Interview with Sanita Guddu, Legacy and In-Memory Fundraising Manager at the Royal Voluntary Service
Many UK charities have been asked to go that extra mile during the Covid-19 pandemic, but perhaps few were better placed to do so than the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS).
Sanita Guddu, who spoke at our recent Legacy Strategy Summit, revealed how intrinsic the RVS has been to the NHS during 2020. Tasked with managing the 250,000 volunteers during the first spring lockdown, the charity was able to revisit its original purpose, and act as an additional emergency service in a time of national crisis.
Sanita “During the first lockdown we were suddenly on the frontline - our services became more needed than ever before – helping those people who were identified most vulnerable. Helping in this way felt very familiar ground for us”
Founded just before the outbreak of World War 2, the charity was set up to help the thousands of ill or vulnerable people who were cut off from society. Some 80 years later, the RVS is once again at the heart of the national effort to combat loneliness and isolation, getting medicines to the sheltered and ferrying patients to and from important NHS appointments.
“Whereas people would naturally be apprehensive about going to hospital – this feeling was very much heightened due to the pandemic. Since lockdown, we’ve provided extra help - not only relieving the NHS so they could get on and do their caring, but also freeing up other local services -such as pharmacies, food delivery services, council care services, and transport companies – at a time when they were under resourced and in high demand”
These many thousands of small but vital acts allowed their beneficiaries to continue with chemotherapy treatment, receive food and medicine when they were shielding, and the reassurance of a friendly face when in hospital.
“We’ve still got our volunteers that are running the cafes as best they can. We continue to support people as they’re discharged from hospital – we continue to do what we do, just on a much larger-scale than before”
We asked Sanita how the RVS managed to rise to the challenge of these extra tasks, given the numbers of volunteers involved and the significant extra demand on their budgets.
“Though we had an element of funding from the NHS, we still had to train and manage the hundreds of thousands of volunteers - so we had to launch our emergency to deliver the extra work”
But far from just repeating its traditional duties and services, the past year has given the charity a chance to highlight its continued relevance and ability to modernise and stay relevant with younger donors and beneficiary groups. Beyond the millions of voluntary tasks, it has overseen since March 2020, the Royal Voluntary Service has made the bold leap into digital events.
“It’s surprising how many older people are online – as they couldn’t see their family face to face, their families have trained them how to be online, where lots of people from their generation might not have used this technology before lockdown”
Launched in autumn 2020, its RVS “Virtual Village Hall” offers welcome respite from the tedium and isolation of lockdown.
“Where before we had lunch clubs and social clubs, we now have the virtual village hall were you can sign up for yoga or gardening, some even with celebrity presenters - all live – it’s been great that we can be so many more things to many, many more people"
With a wide range of free courses and clubs from laughing-yoga workshops to gardening to dance classes, the innovative service provides much needed entertainment, activity, and company during this unusual year – all easily accessible from home.
“It’s so great that we can be more than what we’ve been in the past and relevant to more people of all ages. To some extent we are all vulnerable at this time, and need some extra help to stay in touch with the other people”
We asked Sanita if, given everything the charity has achieved in 2020 - she has changed her view of what the Royal Voluntary Service was capable of.
“This year has shown we’re an organisation that steps up, mucks in and gets on with it. People can see the work that we are doing - in the past it was a bit underground. We’ve always done these things but for the first time we’re being noticed and shouting about it”
Sanita spoke on “What’s your lockdown legacy?” at the Legacy Strategy Summit on 11th November 2020.