(previously: Managing the fieldwork)
In addition to this monthly management that ensures the sessions that are, after all, the hard core of volunteering, it is necessary to keep the group together and give it the feeling of a larger group since the sessions are carried out by groups of 4 people, in the maximum and therefore it may happen that throughout the school year some of the volunteers do not cross each other.
Maintaining connections between volunteers
First of all we have to publish at our social networks some news about the activities at schools. (Some schools allow us to take photos and others do not and it is necessary to clarify this previously.)
It is also important that we organize monthly meetings with all the group. In them, volunteers can get to know each other better, try out new games, improve those that are already being used in the sessions, and share the successes and difficulties they felt during the activities in the schools.
All of these issues are important but the most crucial is the sharing of successes and difficulties because it allows them to help each other solve problems.
These meetings should be not to long (no more than one hour) and if it is possible, we should offer the volunteers coffee, tea, and a little snack because the best hour to do it is at the end of the day and some of them are coming from classes or from their jobs.
Sometimes the teachers or the school contact person let us know the impact of the sessions on the children and it is important that we use these meetings to share this with the volunteers.
If it is possible we should always make a summary of these meetings so everyone can remember the most important decisions or conclusions.
Monitoring and evaluation
The monitoring, we may say, occurs every time we finish a session and ask the volunteers to share what they felt, what they suggest to change. With this attitude we guarantee that we listen and feel how they feel.
But there is also need for some specific moments of evaluation. There are to main reasons to make the evaluation of the volunteers: helping volunteers maximize their potential and helping the organization better involve volunteers.
Some aspects are essential for volunteers to feel that they are valued. That is: belonging; authority to think; possibility to assess what is achieved. For this it is important to be defined from the beginning and shared with the volunteers what we intend to accomplish, what specific steps or work we intend to carry out and how we will measure success.
The evaluation should take into account the personal growth of the volunteers and not just the accomplishment of the tasks.
One way to assess this dimension of volunteer’s growth is to compare their motivations and fears with the results achieved. We can do this at one of the monthly or bi-monthly meetings. For this, it is important that at the beginning of their commitment, each volunteer refers to these aspects in their registration form. Clarifying: every time a volunteer is inscribed, he/she must reflect and register his/her motivations, what he/she hopes to achieve with volunteering and what are his/her greatest fears.
At the end of each scholar year the volunteers must fill out a questionnaire. In this questionnaire is intended to check if they feel that their motivations have been answered, if their fears have come true and if so, how did they overcome them. The questionnaire should also include a question about the skills that the volunteers feel they have gained.
During the final meeting, these aspects should be shared and discussed in the group.
From our experience, all volunteers feel they have gained immense skills not only personal but also professional.
Volunteers need to feel that their dedication has been appreciated. This can be done in several ways. One is to invite volunteers to initiatives they might find interesting as youth exchanges abroad or in the country. It is also possible, for example, to inform those who are unemployed, of job opportunities. It may also be important to offer the NGO as a field of study for those who are studying at university because sometimes they need to do academic work based on social groups with which the NGO works: young people, women, roma people, etc. Provide volunteers with training to improve their skills is another example. Publicizing volunteering in social media is another.
And, of course, the most formal of all: a diploma of participation in volunteering. This diploma can be delivered at a ceremony for which we invite the principals and teachers of the schools and whom we ask to talk about the importance of volunteering for the children and young people of their schools.
But the best recognition should be made on a daily basis by valuing them, making them feel important, showing interest in them as human beings. And this is also a way to motivate volunteers to continue doing volunteer work and thus become more active and committed citizens in the well-being of their community.