The amazing humans behind our #CharityForum mission
Meet Charlotte Fielder MBE – Head of Volunteering, Fostering & Communities, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
How did you get your job?
After 33 years in law enforcement I had a strong desire to work in the third sector. I had been volunteering and supporting different causes all my adult life so I made the decision to change my career. After some challenges breaking into charity (it was surprisingly difficult to convince people that skills were transferable across sectors) I joined Battersea in July 2015. It’s the most tremendous, forward thinking organisation and it’s given me incredible opportunities.
What are you responsible for?
I head up the Volunteering & Fostering team. Plus, I’m Head of Battersea Communities – a project to re-home dogs and cats directly from the homes of Community Rehoming volunteers and to tackle loneliness and social isolation through prompting pet ownership and bringing people together at small local events.
What’s your typical day like?
I start work about 08.00 and that golden hour before 9am really helps me organise my day and prioritise. I look to see what meetings I have and I try to work efficiently. I like to have one-to-ones with my staff and find out what their challenges are and what support they need. I also want to find out what excites them. My style of management is to empower my staff – they make their decisions knowing that they’re responsible but with the understanding that I’m accountable.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Making a difference. We improve the lives of animals and people.
What impact has the #CharityForum had on you?
I was intrigued. I attended the first forum not really knowing what to expect. Actually it was more like joining a choir with lots of other voices from across the sector. It was fascinating to hear other’s perspectives and I quickly realised that some of us can hit the high notes and others hold the tune! But we need all of us to belt out a song.
“There’s a huge challenge facing the sector around dealing with reputational risk. There have been some scandals and some public trust has been lost. Sometimes the public has a negative view of charities. That the term ‘do-gooder’ is seen as an insult. The word charity is not always seen as a force for good.”
What keeps you motivated?
The determined and caring people I work with.
How do you relax?
I like to do a bit of painting, it’s really mindful. I’m writing some short stories too, modern fables really.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
To trust your staff. I have rarely been let down and when I feel that something is awry, I try to remain curious rather than suspicious. When I was a child, my grandfather wrote in my autograph book: ‘Always follow the rules of the game and you won’t go far wrong,’ and I try my best to always do the right thing and be fair.
What advice would you give to anyone just starting out in the third sector?
The years fly by so you owe it to yourself to be happy in your role. You also need to be committed to your own development and extract every ounce of learning and then share it. The more good practice you share, the better the sector becomes. But most of all, I would advise people to be kind.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your charity, and what has it meant for Battersea?
Caring for our animals will always be our priority and the dedication shown by our staff and foster carers has been amazing. When lockdown began, we managed to get over half our dogs and cats into foster homes. We had to temporarily suspend rehoming but as of April, following Government guidelines, we began to rehome again. For the safety of the public, our staff and our animals, we had to temporarily suspend intake of unwanted pets but we still took in emergency cases.
We are now back to taking in dogs and cats at all our centres. Our intake of cats has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but we are taking fewer calls from dog owners at the moment. We’re worried about the financial implications of the pandemic as we rely on public donations to fund our vital work. We are living in extremely uncertain times, but one thing is certain, and that is our need to be here for pet owners and their dogs and cats.
Thank you Charlotte for taking the time to tell us about your role and your charity.
Find out more about #CharityForum