Interview by Nathaniel Johnston, Fundraising Communications Manager.
Shelley is one of our fundraising volunteers who I arranged to meet in London to talk about what Pride means to her and why she takes an active role volunteering for us year after year. Even when exchanging messages before we actually meet, Shelley’s energy, commitment and joy at being involved in Pride comes across in every message she sends. When I meet Shelley and her friend in a busy London coffee shop her bright smile and friendly hug make it immediately clear why everyone in the team loves working with her. When I explain how much her time and effort is appreciated by the Pride in London team she simply says: “Oh I’m just Shelley”.
When Shelley isn’t involved with Pride in London, she is back home in Somerset doing her job as a fork-lift truck driver and walking her friend’s dogs. While we are talking Shelley describes herself as “friends and family orientated person” to which her friend who is sat beside us says: “Shelley is a really positive person and that rubs off on other people- she doesn’t stop talking”. Which is fortunate really as I have a few questions to ask Shelley about her experience of pride and why she wants to encourage others to volunteer too.
So Shelley, why did you get involved with Pride?
Where I live is very conservative and if I want to go to any gay pubs or venues I have to go to Bath or Bristol as there really isn’t anything around where I live. The first Pride I ever did was Birmingham in 2012 and after that I realised that I wanted to get more involved. I could see all the volunteers and the fun they were having and I wanted to do that too. Someone I was seeing at the time was involved in Pride and so I decided to join in as well. I applied to be a volunteer and completed my training and then I was hooked! Being around the volunteers, making new friends and all the people I have met along the way has been incredible. When I was first volunteered in Trafalgar Square in 2015, I can’t put into words the buzz that I got from it but I absolutely loved it.
“I don’t know how to explain it but I was hooked”
How do you rate the support you get as a fundraising volunteer?
Oh it’s brilliant, the training you get makes you feel safe and ready to be a volunteer. The people you work with like Polly, Alex and Martin who are managers for Pride are friendly and really supportive. When you are out doing fundraising they are always popping over to see what you need, whether that is water or just a bit of help - they are always there. After the training I received I had no worries about fundraising and understanding what I needed to do.
What skills do you need to be a fundraising volunteer?
Just to be able to talk to people and build up a rapport with everyone who comes to Pride. It’s all about having fun, so having a sense of humour and feeling able to chat to everyone who are supporting what you are trying to do.
If someone was thinking about volunteering and fundraising what would you say to them?
Just do it! Just get involved! This year will be my third year of being involved and I love it. We are a tight team who lookout for each other and support each other. People come from all around to get involved like I do travelling over from Somerset. Anyone who wants to should come and join us.
What are your favourite memories of Pride in London?
Just meeting people and talking to them. You get to meet people from all over the world, from different walks of life, which is incredible. People come up to you and tell you that what you are doing is really important. Also you hear some really interesting things about people’s lives and people’s coming out stories and the different struggles that people have faced. As a fundraiser is it such a buzz at the end of the day when you find out how much you have raised and the result of all your hard work and when you go home that feeling stays with you.
How did you feel after the day was over?
I was already excited about the following year and how much bigger and better Pride is year after year.
If you could sum up the best thing about being a volunteer at Pride?
It’s hard to put it down to one thing, but the best thing is the feeling that you have contributed in some way to something so important. The feeling you get afterwards stays with you, having been with so many amazing people and part of such an amazing event.
Will you be back again this year?
And next year and the year after and for as long as they’ll have me. I would be lost without Pride. I can’t imagine not being involved in it. I remember towards the end of last year thinking “oh no I don’t want it to end”.
Pride in London relies on fundraising to exist. If you want Pride in London to continue its work into the future - then we need you to help us.
If you have been inspired by Shelley’s story and want to be a Pride in London volunteer team then check out our current opportunities.