A digital migration: Keeping calm and carrying on

Posted: April 6, 2020 at 11:26 am Author: Jane Shute - Membership and Communications Manager

Behind the scenes, at Westonbirt, our Membership Team have been on a digital journey, read on to find out what's been going on...

Back in July 2019, the Membership Team started working on a major development to migrate the membership database to an improved platform. This nine-month-long endeavour has been a labour of love and certainly not without its challenges. Some long days and a steep learning curve later we’re finally here – months of work culminating in our brand new database system.

While we appreciate that not everyone can get excited about a new IT system, we in the membership team certainly are! We’ve been thrilled to see our membership growing steadily over the past years. Our members are the lifeblood of the charity, without whom vital work to conserve the natural world and connect people with trees simply wouldn’t be possible. Therefore, this new database really is at the heart of everything we do. It enables the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity to grow, to develop a 33,000 strong community of environmental advocates all supporting the spectacular specimens and flourishing landscape that we all know and love.

Following February half term, Coronavirus started to affect our operations on site. As things escalated over the coming weeks we went from washing our hands while singing happy birthday twice, to sadly having to temporarily close the site for the safety of our visitors, members and staff. Despite dramatic changes to our operations, we continued with the database project. On 24 March, the night before we were due to ‘Go Live’ on our new system, the Prime Minister made the big announcement – ‘stay home’.

If you’ve met our small team, you’ll know that we’re usually beavering away together in our little office filled with our chatter, laughter, ideas and passion for the arboretum. However, the new measures in place to combat COVID-19 meant we had no choice but to load up our cars with our PCs, laptops, printers and files and set off home. For many of us, this was our first taste of remote working, but with ‘Go Live’ imminent we persevered and adapted rapidly to a new way of working – not only on a new database but distanced from the arboretum and each other.

Membership Team member Kelly working from homeSome have more challenges than others working from home - Chloe's cat likes 'helping out'!

As I write, the membership team are diligently studying our new processes, figuring out the new procedures for Gift Aid claims and ensuring the continued smooth running of Westonbirt’s membership operations, amidst particularly challenging circumstances. It’s been a hectic, nerve-wracking, demanding but rewarding project, taking place in very uncertain times. Whilst this huge undertaking is far from over, for the first time in weeks I feel I can finally take a breath. It’s at this moment I truly take pride in what our small team of just four have achieved.

Each member of the team deserves a special shout-out. Throughout the whole process Bev, Chloe and Kelly have worked tirelessly to ensure the new system is a success. Together, we have spent months mapping data, designing new processes and upskilling ourselves, all whilst continuing to run our daily membership operations and unexpectedly having to uproot ourselves from the arboretum.

Now, sitting at my makeshift home work station, it’s more apparent to me than ever just what Westonbirt means to our members. As we’re all self-isolating at home, I’m sure many are reflecting on the importance of spaces like Westonbirt Arboretum. Being physically separated from the natural world brings home just how important it is that we respect and conserve our natural environment. We must not take it for granted – for the good of the planet and our own mental and physical well-being. Places like Westonbirt need our protection and your membership is helping us to do just that.

While you’re at home, we hope that you’ll stay connected with the arboretum through our virtual window on Westonbirt. We’ll be keeping you up to date with the arboretum’s spring highlights through our eNews, website and social media channels to get you as close to Westonbirt as safely possible.

As we adapt to several new ways of working in these trying times, we kindly request that you make minimal changes to your annual membership subscription. I’m so incredibly proud of how the team has adapted under such difficult circumstances. We’re extremely passionate about what we do and how our roles enable your membership subscription to support conservation, education and participation at Westonbirt Arboretum. From our home offices, dining tables and makeshift desks we wish you well. Stay home and stay safe.

Jane Shute
Membership & Communications Manager
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

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