I Would Lose My Job.

My job as a face-to-face fundraiser changed overnight.

With enthusiasm, confidence and a fresh zeal to learn new things, I commenced my professional journey at WWF-Singapore as a fundraiser.

I dived into the work immediately, becoming friends with new colleagues in the process. I was determined to carve out a good role for myself within the team. 

Life was perfect till COVID-19 hit us.

As the situation evolved, WWF had to consider the health implications of both our staff and the public and made the decision to stop all face-to-face operations on March 25. Despite this, I joined the team on March 30.

The day the government declared Singapore’s circuit breaker on April 7 was supposedly my second week on the job to fundraise on the streets. Clearly, that was not to happen. My colleagues reassured us that things would remain positive. Timothy, our senior face-to-face fundraising manager shared, “At WWF, we live and breathe change so don’t worry. We will help you to learn new skills and will provide hands-on support to use this magic known as technology.” I am happy to report that I am not an exception.

Tim (centre) is our senior face-to-face fundraising manager, and that’s me on the top right!

Our team of 25 makes up an important vertical of fundraising work at WWF. As a face-to-face fundraiser, a typical workday involves us going to different locations in Singapore, where we engage in conversations to create awareness and raise funds for critical conservation work.

But the ongoing pandemic has made our jobs as face-to-face fundraisers impossible.

Developing a competency matrix to match work priorities

Instead of being let go or placed on unpaid leave, the response I heard from the team leads surprised me. First, we were asked to identify other strengths – be it a language skill, technical competency or even hobby.  

Time was set aside to equip us with resources needed to transition smoothly from our defunct jobs to take up new roles in the digital space.  

These strengths were compiled into a skills matrix that helped to identify crucial tasks and current organisational needs. These strengths were matched with existing priorities at work. Our team was then split up to take on a range of diversified roles.  

My colleague Xavier (right) listens to the calls and coaches the teams to communicate better with our members.

Some of us were assigned to managing merchandise, IT support and the retention team to make loyalty phone calls to our members. For me, as I had writing experience back in my previous job, I was then assigned work to connect with WWF’s existing members via emails. While some of us learnt advanced Microsoft Excel to prepare merchandise reports, use software applications on iPads to make loyalty calls, some others assisted in building the office intranet, updating our fact-banks, learning image editing skills, and writing content on digital platforms. 

We experienced many ups and downs. From learning advanced features in common office software to troubleshooting technical issues, we were determined to make this work. 

Daily check-ins to monitor staff well-being and upgrade skills

For some of my colleagues like Vanessa and Cristine, they picked up new perspectives around the supporters that WWF engages – fresh insights into a different aspect of our organisation that they would not have gotten otherwise. As a routine, we had daily video calls thrice a day to share our work progress and discuss any challenges we faced while working at home.

My colleague Cristine (centre and top right) makes loyalty phone calls to our members.

At home, our families became our strongest pillars of support. They helped us stay grounded and sane. Some colleagues said they decorated their workstations at home with plants and quotations to draw positive energy from. Some started their day with early morning meditation, exercise, and took their pets out for walks. Many had candid conversations over coffee with their partners about their fears and anxieties about the future.

Fearful but not defeated

Now that we are nearing the end of the COVID-19 circuit breaker, I am glad to report that we have successfully made more than 5,400 loyalty calls to our members to date. Many were touched with our heart to heart conversations with them. Some even upgraded their contributions to us.

With fantastic support and love provided to our team at work and home, we emerged as game-changers. Earlier, we helped fundraise at social spaces. Now, we are all set to embrace digital technology to find innovative ways to enhance goodwill and build financial muscle for our conservation efforts which have never been more important than now. 

COVID-19 has demonstrated the huge cost of our broken relationship with nature. We cannot return to business, as usual, knowing that if we continue to destroy our natural world, we will continue to see the crushing impacts of more pandemics.

Like many others, I am not sure when we could return to normal. 

But even as we soldier on amidst the uncertainty, there is one thing I am sure of: We want our loved ones to enjoy economic stability, good health and live in a climate-resilient world.

Watch the full interview with Tim, WWF-Singapore’s senior face to face fundraising manager on how COVID-19 has impacted our fundraising work on the streets:

Main image credit: Natasha Kasim from Unsplash.

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1 Comment

  • Seemant Chawla, May 28, 2020 @ 1:46 pm Reply

    Very nicely written and happy to see all the great work from your guys as a team. Wish you all the very best.

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