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Volunteering requires commitment and effort, but the rewards can be great. Jackie Furey discusses devoting time and energy to the FM cause.

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05 April 2018 | Jackie Furey

I’ve been a member of BIFM for 18 years, and have sat on the WiFM committee since 2012, becoming chair in October 2017. What first attracted me to get more involved with BIFM were the events they regularly hosted.

As part of my membership, I’d receive email alerts advising me of new events and I saw them as a way to network with like-minded industry colleagues, share knowledge and expand my network, creating opportunities for my employers and me. 

In all honesty, 18 years ago networking didn’t come easy to me. I’ve never had a problem talking to people, however, walking into a room full of strangers and trying to strike up a conversation was incredibly daunting – but something I knew I needed to do to develop my skills. Attending the BIFM events was my way of achieving this. The more I attended, either regionally or within the SIGs, the more I felt at ease and part of the BIFM community. 

I was most at home at WiFM events. The committee fosters a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere and a safe place where you can strike up meaningful industry conversations and friendships. Over the years I became a regular face at many BIFM events and felt much more confident in myself. I was ready to move things up a gear and enquire about a place on the WiFM committee. 

I met Julie Kortens and Liz Kentish to discuss a place on the committee, and I was thrilled to be given a role. 

Volunteering for career advancement

It’s funny, but I never entered into my membership with BIFM with career advancement as an objective, it was more about the networking and new business opportunities for my employers. But in hindsight, and now in my position as WiFM chair, it has played a major part in my career advancement. Through the events I have delivered and the relationships I’ve forged, I have been flattered by the industry recognition and respect I have been given in relation to my involvement with BIFM/WiFM.

The time it actually takes

Each committee is made up of a maximum of 12 members. The level of commitment varies, and it is really dependent upon your role within the committee. If you are one of the eight committee members, then it is probably no more than an hour a week. Each member is responsible for delivering an event a year and this is obviously a bigger commitment during the month it’s your turn. But you are fully supported by the rest of the team. If you are chair, deputy chair, secretary or treasurer, your commitment is far greater, at about two to three hours a week at least. 

What volunteering really involves

Once a month we hold a committee meeting when we plan for new events and discuss venues, sponsors, news and initiatives from BIFM HQ. We aim to host a minimum of six events a year, whereby two committee members take the lead in making all the arrangements. In addition to this, once a year we also host our annual WiFM conference. As a team, we are active on social media channels promoting the WiFM SIG, events and BIFM initiatives.

Being good at volunteering

As a volunteer, I have seen six chairs come and go during my time on the WiFM committee and I have had the opportunity to learn from the best. To be a good volunteer you have to be a team player, communicate effectively, be creative in your thinking and be mindful of opportunities that you come across in your professional life that could transfer across into your volunteer role. 

Enthusiasm and the drive to succeed as part of an exciting group of people will always make you a great volunteer.

Choosing the right opportunities

I don’t believe there are wrong or right opportunities – there are only opportunities. It’s what you do with them that shapes you and your future, but then, I am an optimist! I have a saying – ‘To always look for the positive in the negative’. I believe that however bad a situation may seem there is always something good that can come out of it. So my advice would be take as many opportunities as you can handle. It makes for a rich and fulfilled life – and gives you a lot to talk about over dinner. 

Jackie Furey is chair of BIFM’s Women in FM (WiFM) Special Interest Group (SIG) and co-founder of workplace consultancy Where We Work Ltd